The loss spoils another solid outing for Auburn freshman starter Evan Crawford. In five and one/third innings the Prattville native gave up three runs on seven hits. Coach Tommy Slater said that Auburn could never climb out of an early hole despite a good effort from Crawford.
"That one was tough," Slater said. "Evan really settled in after the first and really gave us a nice performance on the mound. It was nice to see a freshman like Evan go out on a day when he didn't have his 88-91 (MPH) today, he didn't have his best stuff, but he still competed and filled up the strike zone for us and got through their lineup a couple of times. That's always good to see because guys have to be able to pitch on days when they don't have their best stuff today, but he found some ways to get through some innings for us."
It didn't take long for the Commodores to again assert their domination over the Tigers with three runs out of the gate in the first inning. Leading off, David Macias earned a walk from Crawford to get things going. Alex Feinberg followed with a single to bring the heart of the Vanderbilt order to the plate. Crawford got out number one on a big strikeout of super freshman Pedro Alvarez, but the damage was yet to come.
Up next, catcher Brian Hernandez continued his torrid weekend with perfect execution on a hit-and-run. With the runners on the move he pushed a ground ball through the right side for a single. Macias scored on the play with Feinberg moving to third. Shortstop Dominic de la Osa followed with a double that scored Feinberg to make it 2-0. After a failed steal attempt of home that resulted in the second out of the inning, Ryan Flaherty singled home de la Osa with the third run of the inning to give the Commodores the early advantage.
The Tigers would get one run back in the top of the second thanks to some timely two-out hitting. Up with two outs and nobody on, left fielder Jeff Boutwell reached on an error to give Auburn some life. It did just that as freshman shortstop Justin Bristow flared a single into right field to bring third baseman Phillip Stringer to the plate. Playing well since his insertion into the line-up, Stringer singled to right field to score Boutwell and cut the lead to just two.
Auburn would have several more chances to cut into the lead, but couldn't come up with the big hit when it was needed most. In the fourth first baseman Andy Bennett doubled to lead off the inning and, following a Josh Donaldson strikeout, both Boutwell and Bristow were hit by pitches to load the bases for the bottom of the Auburn order. This time though Stringer couldn't come through as he went down on strikes for out two. Center fielder Bruce Edwards' ground ball to short put an end to the Auburn threat.
With Crawford settled in on the mound the Tigers threatened again in the sixth as a Donaldson one-out double put the pressure on Crowell for a moment, but it didn't last long as he got back-to-back ground balls from Boutwell and Bristow to end the inning. That would be a tough blow for Auburn as the Commodores extended their lead in the bottom of the seventh to put the game away.
Facing Auburn reliever Johnny Thompson, who came on to stifle a Vanderbilt rally one inning earlier, the Commodores were quickly two up and two down in the inning but a two-out rally was still to come. The leadoff man Macias singled to start things for the Commodores and a single by Feinberg put runners on first and third for the heart of the Vandy order. Auburn's third pitcher of the day Peter Wiggins came on, but it wouldn't be a good day as he gave up back-to-back hits to Alvarez and Hernandez to extend the lead to 5-1.
Not going away quietly, the Tigers made some noise in the ninth off Crowell. With one out Boutwell again got things started with a double to right field. That brought Bristow to the plate and for the second time on the day the big freshman delivered, this time with a single up the middle that scored Boutwell. Facing reliever Ty Davis, pinch hitter Josh Stapleton struck out for out number two. Edwards was the last shot for the Tigers, but a strikeout put an end to the Tigers as the sweep was officially in the books with a 5-2 Vanderbilt win on Sunday.
"Only six hits on the board, but we had better at-bats today," Slater said. "Our kids really competed at the plate a lot better than we did a day ago. He mixed pretty well (Crowell). He's a crafty left and the breaking ball was pretty good. I thought he was okay, but our kids had a much better approach today and we put the ball in play a lot more. I thought we came out with a better focus on offense today."
The Tigers return to action Tuesday night when they travel to Troy to face the Trojans in a 6 p.m. start. Next weekend Auburn returns home to face the Kentucky Wildcats in a three-game series at Plainsman Park.