"I thought they outplayed us today," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "When you look at what transpired today they had 22 base runners in nine innings with 14 hits, five walks, a hit by pitch, and a couple of errors. That's a lot of base runners against a good hitting team. That's tough to overcome.
"They took advantage," he added. "We made some pitching mistakes and they took advantage of that with two three-run home runs. I thought that was the difference. On the other side of it we just couldn't get anything going offensively."
Auburn sophomore first baseman Hunter Morris added two hits for the Tigers on a night when the offense just couldn't get anything going against Elon. Ken Ferrer got the win for the Phoenix, allowing five hits and three runs in five and one/third innings. Freshman Jon Luke Jacobs pitched well in his first career start, allowing just one run on six hits in three and one/third innings. Pawlowski said he did well in his first outing, but his pitch count got too high early in the season to push things.
"He started getting up into the 80-pitch count or somewhere around in there," Pawlowski said. "I thought his fastball was okay. He had a good change up today. Our goal was to try to get him deeper into the game, but they battled and made him throw quite a few pitches."
Jon Luke Jacobs
Reliever Bradley Hendrix took the loss, allowing four runs on four hits in two and one/third innings, part of a bullpen of Scott Shuman, Rus Harper and Michael Hurst that allowed eight hits and 10 runs while only striking out two batters in five and two/thirds innings.
"It seemed like we were one pitch, one breaking ball or one fastball, from getting out of trouble," Pawlowski said. "They didn't execute. We talked about that. We'll have to continue to work with them. The guys understand that against good hitting teams, teams like Elon and teams in the SEC, you're really going to have to make quality pitches. In certain spots we didn't and they had people on base when it happened. That really hurt us."
Auburn got on the board first thanks to production from the top of the order. Leading off the first, designated hitter Jamie Drinkard doubled to left to get the inning started off right. Playing small ball early, Joseph Sanders bunted Drinkard over to third to set the table for Mummey. Lining a pitch to left to score the game's first run, Mummey moved to third on a single by Morris up the middle. With runners on first and third the Tigers were in a position for a big inning, but a strikeout by Brian Fletcher and groundout by Kevin Patterson left it 1-0 Auburn after the first.
The Tigers added to the lead in the third inning once again due to the small ball. With one out Sanders walked. Following a Mummey line out, Sanders stole second to set the table for Morris. This time this big first baseman singled through the right side to score Sanders and make it 2-0 Tigers.
That's how things would remain until the fourth as Jacobs got off to a solid start on the mound. Things changed quickly though as Dallas Tarleton singled and was followed up by a double by designated hitter Mike Melillo to cut the lead in half. After getting the first out of the inning, Jacobs faced his final batter as Neal Pritchard singled to right field to put runners on the corners. Hendrix came on and quickly got leadoff man Cory Harrilchak to hit into an inning-ending double play, but the Tigers wouldn't be as fortunate two innings later.
With one out, Tarleton again started a rally as he singled to open up the floodgates for the Phoenix. A double by Melillo put runners on second and third with one out for Justin Hilt. Auburn looked like they might escape the inning without any damage as a ground ball to Sanders at third erased Tarleton for out number two.
Unfortunately it wasn't to be as a hit batter loaded the bases for Harrilchak and this time his single up the middle gave Elon a 3-2 lead. Shuman came in for Auburn and things went from bad to worse for the Tigers as he fell behind 2-0 to Irvine and grooved a fastball that was hit out of the park for a three-run shot. That gave Elon a 6-2 advantage.
Auburn cut into the lead thanks to Mummey as he lined a solo shot over the monster in left field for his first home run of the season. That cut the lead down to just three, but Elon got it back two innings later as two Auburn errors led to a single run in the eighth to push the lead back to 7-3.
Thanks to a shaky bullpen, the Tigers made a run at Elon in the bottom of the eighth. Reliever Bobby Kennedy walked Sanders, Mummey, and Morris to begin the inning and put Auburn in business. That was all for Kennedy as John Brebbia came on to face Fletcher. A hard thrower, that was right up Fletcher's alley as he lined one to left field only to see Irvine make a diving grab. Sanders scored on the play and another run would score as back-to-back walks to Patterson and Casey McElroy pushed across Mummey to make it 7-5 Elon.
With the bases still loaded, Elon went with yet another pitcher as Daniel Britt came on to face Tony Caldwell. Getting him on a pop up, Britt had to face Friday's hero Justin Hargett to finish the inning. Jumping all over a pitch, Hargett drilled it into the right-center gap, but the second great defensive play of the inning kept the Elon lead at two as Harrilchak ran it down for out number three.
"Fletch drove that ball in the outfield and the kid made a nice play there," Pawlowski said. "Justin took another good swing and Harrilchak ran that ball down in center field. If that ball gets by him it's a different game. They made both plays and that was certainly the difference. We put some good swings on it, but they made the plays."
Elon squashed what life Auburn had in the top of the ninth as the Phoenix added four runs to put the game away. The big blow came from Hilt as his three-run blast off Hurst put Elon up 11-5. Another solo home run by Mummey was all Auburn could muster up in the bottom of the ninth as Elon evened the series with an 11-6 victory.
Auburn and Elon will play the rubber game of the three-game series Sunday at 1 p.m. at Plainsman Park. The Tigers will send senior Paul Burnside to the mound against Harrilchak for the Phoenix.