Despite scoring 11 runs on just seven hits, Auburn's pitching couldn't keep the Bulldogs off the board in the loss.
Eight Auburn pitchers combined for one of the worst nights in recent years for the Tigers. In his first start of the season, junior Paul Burnside pitched two and one/third scoreless innings, but was one of the few that had even a decent night on the mound. Reliever Michael Hurst pitched two/thirds of scoreless ball along with solid outings from Bradley Hendrix and Bryan Woodall.
It was the middle of the game that doomed Auburn on the mound as walk-on Chris O'Neil, Taylor Thompson, Scott Shuman and Luke Greinke allowed 12 runs on 12 hits in just four and one/third innings of work. Shuman's outing was the roughest as he gave up four runs on four hits in just two/thirds of an inning. Coach Tommy Slater said you won't win many games pitching the way Auburn did Tuesday night.
"It was pretty bad tonight," Slater said. "The guys that threw well are the guys we pitch on weekends quite a bit and we weren't going to go very long with them. We asked Michael to come in and clean up an inning for us and he did a great job. We asked Bradley to come in and clean up an inning and he did a great job, and then Woody was solid in the ninth inning.
"It was good to see Paul back on the mound," Slater added. "The positive with Paul is that he does compete. Even though he gave up some hits and dodged a lot of damage in each inning and Hursty really helped him out, Paul competes and makes pitches when he has to."
At the plate Joseph Sanders and Brian Fletcher both had two hits for the Tigers as Sanders drove home five runs on the night. Fletcher added his fourth home run of the season as well as a double. The Tigers managed just three more hits on the night as they couldn't capitalize on 10 walks and six hit batters by Samford pitching in the loss.
"The bottom line is that you score 11 runs you should win in the middle of the week period," Slater said. "And we didn't. Credit our kids for coming back and putting up a four-spot and taking the lead, but not a good job of holding onto it."
Not so good news on the offensive front for Auburn as first baseman Hunter Morris bruised his side while trying to run down a foul ball early in Tuesday's game. He was replaced for a pinch hitter and Slater said they're hopeful he'll be ready to go this weekend.
"He bruised up his side but he kept playing," Slater said. "The more he played the tighter and tighter it got. They iced it down, but obviously we got him out of the game. We're not going to take a chance with that thing getting any worse. He's already got medication to try to ease the swelling. We'll re-evaluate him tomorrow. Hopefully, he'll be fine for the weekend because obviously he's an important part of our ball club."
Auburn scored single runs in the second and third innings to take a 2-0 lead on Tuesday before pitching problems cost the Tigers beginning in the fourth. In for his first appearance of his career, O'Neil walked Bear Burnett before Tripp Swann homered to right field for two of his six RBI on the night. Before the inning was done O'Neil would allow two more runs to give Samford a 4-2 advantage. A single run in the fifth pushed the lead to three, before Auburn would cut into things.
In the bottom of the fifth Mike Bianucci was hit by a pitch, one of three times on the night, to get on base for Hunter Morris. After a foul ball out, Fletcher followed with a long home run to left field that cut the lead down to just one. It wouldn't stay that way long as Samford put five on the board in the top of the sixth off Shuman and Greinke with Shuman allowing four of the runs. The big blow again came from Swann as his triple to right scored two. Now trailing 10-4, Auburn again went on the offensive in the sixth and seventh to take the lead back.
With two outs and nobody on in the sixth Matt Hall walked and moved to second on a wild pitch and scored moments later on a Trent Mummey double. Another Bianucci hit by pitch followed along with a walk to Morris to bring Sanders to the plate. Pushing one down the right field line, Sanders' single scored two and just like that Auburn was back in the game.
Things got even better in the seventh following a scoreless top half-inning as Tony Caldwell reached on a one-out walk to get things going. Back to back walks to Hall and Mummey followed by a Bianucci single cut the lead down to just 10-8 with one out. A walk to pinch hitter Ben Jones pushed across another run and Sanders closed out the scoring with a double to right field to score two more. Now up 11-10, Auburn had a shot to close out the win, but couldn't get the job done.
With Greinke on the mound Samford loaded the bases with nobody out before a Swann groundout scored Michael Marseco from third to tie the game. A Marcus Rodriguez single to score Michael Rutledge then put Samford ahead. Auburn failed to score in the final two innings as relievers Taylor Hammond and Kyle Nichols shut the door to preserve the win.
Auburn returns to action this weekend with a three-game series at Alabama beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m.