Hoover, Ala.--Down 4-0, Auburn scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the game against fourth-ranked Florida, but the Gators got a bases loaded walk in the eighth and that was the difference as the Tigers fell 5-4 in a game that finished just after 1 a.m. on Thursday.
With the loss the Tigers (35-23) move to the loser's bracket of the SEC Tournament where they await the loser of Thursday morning's game between Arkansas and Mississippi State. The game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Getting a strong relief performance from Calvin Coker on the mound after a solid start from Cole Lipscomb, and some clutch hits in the four-run inning, including a big two-run double from freshman Conor Davis, Auburn Coach Butch Thompson said despite the loss he couldn’t be more proud of his team.
“They battled their heart out,” Thompson said. “I love it. I love it. We got down two nights in a row and continued to battle back and tied the game. I thought both pitchers, we tried to extend both of them and it bit me twice, I thought.
“We had the open base three times with Cole (in a three-run fourth inning for Florida and couldn’t get it. Then Calvin Coker came in and did a tremendous job. We just probably ran out of gas with both guys a little bit.”
Calvin Coker set a career high with six strikeouts in the loss.
At the plate the Tigers did a solid job of approach against one of the top pitching teams in the country. Jonah Todd led the way with three hits for Auburn with Daniel Robert adding a pair of hits as well.
With Florida starter Alex Faedo getting out of trouble early, Thompson said his team never stopped fighting and it paid off for them by getting back into the game.
“I just think we battled and I love how we played,” Thompson said. “I think it’s a great lesson learned.
“I thought we fought for every pitch tonight and played as hard as we possibly could. I still think it’s a great night with the loss. I thought we played good and lost the game instead of playing bad and losing. We took a lot of positives away tonight.”
Down 4-0 and looking all but done, Auburn came to life in the seventh with Blake Logan leading off with a single and Bowen McGuffin walking to end Faedo’s night. Following a Will Holland groundout, Todd reached on an error to put the Tigers on the scoreboard and keep the inning going.
Following a Robert fly ball, Dylan Ingram had a great at-bat to work a walk and load the bases for Davis. Struggling all night against Faedo, Davis went with an 0-1 pitch and laced it down the right field line to easily score Holland and Todd.
Racing around third, Ingram fell on the wet ground and was unable to score what would have been the tying run.
“I came out knowing he was going to be throwing fastballs,” Davis said. “He threw me a fastball early on, and I was on time for the fastball, but he happened to throw me a changeup. I just hit it over the first baseman’s head and got a barrel to it.
“I was actually heading to third trying to get a triple, and then I saw him slip and turn back. I just turned back and went to second. But it happens.”
It proved to be huge as Davis would have been 90 feet from home plate with the go-ahead run. Instead he was at second and Ingram at third when reliever Tyler Dyson uncorked a wild pitch to score Ingram and tie the game at four.
Pitching brilliantly his first three innings, Coker finally ran out of gas in the bottom of the eighth with the game tied. Giving up a one-out single to J.J. Schwarz, Coker walked Nelson Maldonado before Jonathan India smoked a single to left field to load the bases.
With left-hander Christian Hicks up, Auburn went to freshman lefty Elliott Anderson. Very good in a similar situation at Mississippi State, Anderson walked the batter on five pitches to force home the go-ahead run.
Bringing in Gabe Klobosits with the bases still loaded, the Tigers got a big double play to keep the game at one run.
Florida closer Michael Byrne came in to finish off the game for the Gators in the ninth. Todd would reach with his third hit to give the Tigers some life, but it wasn’t enough on this night.
Making his first start of the season, Lipscomb had a strong start but lasted just three and two/thirds innings. Allowing four runs, three of them earned, he took his first loss of the season. Coker was strong out of the bullpen, going three and two/thirds innings while allowing just a run on four hits and striking out six-straight Florida hitters, but took the loss to fall to 3-3 on the season.
The Tigers (35-23) will play in a loser’s bracket game on Thursday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. against the loser of Arkansas-Mississippi State played early in the day. Freshman Davis Daniel will get the start for Auburn, who must win to stay in Hoover for the double elimination part of the tournament.