Gainesville, Fla.--Auburn outhit Florida 18-16 and scored four runs in the ninth, but it wasn't enough to overcome a huge early deficit as the Gators cruised to a 12-8 victory Saturday to win the series over the Tigers with one game left to play on the weekend. Auburn falls to 11-7 overall, 0-2 in SEC play, while Florida improves to 13-3, 2-0 in league action.
"Giving up an eight-spot in the first two innings, it's hard to battle back from that," Coach Tommy Slater said. "Our kids certainly made a valiant effort and continued offensively and defensively to play hard."
Once again Auburn's starting pitching failed to get the job done. Sophomore Scott Shuman lasted just one-plus inning, allowing seven hits and eight earned runs to get the loss. Slater said it wasn't what they were hoping to get out of Shuman and the early struggles put them in a hole too deep to climb out of.
"When he doesn't pitch, when he tries to throw hard and throw through his movement pattern, he wasn't trusting that sink today," Slater said. "I don't know if I've seen a guy get hit that hard in this ball park."
The only bright spot of the day on the mound was the pitching of true freshman reliever Bradley Hendrix. He came on with nobody out in the second and pitched well before tiring late in the outing. For the day he allowed four runs on nine hits and did a good job in a tough spot. Austin Hubbard and Taylor Thompson closed out the day for the Tigers, a tough day on the mound overall.
"What a nice job coming in out of the bullpen by Bradley Hendrix," Slater said. "I thought he competed and gutted it out for us. I went to the mound to get him out and he was mad and upset and that's what you want when you go out and take the ball from someone…Bradley really competed for us. I'm really proud of Bradley Hendrix."
At the plate true freshman Hunter Morris had a career-high four hits, part of an 18-hit attack for the Auburn offense. Despite a productive day at the plate the Tigers struggled to turn the hits into runs and left 12 runners on base. Slater said offensively his team did some good things, but couldn't capitalize on several good chances throughout the day.
"18 hits and only eight runs, we need to be more productive than that," Slater said. "When you have 18 hits I would like to see more runs on the board than eight, but the kids continued to compete and continued to play, which we expect them to. It was just too big of a hole early to dig out of."
Hunter Morris had four hits for the Tigers in the loss to Florida.
Auburn had a chance to do some early damage against the Gators, but a base running blunder cost the Tigers in the top of the first. With one out in the inning Mike Bianucci worked a walk to bring Morris to the plate. Morris did his job with a single to left, but Bianucci was thrown out trying to stretch it to third base. It proved to be big as Joseph Sanders popped up to end the inning with Auburn scoreless.
Much like Friday's game, Florida bunched its hits in Saturday's game and the Gators started early in game two of the series. Leading off the inning against Shuman, Avery Barnes singled to center field. Trying to bunt his way on, Matt den Dekker lined a bunt that was just off the glove of a diving Morris at first. Shuman threw to second to cut down Barnes with the first out. Up next, Cole Figueroa hit a ground ball to second that Justin Hargett couldn't get out of his glove and Figueroa reached for an infield single.
The first of two long balls in the inning came from Josh Adams as he bombed one deep over the center field wall for a three-run shot to put the Gators in front. Getting the second out in the inning, Shuman walked Jon Townsend with two outs and Florida made him pay as Jonathan Pigott's double to left put runners on second and third for Clayton Pisani, but it didn't matter as his long drive to left cleared the ball to make it 6-0 early.
Auburn got a run back in the second thanks to some two out magic. Left fielder Ben Jones got things started with a single up the middle and catcher Ryan Jenkins followed suit with a single of his own up the middle to bring shortstop Matt Hall to the plate. Hitless on the season with runners in scoring position, Hall finally came through with a single that scored Jones and got Auburn on the board.
Not only did Florida get the run back in the bottom of the second, they extended the lead as back to back hits by den Dekker and Figueroa brought Shuman's day to an early end. Hendrix came in and promptly gave up singles to Adams and McArthur to extend the lead back to 8-1. Hendrix got a double play and a pop up to end the threat, but Florida held a commanding seven run lead heading to the third inning.
The fourth inning summed up Auburn's situation perfectly as a piece of bad luck put an end to another Tiger threat at the plate. Leading off Kevin Patterson singled and Luke Greinke reached after being hit by a pitch to bring Jones to the plate. Hitting a liner, Jones' hit bounced off the pitcher right to Adams at second base without touching the ground. He threw to Figueroa covering second who threw to McArthur at first for a triple play to end the inning.
Auburn again threatened in the fifth as a walk by Jenkins and singles by Hargett and Morris later in the inning loaded the bases with two outs for the Tigers, but a Sanders pop up brought things to an uneventful end for the Tigers. Florida added another insurance run in the bottom of the sixth off Hendrix to push the lead to 9-1 Gators.
The long ball finally arrived for the Tigers in the seventh. With two outs and nobody on Bianucci singled to left field, his second hit of the weekend, to bring Morris to the plate. Getting a pitch to handle against reliever Josh Edmundsen, Morris launched his fourth home run of the season over the wall in left field.
The blast cut the lead to 9-3 and gave the Tigers a glimmer of hope. A solo shot by Townsend got one of the runs back right away for Florida and the Gators would tack on two more before the damage was one in the seventh, giving Florida a 12-3 lead. A Hargett single in the eighth added a single run for the Tigers to cut the lead to eight and the Tigers weren't done.
Making a push in the ninth, Auburn scored four in the ninth to make things interesting with the big blow coming on a two-run double by Tony Caldwell, but Bianucci's fly out to center field brought the game to a close with Morris on deck as the potential tying run.
For the game Hargett added three hits for the Tigers while Patterson added two hits. On the day 12 of Auburn's 18 hits came from freshmen. Florida was led by Figueroa and Adams with three hits each. Adams also added a team-high four RBI.
Auburn will look to salvage a win in the series on Sunday at noon central time when freshman Cory Luckie (2-1, 1.23 ERA) faces off against fellow freshman Tommy Toledo (2-0, 3.00). Toledo was a third round pick of the San Diego Padres last season out of high school.