Auburn, Ala.--Tennessee scored four runs off Auburn reliever Bryan Woodall in the top of the 11th on the way to an 8-4 win Saturday in front of 4,220 at Plainsman Park. Auburn led 4-0 after four innings, but failed to score the rest of the way in the loss. The Tigers drop to 17-10, 3-5 in SEC play while Tennessee improves to 16-8, 5-3 in league action.
While Tennessee's comeback was a big part of the game, the story was the pitching of Tennessee reliever Danny Wiltz. Expecting a tough battle from Vol starter Bryan Morgado, who entered the game with a gaudy 1.84 ERA, Auburn instead bombed him for four runs on 10 hits in just four and one/third inning. The Tigers didn't have that kind of success off Wiltz.
Pitching the final six and one/third innings to pick up the win to improve to 3-0, Wiltz allowed just one Auburn hit and walked one while striking out five. He improved his ERA just 1.16 on the season and Coach Tommy Slater said he was the difference in Saturday's game.
"We had a really good gameplan against Morgado," Slater said. "I thought we executed it tremendously. We knew he was a power lefthander and didn't throw his breaking ball for strikes very often. We told our kids we're not going to swing at the breaking ball because he doesn't throw it for strikes. We didn't and got his pitch count elevated and got him out of the game…I thought we pressured him and had a really good first half of the game offensively.
"The story was what their guy did," Slater said. "Wilkes comes in and I think 21 times we came to the plate and we got one hit. That was the story. We pitched plenty good enough to win. With no errors we played good enough defense to win. Offensively the back half of the game, give Wilkes credit he did a great job to our hitters. Our team has been swinging the bats really well. The back half of the game tonight we didn't."
A crowd of 4,220 was on hand Saturday, the 9th largest crowd in Plainsman Park history.
Woodall took the loss for the Tigers, allowing four runs on four hits in two innings of work. Starter Cory Luckie was solid in his six innings of work, giving up four earned runs on nine hits and striking out four. Taylor Thompson pitched an inning of scoreless relief while Evan Crawford added two scoreless innings out of the bullpen. For the game Auburn allowed 17 hits, but struck out eight and walked just two.
Auburn got on top early against the Vols with a run in the third. Up with one out in the inning, shortstop Matt Hall hit a bomb to left that came up just short of leaving the yard. Racing around the bases, Hall cruised into third base with a triple. Continuing the lethal combination at nine and one for the Tigers, Trent Mummey followed with a double to left that scored Hall to make it 1-0 Auburn. The Tigers had a shot for more damage as Justin Hargett followed with a bloop single just over third base, but Mummey slipped coming around third and held there. Back to back pop ups by Mike Bianucci and Hunter Morris brought the inning to a close with Auburn up one.
With Luckie cruising on the mound, Auburn came back for more in the fourth. Leading off Joseph Sanders singled to left and moved to second on an error by the Tennessee fielder. That started a big inning for the Tigers as Sanders stole third to move 90 feet closer for Kevin Patterson who singled to left to make it 2-0. Moving to second on a wild pitch, Patterson scored as Brian Fletcher tripled to center field. Back to back outs made it look like Fletcher would be stranded, but an infield single by Mummey scored his fellow freshman and made it 4-0 Tigers.
That would be all of the offense for Auburn on this night as Tennessee's Wilkes came on in the fifth and shut down the Tigers the rest of the way. That allowed his offense to get going and eventually win the game to tie the series. After a single run in the fifth, the Vols exploded with three in the sixth off Luckie. Leading off, catcher Yan Gomes singled for one of his four hits on the night. Shawn Griffin followed with a single as well to put Tennessee in business.
With one out Luckie hit a batter to load the bases. Following a fielder's choice that plated a run to cut the lead to 4-2, right fielder Josh Liles came up with the hit of the day. Getting a pitch to pull, Liles laced it just inside the bag at third base for a double. Both runners scored on the play to tie the game at four in the sixth.
The only excitement prior to the 11th came from Tennessee. In the eighth inning P.J. Polk walked to lead off the inning off Crawford. Up next, Andy Simunic tried to but him over, but catcher Ryan Jenkins jumped on the ball and attempting to throw to second was bumped by the batter. He eventually threw to first to retire the batter. After conferring, the umpires ruled interference on the batter and he was called out. Polk was sent back to first, causing a breakdown from Tennessee Coach Todd Raleigh, who was eventually tossed. Crawford escaped with a strikeout and groundout to end the inning.
Auburn got out of trouble again in the 10th when Tennessee got the first two batters on against Crawford before Woodall came on to close the door and keep the game tied. His magic only lasted an inning though as Tennessee came back to pound out four runs in the 11th. A Gomes single started things and Griffin followed with a double. Jeff Lockwood's single then scored two before a Polk homer to left put the Vols ahead 8-4. Wilkes closed it out in the 11th to even the series at one game each.
Auburn will send true freshman Bradley Hendrix to the mound looking to win the series against the Vols. With 39 pitches from Crawford and 32 from Woodall, both having also pitched on Friday night, Slater said the Tigers will likely have Thompson available as well as Michael Hurst, Austin Hubbard and Scott Shuman. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m.