For Auburn the story was missed opportunities as bottom of the order failed to deliver in several key situations. Twice the Tigers had runners on second and third with less than two outs and failed to score. Coach Tommy Slater said that was the frustrating part of Saturday's game.
"We didn't situationally hit very well tonight," Slater said. "We had a lot of opportunities to score some runs, guys getting on second and third with no outs or with one out. You've got to play the game there and hit a hard ground ball in the middle of the field to at least plate a RBI.
"We had an opportunity early in the game and had an opportunity late. You've just got to be able to do that. That's just poor situation hitting and something we work on constantly. We'll just have to keep working on it."
The Tigers were carried by the top of the batting order as Josh Donaldson led the way with three hits while Tyler Johnstone added one and Bruce Edwards reached base three times on walks. The trio combined to score all five Auburn runs. Along with Andy Bennett who had a solid game at the plate despite going hitless and leaving four runners on base, Jeff Boutwell had Auburn's other two hits and drove in a run. Numbers 7-8-9 in the batting order combined to go 0-12 with
On the mound starter Peter Wiggins lasted just three innings, giving up four hits and two earned runs. Reliever Brett Butts also threw three innings, allowing four hits and three unearned runs. Andrew Hall, Andy Masten and Johnny Thompson each threw one inning with Masten giving up three hits and three runs.
"As you witnessed tonight it's about being strike zone dominant," Slater said. "I thought Butts did a great job of throwing strike one. I thought Johnny Thompson did a great job of throwing strike one. I thought Andrew Hall did a great job of throwing strike one. Those three guys had success for us tonight. Our other guys that pitched for us tonight were behind in the count a lot and when you're behind in the count you're going to give up hits."
This game came down to one swing of the bat for Reed. With the game tied at five in the top of the eighth inning Keydet second baseman Shane Geisslinger drew a two-out walk from Masten to keep the inning alive for Reed. Struggling to find the strike zone all of the sudden, Masten grooved a fastball that Reed drilled over the monster in left field for a two-run home run. It gave VMI a 7-5 lead, but they were just getting started as back-to-back doubles by Kelly Sweppenhiser and Robert Crumpler made it 8-5 Keydets and they would hold on for the victory.
Trailing 2-0 early Auburn got things going offensive in the bottom of the third inning off VMI starter Trey Barham. Hitless through the first two innings the Tigers got back-to-back walks from Johnstone and Edwards to lead off the inning. With Donaldson at the plate Slater took a chance and sent the runners. The double steal was successful and gave Donaldson a chance to drive in Auburn's first runs of the game.
Bruce Edwards gets a lead off second base.
Hitting a slow grounder into the hole at shortstop, Donaldson scored Johnstone from third. He also reached first with an infield single and pushed Edwards to third. Following a Ryan Stanley strikeout first baseman Andy Bennett had possibly the at-bat of the game for the Tigers. Getting down quickly 0-2 Bennett worked the count back to full before grounding out to Geisslinger. The play scored Edwards to give Auburn the lead. Left fielder Boutwell followed with a sharp single to center field to make it 3-2 Tigers.
VMI answered in the top of the fifth inning with two runs off Butts. Leading off the inning Geisslinger walked and quickly stole second to move into scoring position. A failed pick-off attempt by Butts at second base moved Geisslinger to third and he would score moments later on a double by Reed. Facing Sweppenhiser next, Butts got the strikeout but an errant throw into right field on strike three by catcher Garrett Maines scored Reed all the way from second to put the Keydets back in front. He would later score to make it 5-3 VMI, but the Tigers would respond.
Leading off the inning Edwards earned a walk and scored moments later on a Donaldson double to left field. After moving to third on a deep fly ball off the bat of Russell Dixon, Donaldson scored on a ground ball by Bennett to tie the game once again at five.
Auburn missed a great opportunity to take a late lead in the seventh inning. Leading off, Johnstone singled up the middle to get things going. Trying to bunt the senior into scoring position Edwards popped the ball up for out one. It proved to be a big play as Donaldson followed with a double to right that put runners on second and third with one out. The Keydets brought in freshman lefty Daniel Smink to face left-handers Russell Dixon and Bennett and the freshman responded with back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat. That would be the last time the Tigers threatened as they went down by the final of 8-5.
Auburn and VMI return to action Sunday afternoon at one when true freshman Evan Crawford takes the mound for the Tigers against fellow freshman Chris Henderson for the Keydets.