Auburn, Ala.--Matt LaPorta hit two home runs and drove in four as the Florida Gators completed a three-game sweep of the Auburn Tigers at Plainsman Park with a 10-4 victory on Sunday. The loss keeps Auburn winless in league play this season (0-6) and drops the Tigers to 18-9 overall. Florida improves to 14-13 overall and 4-2 in SEC play. After playing so well to start the season, Auburn has now lost seven of its last eight games and Coach Tommy Slater says there is only one cure for his team at the moment.
"Keep working and persevering," Slater says. "The Gators were better than us this weekend obviously. They beat us all three games. Nothing has changed. I like my guys. It is my responsibility to get us better. I'm the head coach and everything we do is my responsibility. It's my responsibility to get us better so we can get back on the winning side of things."
In a continuation of a nightmare scenario for the Tigers, on Sunday they again struggled in every phase of the game as they gave up 10 runs on 14 hits, walked five Florida hitters and hit two more, and committed two errors on defense. Offensively things weren't any better as the Tigers had just seven hits, five coming from freshmen. Slater says that while there won't be any wholesale changes to try to break , he expects both Joseph Sanders (2-4, 3RBI) and Dustin Spruill (2 runs scored) to get even more work for the Tigers in the weeks to come.
"I don't really see a whole lot of changes," Slater says. "We've got good players and we're going to keep running them out there and playing. We got Joseph Sanders in the lineup today and I expect Joseph will be playing a lot more as we go forward.
"Spruill swung the bat well," he adds. "Joseph swung the bat well. I like our players. This isn't a case of me thinking we don't have good enough players. We've got good enough players. This worm is going to turn. The only way it's going to turn is to persevere and keep working our tails off."
Sunday the Gators would take control of things early and once again it came from the bat of LaPorta. In the top of the first, Cole Figueroa slapped a one-out double into the gap in left field to bring the powerful senior to the plate. Already with one home run on the weekend, LaPorta drove a pitch deep over the monster in left field for a two-run shot. The blast was LaPorta's seventh of the season and gave Florida an early two-run advantage.
Matt LaPorta and the Gators were too much for the Tigers in the sweep.
With Florida starter Billy Bullock cruising through the first three innings, the score remained 2-0 as Crawford settled down until the Gators got to him again in the top of the fourth. Leading off the inning, catcher Cody Neer singled and quickly stole second to move into scoring position for Brian Leclerc. The senior delivered as he blasted a double into left-center to easily score Neer and give Florida a three-run lead. Following a pop-up back to Crawford, he hit designated hitter Jake Ricks to bring number nine hitter Clayton Pisani to the plate. Executing the hit and run beautifully, Pisani singled into right field to score Leclerc and make it 4-0 Florida.
Auburn finally got on the board against Bullock in the bottom of the fourth. Coming into the game with a record of 2-3 and an ERA of 5.33, Bullock had shut down the Tigers through three but it was the freshmen contingent that finally got things going. With two outs and nobody on, Dustin Spruill worked a walk to bring Robert Brooks to the plate. A single by Brooks and a walk to Ross Smith loaded the bases for the fourth consecutive freshman in Joseph Sanders and he came through, rolling a single through the left side to score Spruill and Brooks and cut the lead in half.
That would be as close as the Tigers would get on this day though as a LaPorta double in the top of the fifth led to a Neer sacrifice fly that scored the senior and make it 5-2 Gators. Auburn failed to score in the bottom half of the inning and Florida put the finishing touches on the victory in its next at-bat.
After surviving the first five innings, Crawford started the sixth but wouldn't retire an out as a leadoff single and an error by Eric Skinner at shortstop chased the sophomore. Auburn went with senior reliever Johnny Thompson to try to hold the Gators at five but on this day it wasn't to be. Facing Pisani with runners on first and third, Thompson got him to hit a high chopper to Brooks at second. Unfortunately the ball got to Brooks just as the runner passed in front of him. Brooks booted the ball for an error to score a run and leave runners on first and second with nobody out.
A walk to Townsend loaded the bases for Figueroa and the freshman came through with a single to right field to score a run. LaPorta followed with a single of his own to drive home yet another run. Two outs later Thompson walked in the fourth and final run of the inning as the Gators took a commanding 9-2 advantage into the bottom of the sixth.
The Tigers chipped into the lead on a Sanders double that scored Spruill but LaPorta quickly got that run back in the top of the eighth. Facing Auburn reliever Brett Butts, LaPorta hit a bomb over the wall in left field for his second home run of the day and third of the weekend. For LaPorta it was possibly the last chance to face the Tigers and that's something he will likely be sad about. In the last three years LaPorta has eight home runs against Auburn and finished his career out in style with a sweep in his final trip to the Plains. For the weekend he went 7-13 with three home runs, three doubles and seven RBI.
For Auburn, Sanders was the only player with more than one hit on the day as his two hits led a seven-hit attack. On the mound Crawford gave up six earned runs on nine hits in five innings to get the loss and fall to 3-2 on the year. Thompson, Butts and Chris Dennis combined to allow five hits and one earned run in four innings of relief.
Auburn gets back on the diamond Tuesday night at 5 p.m. CDT when the Tigers travel to Macon, Ga. to face Mercer for a mid-week tilt. Freshman Taylor Thompson will get the start for the Tigers.