Tigers Swept By Gators To Open SEC Play

It's deja vu time for the Auburn baseball program as the Tigers were swept by Florida to open SEC play, the second straight season to start 0-3 in league action.

Gainesville, Fla.--For the second consecutive season the Auburn Tigers were swept on the opening weekend of SEC baseball play as the Florida Gators won 6-2 on Sunday to complete the three-game sweep and once again put the Tigers in a hole to start conference play. The loss drops Auburn to 11-8 overall while Florida improves to 14-3.

The story of Sunday's game was the pitching of Florida's duo of Tommy Toledo and Clint Franklin. Earning the win, his third of the season, Toledo allowed just two hits and no runs in six innings. Picking up the save, Franklin gave up five hits and two runs in the ninth inning.

For Auburn the job on the mound was the best of the weekend as freshman Cory Luckie allowed three earned runs on six hits in four and a third innings. He struck out four and didn't walk a batter.

Relievers Evan Crawford and Bryan Woodall combined to allow two runs on four hits in the final four and two/thirds. Coach Tommy Slater said the difference in Sunday's game was Auburn‘s poor effort at the plate in a game where the Tigers had chances to make something happen.

"The bottom line is we've got to play better," Slater said. "I thought Cory threw the ball well. Evan did a nice job out of the pen and Bryan as well. We did not have good at bats. I didn't think the stuff we were facing today was anything spectacular. We had way too many fly balls today.

"It was not great stuff," he added. "Not to take anything away from Toledo. He's a freshman and is going to be very, very good. The Gators struck out two guys today. Typically when you have two strikeouts in a game it means your stuff isn't anything special…for whatever reason we had poor approaches at the plate today. We didn't hit enough line drives. The bottom line was too many fly ball easy outs."

Auburn had a chance to get on the board in the first inning as Hunter Morris continued his strong weekend with a double off the base of the wall in right field. It looked as if the Tigers would strike first when Kevin Patterson hit a liner to center field, but Matt den Dekker again robbed the Tigers of a run on the weekend with a diving catch for out three.

The Gators did what Auburn couldn't in the bottom of the first with a run off Luckie. Leading off, Avery Barnes singled and stole second to move into scoring position. He later scored on a two-out single by Josh Adams to put Florida up 1-0. The Gators would add to the lead in the fourth, but not before Auburn once again failed on a golden scoring opportunity.

With one out in the inning Patterson earned a walk from Toledo and one out later David Cunningham followed suit. With runners on first and second, Ben Jones hit a ground ball to second that was knocked down for an infield single. With the bases loaded catcher Ryan Jenkins' hard ground ball to second was fielded and the throw to first retired the Tigers and kept them scoreless.

Florida then made Auburn pay for that with a three-run bottom of the fourth thanks to some shaky defense from the Tigers. Up first Adams again delivered, this time a double to get the inning started. A ground ball to short moved him to third with just one out and Luckie followed with a strikeout to put himself in position to escape without damage, but Jonathan Pigott doubled to score Adams and make it 2-0. A bloop single from Clayton Pisani followed by an error on Justin Hargett when he missed a pop up pushed the lead to four before Luckie got Barnes to end the inning.

The Tigers escaped disaster in the fifth to stay within striking distance when Mike Bianucci dropped a fly ball to open the inning, allowing den Dekker to advance all the way to third. A ground ball out set the table for a weird sequence as Adams one-out ground ball was fielded by Matt Hall and thrown to the plate where den Dekker was cut down for out two. Brandon McArthur followed with a double over the head of Bianucci, but the Tigers cut down Adams trying to get back to third base for the final out of the inning.

Trailing 4-0 Auburn again threatened in the seventh as Jenkins' one out single got the Tigers off the mat. One out later Hargett followed with a bloop single to left to bring Brian Fletcher to the plate. In for Bianucci after his defensive problems in the fifth, Fletcher popped up to the mound to end the inning. Despite a collision fielding the ball, the Gators again escaped to keep the Tigers scoreless. Florida added two runs in the seventh off Crawford to extend the lead to six.

The Tigers would finally make some noise at the plate, but once again it was too little and much too late. With two outs and nobody on the ninth Hargett and Fletcher had back to back singles to bring Morris to the plate. Ripping one down the line at first, Morris was credited on reaching on an error, but the play pushed across both runners to give the Tigers a chance, but a Patterson fly ball brought the game and weekend to a disappointing end for Auburn.

Hargett and Morris led the way for Auburn with two hits each as they both had a very good weekend at the plate for the Tigers. That was the extent of the offense for Auburn with just seven hits on the day. Adams and McArthur had two hits each for Florida as the Gators had 10 hits for the game.

Auburn now finds itself in a hole to start SEC play after the sweep. The last time the Tigers won the opening conference series was way back in 2003, but with the next two series at home Auburn has a chance to right the ship. That begins on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. when Auburn goes on the road to face Troy. Auburn then welcomes the Kentucky Wildcats to Plainsman Park for a weekend series. Kentucky is 18-0 to start the season following a three-game sweep of Alabama over the weekend.

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