Sluggish Tigers Fall To Elon In Opener

Auburn got just five hits in Friday's loss to Elon at Plainsman Park.

Auburn, Ala.--Coming into Friday's game with Auburn, Elon pitcher Lance Cole had been virtually un-hittable this season in victories over South Carolina and Fordham.

Against the Tigers he continued that dominance by giving up just a two-run home run to Russell Dixon in the seventh inning in a 10-2 Elon victory in game one of the baseball series at Plainsman Park.

With an ERA of just 0.66 this season in 13 2/3 innings pitched, Cole had been very effective and that continued against an Auburn team that struggled to get good swings. Coach Tommy Slater said that he wasn't happy with the performance of his team at the plate.

"I thought Cole did a real nice job of getting us out front to back," Slater said. "He didn't try to get us out with harder stuff, he was soft and softer. I thought we did a pretty poor job throughout the game of making adjustments to what he was doing.

"I believe during the game we only had three ground ball outs, the rest were balls that were hit in the air. Typically guys that throw soft are going to get you popping up, which we did a lot of tonight. Credit Cole for doing a really nice job and we did a poor job of making adjustments to what he was doing to us."

The loss went to Auburn junior Chris Dennis, who had his second consecutive sub-par outing on the mound. In five innings he allowed five earned runs on six hits and struck out just one while walking three Elon hitters. Slater said that Dennis pitched well enough to win, but just couldn't get to the finish.

"Chris was okay," Slater said. "He wasn't great. He came in and was at 75 pitches after the fifth and we wanted to get him up to 95 tonight. He had a 1-2-3 fifth and we wanted to get him back out there for the sixth. He felt strong, but left a couple of pitches up. Once we saw him leave a couple of pitches up in the sixth it was time to make a move."

Along with Tyler Johnstone, Russell Dixon was the only other bright spot offensively for the Tigers.

Elon got on the board first in the second inning off Dennis as Grant Rembert doubled down the left field line to put the Phoenix in business. After moving to third on a wild pitch from Dennis, Rembert scored on a RBI groundout by Jordy Snyder to make it 1-0 early.

The score remained that way until the fourth inning when Elon's Rembert again started things again, this time with a walk to lead off the inning. Robert Rodebaugh followed with a single to center field. Things looked like they would turn around for the Tigers when Josh Donaldson picked off Rembert for the first out of the inning.

Following a Snyder fly ball to Dixon in right for the second out, Chris Vasami singled and then Adam Weaver doubled to score two and make it 3-0 Elon. With Cole still shutting down the Tigers, things went from bad to worse in the sixth and signaled the end of the day for Dennis.

Leading off once again, Rembert walked to bring Rodebaugh to the plate. Following a pattern set two innings earlier, Rodebaugh singled to right field to put runners on the corners with nobody out. That would be it for Dennis as reliever Johnny Thompson came on in relief.

Following a strikeout, Thompson got Vasami to hit into what appeared to be a potential inning-ending double play. Instead first baseman Andy Bennett bobbled the ball and everyone was safe. Three consecutive singles later and the Phoenix had added four more runs to make it 7-0.

Dixon's two-run shot in the bottom of the seventh gave the Tigers a breath of life, but that it was short-lived as Elon added a single run in the eighth and two in the ninth for the easy victory. Slater said that despite the struggles offensively that he doesn't think there will be any changes to the lineup in the coming days.

"Every one of the kids that was in the lineup today have played very well and they've all been swinging the bat very well," Slater said. "I'm not going to make lineup changes on one night of us not doing a very good job of making adjustments.

"You go back over the course of the season so far and the one thing we've done time in and time out is that we've been very competitive at the plate. Tonight was not a night where we were very competitive at the plate. There is no panic. We just need to be smarter and have smarter approaches at the plate tomorrow. That's the bottom line.

The Tigers and Phoenix are scheduled to meet for the second game of the three-game series Saturday at 4 p.m., but a weather system moving into the Auburn area could have an impact on the game. If the game is rained out the two teams will play a doubleheader on Sunday beginning at 11 a.m. If Saturday's game is played as scheduled Sunday's game is set for 1 p.m.

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