Evan Crawford was the hard luck loser for the Tigers on Saturday as the true freshman gave up just four hits and two runs in seven complete innings. Despite falling to 4-5 on the season Coach Tommy Slater said you can't say enough good things about the performance that Crawford gave the Tigers against a good offensive club in Florida, but it just wasn't enough on a day when Florida's pitching was just as good.
"Evan was really, really good and so was Augenstein," Slater said. "We had an umpire with a very good strike zone that called a lot of strikes. When you've got a guy that calls a lot of strikes behind the plate with two really good pitchers on the mound you saw quite a pitcher's duel today. For both sides it was very well pitched.
"He pitched to both sides of the plate with his fastball extremely well," Slater added on Crawford. "We had a very good umpire behind the plate that was giving us an inch or two on either side, which makes it good for the pitchers. I was very impressed by Evan's ability to pitch to both sides of the plate and he also got the up-zone today. We threw some up-zone fastballs and that was very helpful to not only get some called strikes, but some pop ups because they knew they had to swing at those."
Big Mike Bianucci had Auburn's only RBI on the day as the Tigers couldn't capitalize against the tough Gator pitching.
Both Crawford and Augenstein cruised through the first two innings without trouble until Auburn threatened to get on the board in the third inning off the big right-hander. With one out in the inning Tyler Johnstone singled up the middle to get the Tigers going. Left fielder Jeff Boutwell followed by working a walk from Augenstein to put Johnstone in scoring position for the heart of the Auburn order. Third baseman Mike Bianucci struck out though to bring RBI specialist Andy Bennett to the plate. Jumping on the first pitch, Bennett hit a liner into right field that Brian Leclerc caught on a sliding play to rob the Tigers of a run and end the inning.
The pitching duel continued all the way into the sixth as neither team could get anything going offensively. Florida changed that in the bottom of the inning thanks to the hitting of big Matt LaPorta. With one out in the inning Brian Jeroloman reached on a walk and advanced to second on a passed ball by Josh Donaldson. That brought LaPorta to the plate. Getting a fastball, LaPorta hit a bomb over the wall in left for a two-run shot to get the Gators on the scoreboard with the 2-0 lead. It was just the third hit of the day for Florida, but LaPorta made it count in a big way.
With Augenstein still shutting down the Tigers to the tune of two hits through seven innings, the Gators came back for more in the bottom of the inning. Leading things off, Brandon McArthur got a pitch up in the strike zone and ripped it into the left field corner for a double. Crawford came back to get the next two outs and Bennett finished the inning off with a fantastic play at first as he stabbed a hard ground ball off the bat of Chris Woods and beat the center fielder to the first base bag for the out.
Auburn finally got some offense going in the eighth as designated hitter Josh Stapleton led off things with a double to left. It was the first hit for the Tigers off Augenstein since the third inning and gave the team some life down two runs. That would be it for Augenstein after allowing just three hits as stellar reliever Darren O'Day came on for the Tigers. With a record of 2-2 on the year with six saves and an ERA of just 1.58, O'Day came on to put out the fire in the eighth.
It wouldn't happen though as a two-out bloop single by Bianucci scored Stapleton to cut the lead to one. Bennett then singled into left to bring Donaldson to the plate looking to tie the game or give the Tigers the lead. Donaldson's pop up brought the inning to a close, but not before Auburn cut the lead in half with a run.
Florida put the game away in the eighth as the Gators added some insurance for O-Day. With reliever Peter Wiggins on in relief a one-out walk to Jeroloman opened the floodates for the Gators. Sitting on the first pitch, LaPorta ripped a single into left field to bring Cash to the plate. Taking a pitch the other way, Cash laced a fly ball to the track in left where Ben Jones diving attempt came up empty. The hit scored Jerolomn and gave Florida a two run lead once again. With the infield playing in Chris Petrie then hit a chopper just out of the reach of Justin Bristow at shortstop. The hit allowed another run to score and make it 4-1 Gators. Wiggins would get out of the inning without any more runs, but the damage was done.
Auburn made things interesting in the top of the ninth off O'Day as Greinke led off the inning with a single. One out later Bristow singled to right to put runners on first and second with one out and bring Stapleton to the plate. Hitting a slow roller to short, Stapleton easily beat the throw to first that would have been a game-ending double play, but the second base umpire ruled that Bristow interfered with the play. He called an automatic double play that brought the game to a close and give Florida the win.
The two teams will play the rubber game of the three-game series Sunday at 1 p.m. central time. Junior Chris Dennis gets the call for the Tigers on the mound while Florida is listed as TBA.