Blown Leads Spell Doom In Series Loss For AU

Hunter Morris' two home runs weren't enough as Auburn fell 9-8 to Elon on Sunday to drop the opening series of the 2009 season.

Auburn, Ala--One day after Auburn's bullpen struggled in a loss to Elon, it was again the main culprit in a defeat as the Tigers fell to the Phoenix 9-8 on Sunday to drop the series to the visitors from North Carolina. In his first start senior Paul Burnside allowed three runs on six hits in four and one/third innings, but Auburn's bullpen gave up six runs on six hits in four and two/thirds to spell the difference.

"I felt like we had a couple of opportunities," coach John Pawlowski said. "We had the lead early, I believe we were up four and let them back in the ball game. We held the lead again and had a hard time holding them down. They swung the bats and came right back at us. That's the frustrating part. I know the guys are very disappointed and upset with the way the weekend turned out. We'll have to take the positives of the weekend and try to build on those."

One of the positives from Sunday was the production from the top of the batting order for the Tigers. Trent Mummey, Joseph Sanders, Hunter Morris and Brian Fletcher combined for 10 of Auburn's 13 hits on the day with Morris the big stick. The sophomore was 3-5 with two home runs and four RBI on Sunday in a losing cause for the Tigers.

On the mound Burnside was also a positive. Banged up for much of the last two seasons, the Montgomery native started and was solid. Showing good velocity and the ability to get his breaking ball over, Burnside said he was pretty pleased with how he pitched.

"I think it was okay," Burnside said. "It's nice to come out with a chance to win. That's what you want to do as a starter, just make sure your team has a chance to win. Since I came out with the lead it felt okay. It was just back and forth, a battle. That's what Sunday games usually are. They just made the pitches and we didn't come up with a couple of big hits."

Senior pitcher Paul Burnside

On Sunday Auburn relievers Chris O'Neil, Taylor Thompson, and Austin Hubbard didn't get the job done in the loss. It continued a growing trend for the Tigers unfortunately. In the two losses, Auburn's bullpen allowed 16 runs on 14 hits in just 10 1/3 innings. For the weekend the numbers were 18 runs on 18 hits in 12 1/3 innings. Pawlowski said that's something they'll continue to look at and try to find and answer.

"Hunter Morris is a guy, I think he's starting to feel it with his bat a little bit more," Pawlowski said. "I kind of wanted to stay away from that and not put too much on his plate there. All of the guys will get opportunities. We gave a bunch of guys opportunities this weekend. We'll keep running them out there until somebody really steps up and takes hold of that bullpen spot."

The star of the game for Elon was do-everything Cory Harrilchak. The center fielder the first two games, Harrilchak was the starting pitcher on Sunday, allowing five earned r uns on nine hits in six and one/third innings. He also went 3-4 at the plate with three RBI in the victory.

It took a little while, but Auburn finally got things going offensively in the bottom of the third inning as the middle of the order came through. Leading off, center fielder Mummey ripped a double to right field and third baseman Sanders followed with a single to right to put the Tigers on the board. That brought Morris to the plate. With a strong wind blowing out, Morris lifted a fly ball just over the "K" Corner in right field for his first home run of the season.

Reaching on an error by the left fielder that allowed him to advance to second base, Kevin Patterson scored on a single by freshman shortstop Casey McElroy later in the inning to give Auburn and Burnside a 4-0 lead.

Despite struggling some with his control, Burnside got through the first four innings unscathed before running into some trouble in the fifth. Leading off, Chase Austin reached on a walk to bring Harrilchak to the plate. Elon's leading hitter late season, he bombed one deep to right field for a two-run shot. The blast cut the lead down to 4-2 and set the scene for fireworks to come.

Another walk by Burnside to left fielder Pat Irvine brought last season's home run leader Bennett Davis to the plate. It looked as if Davis had tied to the game as his long fly ball to center field just got over the wall ahead of Mummey. The Auburn sophomore made a valiant effort at the ball and tumbled to the ground. In the confusion of whether he caught the ball or not, Irvin scrambled back towards first base. In doing so he was passed by Davis. The officials ruled that because he passed him, Davis was called out after a single and a single run scored. That left the score 4-3 Auburn.

Unfortunately for the Tigers the bullpen issues again came back to bite them as O'Neil allowed run scoring singles by Harrilchak and Mike Lobacz to put Elon back in front 5-4. Auburn would mount a charge though with the middle of the order again coming up big for the Tigers.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Mummey reached on a single to second base and Sanders followed with a sharp grounder that Austin mishandled for an error at second base. That brought Morris to the plate and he came through with a single through the right side. Mummey scored on the hit and Sanders moved around to third base.

Now tied, the Tigers weren't done as Brian Fletcher's infield single gave the Tigers the lead and Patterson's double to left field put Auburn up 7-5. A Casey McElroy groundout put an end to the rally with the Tigers up two.

Much like Saturday's contest, Auburn's bullpen again imploded down the stretch. With Thompson still in the game, Elon's Ryan Adams doubled to left center to open the inning and Harrilchak continued his hot hitting with an infield single. An Irvine double to right field scored Adams and left runners on second and third with still nobody out.

That was all for Thompson as Hubbard came on and immediately gave up the lead as his first pitch to Davis was deposited over the center field wall for a three-run home run. The blast made the score 9-7 Elon, but Auburn made one final charge before coming up just short. In the ninth inning facing reliever Thomas Girdwood, the Tigers got a leadoff home run by Morris to cut the lead down to just one and bring the crowd to life.

Keeping it going, Fletcher followed with a double to center field on a misplay by Harrilchak. Patterson was then hit by a pitch to put the potential winning run on base. A McElroy bunt moved both runners into scoring position, but Wes Gilmer and Justin Hargett struck out to end the game.

Auburn returns to action Tuesday at 3 p.m. when the Tigers take on Lipscomb at Plainsman Park. True freshmen Dexter Price and Adam Purdy as well as sophomore Ty Kelley are expected to see time on the mound for the Tigers.

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