"Let's give a lot of credit to VMI," Coach Tommy Slater said. "For the past two days they've outplayed and outcoached us, bottom line. I thought from the fifth inning on when we put up the six-spot we played well. We won the last four innings, but unfortunately we didn't do enough work early."
Costly errors and timely hitting by VMI put a damper on the first career outing by freshman Evan Crawford from Prattville. Lasting just four innings because of a high pitch count, he gave up seven hits and four earned runs to take the loss. Slater said he was pleased overall with the way Crawford pitched and also Luke Greinke out of the bullpen.
"I thought Crawford had good stuff early, but credit VMI," Slater said. "They knew his stuff was beating their bats and they did a good job of two-strike hitting and just putting balls in play. We made a couple of errors behind him and unfortunately his pitch count got up and we had to take him out in the fourth. I thought Luke Greinke did a nice job of giving us two innings when we had to keep it a three-run lead. He did that."
Jonathan Rasberry turned in the top performance on Sunday for Auburn with four hits in his first start as a Tiger.
Much of Auburn's damage came in one stretch as the offense was silent for much of the day until a fifth inning outburst put them back into the game. Trailing VMI 7-0 early the Tigers were looking for a spark and it came in the form of walk-on catcher Jonathan Rasberry. Already with one hit on the day he came to the plate to lead off the fifth and singled to left field.
That gave the team the momentum it was looking for as Tyler Johnstone and Bruce Edwards followed with singles of their own to load the bases with nobody out. Auburn top hitter to this point, Josh Donaldson, singled to right field to score both Raspberry and Johnstone to cut the VMI lead down to five. Bennett then delivered the big blow as he drilled a shot over the monster in left field to make it 7-5 Keydets. Later in the inning Justin Bristow singled home Russell Dixon as the Tigers trailed just 7-6 heading to the sixth.
It wasn't to be on this day though as the Keydets scored a single run in the sixth to push the lead back to two. Auburn got that run back in the bottom of the inning when Edwards scored on a wild pitch, but VMI added two in the seventh to push the lead to 10-7. With two outs and nobody on a walk eventually led to the beginning of the rally.
Auburn threatened to win the game late once again with Rasberry in the middle of the action. Bristow led off the inning with a sharp double to left field and Rasberry followed with a single to left that easily scored Bristow to make it 10-8. A Johnstone infield single put runners on first and second with still nobody out for the heart of the Auburn order, but they failed to deliver this night as an Edwards popped up bunt was followed by a Donaldson groundout and Bennett fly out to end the game. Slater said this team has got to keep working on getting timely hits if they're going to take their play to the next level.
"It's something we work on every single day," Slater said. "It's something that just comes with games played and having your guys go out there and continue to compete and battle. We work on scoring runs. We have a thing called ‘score the run' everyday. We just have to continue to work on that and continue to work on our bunting. The guys have to do a better job of executing at gametime."
Rasberry led the way for the Tigers at the plate with four hits while Edwards and Russell Dixon both added three hits. Again Klint Reed and Chad Rice led VMI with three hits each and Rice also had three runs batted in.
The Tigers return to action this coming weekend when they take on number 16 Florida State for the three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times for the weekend are 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.