Auburn, Ala.--Vanderbilt showed why it is the top-ranked team in the country Friday night as David Price improved to 9-0 on the season as he allowed four earned runs on eight hits while the Commodores pounded out 13 hits on the way to a 10-5 victory at Plainsman Park.
The loss is the fifth-straight for the Tigers and drops Auburn to 28-23 on the season, 7-18 in SEC play and is the 10th loss in the last 13 games overall for the club. Vanderbilt improves to 42-9, 18-7 in conference action, and has a two-game lead in the overall SEC race.
The story of the night was Vanderbilt's Price. Expected to be the top selection in the Amateur Baseball Draft next month, Price dominated the action early, but wasn't his usual dominant self as the Tigers touched him up for seven hits and five runs in eight innings of work and had several early chances to get on the board. Slater says although Auburn got to him late, Price showed early why he's considered the best of the best.
"I thought at the plate we had a decent approach tonight and we gave ourselves some opportunities to score against the best pitcher in the SEC," Slater says. "Obviously the early base running blunders were just terrible. We haven't been picked off first base all year. I think Bruce (Edwards) got picked off on Sunday at the South Alabama tournament. We get picked off twice there...you've got to take advantage of your opportunities against a guy as talented as David. When you have base runners on you can't give away outs in the early part of the game like we did."
For the Tigers it was a story of never giving up as the offense kept working against Price and reliever Johnny Thompson was outstanding in five and two/thirds innings of relief. In his longest career outing, Thompson gave up just three runs on three hits and threw only 62 pitches. Slater says he's proud of the way Thompson kept the Commodores in check to give the team a chance to get back in the game.
"It was outstanding," Slaters of Thompson's performance. "What a great effort to come in after graduation yesterday and then come out here today and throw five and two/thirds on 62 pitches. He made one mistake and the guy hits it out of here. Other than that, just a tremendous effort by Johnny. I'm so proud of him. He ate innings for us and he also kept us in the ballgame. He gave us an opportunity to come back."
Auburn's Joseph Sanders puts the tag on a Vandy base runner at first base.
Auburn actually got on the board first in Friday night's contest as senior center fielder Bruce Edwards worked a walk from Price to start the game and quickly stole second to move into scoring position. Following a line drive out by Luke Greinke to left field, a ground ball by Josh Donaldson to second base moved Edwards to third base with two outs. From there he would walk in as Mike Bianucci singled to left field. Just like that, Auburn had a 1-0 lead although Bianucci was picked off first to end the inning.
It wouldn't last for long on this night though as the Commodores came back with two runs in the second to take a lead they would never relinquish. Leading off the second, Matt Meignasner singled to left field to put Vandy in business. A smash off the bat of Parker Hanks was too hot to handle for Justin Bristow at third, giving the Commodores runners on first and second with nobody out.
A sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position but Crawford came back to strike out Brad French for the second out of the inning. Vandy would come through in the end though as lead off man David Macias dropped a single just over first base and out of the reach of Robert Brooks to put the Commodores up 2-1.
With Price settling in on the mound, Vanderbilt came back to add to its lead in the third as the powerful Dominic de la Osa ripped a double to start things and was joined on the bases by Pedro Alvarez after his walk from Crawford. Following a fly ball out to left field for out number one, Meingasner executed the hit and run to perfection as his single dropped into left field to score de la Osa and advance Alvarez around to third. Later Alvarez would score on an infield single by Shea Robin to push the lead out to three.
The lead would balloon out to a six-run advantage in the top of the fourth as a Macias walk started the Vanderbilt outburst. Alex Feinberg followed with a long triple into left-center field that scored Macias to make it 5-1 Commodores. A double by de la Osa then scored Feinberg for a five-run Vandy lead. A double by Ryan Flaherty scored de la Osa and Price had a 7-1 lead to work with.
After another scoreless inning by the Tigers, Vanderbilt put the finishing touches on its night in the top of the fifth. With Thompson on in relief after putting out the flames in the fourth, Macias singled to open the inning to bring Feinberg to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive, Feinberg blasted a two-run shot to right to put the Commodores up by a commanding 9-1 advantage.
With just two hits off Price in the first five innings, Auburn finally got to the All-American in the sixth inning to at least make things interesting. With one out in the inning, Edwards ripped a double off the wall in right field to get things started.
Up next, Greinke reached second when the Vanderbilt right fielder misplayed his fly ball down the line. That gave Auburn a serious scoring threat with the heart of the order coming to the plate. Fighting off an inside fastball from Price, Donaldson singled into center field to score two and cut the lead back to six. Bianucci followed with a double to drive home his second run of the game and make it 9-4 Commodores.
With Thompson settling in on the mound, Auburn came back to add a single run in the seventh. Back to back singles by Ryan Jenkins and Phillip Stringer opened the frame to get back to the top of the order. The Tigers could add just one run as back to back groundouts scored the fifth run of the game for Auburn against Price.
Vandy added an insurance run in the top of the ninth to make the lead once again five and it proved to be important as the Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the ninth inning against Commodore reliever Bret Jacobsen. A fly out to right field by Greinke was out number two with Donaldson striking out to end the Auburn threat and give Vandy the Friday night win.
On the mound Crawford was beaten up by Vanderbilt Friday night to the tune of 10 hits and seven runs in just three and one/third innings. At the plate, Bianucci and Jenkins led the Auburn attack with two hits each and both Bianucci and Donaldson drove home a pair of runs.