Auburn totaled just six hits on the night as for the second time in two weeks they allowed a close game against Georgia Tech to slip away on the arms of the suddenly anemic Auburn bullpen.
Other than Andrew Skinner and Eric Brandon, who both had solid outings out of the Auburn pen, the rest of the night was an adventure as three other Tigers combined to allow eight runs in just three innings. Now the Tigers must regroup and prepare to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs this coming weekend at Plainsman Park. The first job for Auburn is to find out who they can count on out of the bullpen on a consistent basis Auburn coach Steve Renfroe said following the game.
"The same scenario as last week," he noted. "The game was pretty good. We're piecing together the same guys and they did the same thing to them once again. That was really the ball game. Then you're playing catch-up and that just changes everything. On the good side I thought Eric Brandon pitched well. He had good stuff tonight and we've just got to get him ready and get the other guys going and turn them loose this weekend."
It didn't take long for the Tigers to get on the board as hometown boy Jonathan Schuerholz singled up the middle to get the game underway. Following groundouts by Sean Gamble and Javon Moran that moved him to third base, Schuerholz would score on an infield single off the bat of Bobby Huddleston to give Auburn the early lead.
Schuerholz dives back to first base in the first inning. He would later score on a Huddleston single.
The Yellow Jackets would waste little time getting on the board as well. In the bottom of the inning, Jeremy Slayden doubled to right with two outs and nobody on off Auburn starter Arnold Hughey. The tough luck continued for the Tigers as Mike Nickeas followed with a bloop single down the right field line to score Slayden and tying the game at one.
Georgia Tech added another run in the second inning as Wes Rynders led off with a single to left. After moving to second on a fielder's choice, he stole third setting up Jake Hall for the RBI chance and the shortstop delivered. Hitting a high chopper to Schuerholz right at the third base bag, he forced the throw to first allowing Rynders to score the go-ahead run.
Auburn would get that run back in the fifth inning thanks to a lead-off double by Doug Vines. A consistent hitter to the opposite field, the brother of former Yellow Jacket point guard T.J.Vines got an inside pitch and ripped it off the right field wall to set the stage for a possible big inning. Instead the Tigers played small ball as a groundout by Scott Schade moved him to third before a sacrifice fly off the bat of Tug Hulett plated Vines to tie the game at two.
Back even, the Tigers failed to handle prosperity as the Yellow Jackets put the game away in the bottom of the fifth inning with five runs off two Auburn pitchers. Ken Clayton came on in relief of Skinner to begin the fifth and for the second time in two weeks against Georgia Tech he failed to get the job done. A Matthew Boggs bases-clearing double was the big hit of the inning as Tech pulled ahead 7-2 going to the sixth inning.
The Tigers failed to score in the top half of the sixth inning and Georgia Tech put the gas on in the bottom half with three more runs to make it 10-2. The home team managed the big night without three starters who were suspended for taking part in a fight on Sunday at Maryland.
Auburn got a run back in the top of the seventh as a Schuerholz lead-off single was quickly erased on a fielder's choice off the bat of Gamble, but pinch-hitter Kyle Baum drove a two-out pitch deep into left-center field. Yellow Jacket Boggs couldn't hold on to the ball allowing Gamble to score making it 10-3 Tech.
Bobby Huddleston is congratulated by first base coach Chris Finwood following a first inning single.
The Tigers would make a final run at the Yellow Jackets in the top of the ninth as a Huddleston solo home run sparked a rally. Trent Pratt followed with a single to right center field, but that would be all as Georgia Tech reliever Drew Taylor closed the door on the 32nd win for the Yellow Jackets against just five losses.
Auburn drops to 25-14 on the season and will meet Mississippi State this weekend in a key SEC Western Division battle. The Bulldogs are 8-6 in conference play while the Tigers are 7-8. Game times are 6:30 on Friday night, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.