Mobile, Ala.--Mike Bianucci homered, singled, and scored three runs, but that is all Auburn could manage Tuesday night on the road as South Alabama scored two unearned runs in the seventh inning to break open a tie game on the way to a 4-3 win. Auburn falls to 18-11 on the season while South Alabama improves to 17-11.
On a night when it was a struggle from beginning to end with a light rain falling much of the game, Auburn's offense failed to show up as the Tigers managed just nine hits and left seven runners on base. Hunter Morris and Joseph Sanders both added two hits, but for the most part it was a tough night at the plate in the loss said Auburn Coach Tommy Slater.
"Not a whole lot of offensive production tonight," Slater said. "Not a lot of runs scored. It was not a real good night for the Tigers."
On the mound the Tigers got a good performance by reliever Taylor Thompson after Grant Dayton pitched a scoreless first. Coming on in the second inning, Thompson gave up two runs in three innings on three hits. Fellow reliever Michael Hurst also pitched well, allowing one unearned run on two hits in two innings. Slater said he saw some positives on the mound, but that was about it.
"Grant did what he always does," Slater said. "It was a very solid tune up inning of work. I was really proud of Taylor. He came behind him and did a great job. Michael was good. He did a good job as well. We just had too many mistakes tonight."
Just like they've done for much of the last two weeks, the Auburn Tigers got on the board first against the Jaguars. With one out in the first Justin Hargett singled to right field, but was erased on Bianucci's ground ball to second. Hustling down the line, Bianucci beat the double play throw and that would be important as he moved to third on a Morris single and scored moments later on a passed ball.
That gave Auburn the early lead as Dayton pitched a scoreless first and Thompson followed with scoreless innings in both the second and third. South Alabama decided to get offensive in the fourth thanks to some help from Thompson. Getting away with a walk in each of his first two innings, Thompson walked Ryan Bohanon to lead off the fourth and one out later Chris Davis put down a perfect bunt single to bring the dangerous Bunky Kateon to the plate. Delivering his second double of the game, Kateon pushed across both runs to put the Jaguars up 2-1.
Things would stay that way until the bottom of the sixth when Auburn got a run on the board to tie the game. With one out Bianucci singled to left and Morris followed with a great at-bat in which he fouled off six pitches before lifting a single to left. That moved Bianucci to third where he would score moments later on a Joseph Sanders single. Designated hitter Kevin Patterson almost put the Tigers ahead with a long fly ball to left, but it was tracked down for the out leaving the game tied at two heading to the final three innings.
Coming on in the fourth Hurst did a solid job until being pulled for Evan Crawford after giving up a single to start the seventh. Unfortunately Crawford had his worst outing of the season as he threw away Clint Toomey's sacrifice bunt allowing Ray Kruml to come all the way around to score. One out later Ryan Jernigan's single scored Toomey to put South Alabama up 4-2.
Auburn wasn't done on this night though as Bianucci drilled a one-out pitch deep over the wall in left field in the top of the eighth inning to cut the lead down to just one. One out later Sanders singled up the middle and Patterson followed with a walk to move the tying run into scoring position for pinch hitter Ben Jones. Facing South Alabama closer Greg Johnson, Jones never got the chance to come through as Sanders was picked off second to end the inning leaving the Tigers trailing 4-3. That's how things would finish as Johnson walked Jones to lead off the ninth, but that would be it as he picked up the save.
Kruml led the way with three hits for South Alabama while Kateon added two doubles. The Jaguars finished with just eight hits, but three Auburn errors contributed directly to two South Alabama runs and that proved to be the difference.
Auburn returns to action this weekend to face the Arkansas Razorbacks in a three-game series at Baum Stadium in Arkansas. The Tigers will be looking for their first three-series win streak since 2003.