Auburn, Ala.--Like a bad dream, the Auburn Tigers continue to find different ways to lose baseball games as on Saturday they committed seven errors and walked eight Florida hitters to fall 12-9 to the Gators at Plainsman Park. The loss drops the Tigers to 18-8 overall and 0-5 in SEC play this season and extends the current losing streak in conference play to 15 games. Florida improves to 13-13, 2-2 in conference action.
Frustrating doesn't begin to describe the mood of Saturday's game as the Tigers gave Florida too many opportunities at the plate to earn the victory. Despite a solid offensive showing with 14 hits and nine runs scored, Coach Tommy Slater says there was nothing positive about the loss and his team just has to respond and find a way to get a victory.
"It was ugly in a word," Slater says. "We set the game of baseball back as far as its ever been set back. We had lousy defense and again the freebies. There were lots of errors and lots of walks. It was not good baseball. That was a poor job by our club today.
"We just played lousy," he adds. "Seven errors, that's pretty evident. Yeah we scored runs and we got a lot of hits but to me it's not hard to concentrate in the batter's box. The mental focus shows up on defense. We made some errors today that we usually don't make. It's disappointing, it really is. We started the game with an error. The first ball of the game was a routine ground ball and we made an error. That just kind of set the tone for the day unfortunately. We need to be better than that."
In what has become a curse for the Tigers in SEC play, they got off to an early lead only to see it disappear thanks to a rough day in the field and on the mound. Leading off, Bruce Edwards ripped the first pitch he saw into right field for a single. After advancing to second on a Luke Greinke single, Edwards would move to third on a walk to Josh Donaldson to bring Mike Bianucci to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out.
Continuing his tough stretch at the plate, Bianucci hit a slow ground ball back to Florida starter Stephen Locke. He threw to the plate for the first out and left the bases loaded for Robert Brooks. Auburn's second baseman hit a fly ball to the outfield that easily scored Bianucci for the Tigers' lead.
The top of the second would be a sign of things to come on this day as Chris Petrie led off with a single to left field and advanced to third on a Brooks error. Matt den Dekker then did his job with a fly ball to left field that easily scored Petrie to tie the game. With two outs, Brian Leclerc drilled a double down the first base line to score den Dekker and put the Gators up 2-1. They would extend the lead in the top of the third as Cole Figueroa reached on an error by Burnside to get the inning started and eventually scored on a single by Petrie to make it 3-1 Gators.
Auburn would answer back in the bottom of the inning as a one-out single by Donaldson got the offense untracked. Bianucci followed with a double into the gap in left-center that scored Donaldson to bring the Tigers back to within one. A single by Brooks to left field scored Bianucci next and an error by Petrie allowed Brooks to advance to second. One out later, a Ross Smith single scored Brooks to put Auburn back in front 4-3.
Florida added a single run in the top of the fourth on a Figueroa single to tie the game once again but the Tigers again came back strong with two in the bottom of the inning. With two outs and nobody on, Edwards walked to get the offense started. Greinke then singled to center field to score the speedy senior after he stole second and advanced to third on an error by the catcher. A walk to Donaldson then gave Bianucci another shot at the plate and he drilled a single to left to score Greinke and give the Tigers a 6-4 lead heading to the fifth.
Bruce Edwards had two hitsand two stolen bases on Saturday. Here he dives back to beat the tag of Matt LaPorta.
The fifth would be the first of just two scoreless innings on this day as Burnside kept the Auburn advantage into the seventh despite a solo home run by Matt LaPorta in the sixth. Leading 6-5 heading to the seventh, Auburn sent reliever Justin Bristow to the mound looking to keep the Gators at bay. Instead Florida would break the game open with seven run thanks to several defensive lapses by the Tigers and a struggle to the find the strike zone on the mound.
Leading off the seventh, Bryson Barber reached as his line drive to Brooks at second popped out of the glove for an error. Advancing to second on a balk by Bristow, Barber would stay there as Avery Barnes was hit by a pitch to bring Petrie to the plate. His single to right field loaded the bases and a pinch-hit single by Cody Neer scored Barber to tied the game at six. A single by den Dekker then scored two more Gators as Bristow struggled with the aggressive Florida hitters. That would be it for him on this day though as freshman Scott Shuman came on and promptly walked Townsend to load the bases. A single by Leclerc scored another run before Shuman came back to retire the next two Gator hitters, the second driving in a run on a fly ball. Three more walks in the inning, the last by Blake, pushed across the final two Gator runs as they took a commanding 12-6 lead going to the bottom of the seventh.
A Ben Jones pinch-hit single in the bottom of the seventh scored Bianucci to bring Auburn to within five. Blake would pitch a scoreless eighth and ninth before the Tigers would mound one finally rally against the Gators. Leading off, Donaldson reached on an error to get the inning started. One out later, Brooks singled to center field to move Donaldson into scoring position. A pinch hit single by Joseph Sanders then loaded the bases for Jones, who hit into a fielder's choice to score Donaldson. A Dustin Spruill pinch-hit single scored Brooks to cut the lead to three and bring Skinner to the plate with the tying run but it wasn't in the cards as he popped up to LaPorta to end the game and keep Auburn's losing streak intact.
Burnside was solid on the mound for the Tigers, allowing eight hits only two earned runs in six innings. Bristow struggled as he failed to register an out, allowing three hits and five runs with three of them earned. Shuman pitched just two/thirds of an inning, allowing two unearned runs. Blake was solid to finish things off, giving up just two hits and no runs in two and one/third innings.
At the plate, Bianucci led the attack with three hits, two runs and two RBI. Edwards, Greinke and Brooks all added two hits each while Donaldson had one hit to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. For the Gators, Petrie had four hits while Leclerc added three hits and two RBI in the victory. Reliever Josh Edmondson earned the victory as he allowed five hits and only one earned run in four and two/thirds innings.
With the losing streak now up to 15-straight in conference play, Slater says he feels like his team is still a confident team despite the setbacks. He says that all they can do is continue to put the time in and push through the disappointment beginning Sunday.
"We've been nothing but positive," Slater says. "We keep telling them that we're a day away, a win away, from rolling off 25-straight. This team has been good, today we were not. I said ‘listen, I'm not going to lie to you guys. When we're bad, we're bad. We were bad today. We stunk'. I don't think we stunk prior to today but today we stunk."
Auburn will try to avoid its second consecutive sweep on Sunday as sophomore Evan Crawford heads to the mound for the 2 p.m. start. The game can be seen live on CSS.