Commodores Too Much For Tigers In Opener

Auburn squandered a three-run lead and Vanderbilt then ran away with game one on Friday night.

Auburn, Ala.--It was a case of déjà vu for the Auburn Tigers on Friday night as a good start was thwarted by a bad play in a 12-3 loss to Vanderbilt. Leading 3-0 going to the sixth, an Auburn error opened up the floodgates as the Commodores pounded out 17 hits and all 12 runs in the final four innings.

With the loss Auburn drops to 16-9 overall and 2-5 in SEC play. Vanderbilt improves to 17-8, 3-4 in league action. On a night when Auburn starting pitcher Grant Dayton got off to a blistering start, coach John Pawlowski said in the end it was not a good enough performance from his team to get a win.

"All losses are disappointing," Pawlowski said. "You put the uniform on and you want to have an opportunity to play and win. When you lose and you lose in the fashion we lost, it's obviously disappointing. I'm disappointed for the way we lost. We jumped out there and worked yard and got a three-run lead. Then we made a couple of mistakes and gave it right back.

"When you look at the bottom line there are a couple of areas that have been concerning to me," he added. "We gave up 22 hits and we only had five hits. Out of 27 hits on the day only five went our way. We certainly have to make adjustments offensively too."

Allowing four earned runs on 10 hits in six innings, Dayton falls to 2-3 on the season with the loss. On the flip side Vanderbilt's Mike Minor was terrific. He allowed just two earned runs on five hits and struck out 11 in seven innings to even his record at 2-2.

At the plate five different players had singles for Auburn on the night while Vanderbilt had two players with four hits and two more with three. Of the Commodores' 22 hits, 20 were singles on a night when they did every little thing to contribute to the victory.

In a pitcher's duel to start the game, it was Auburn that finally got some offense going in the bottom of the fifth as back to back walks to Casey McElroy and Tony Caldwell were the first signs of trouble for Minor on the day. Up next, designated hitter Wes Gilmer flared a single into right field to load the bases for second baseman Justin Hargett.

One of Auburn's most clutch hitters, Hargett went with the pitch and lined a single into left field to score the first run of the game. O-2 on the night, Trent Mummey then lined a foul ball off the left side with two strikes, but made contact with catcher Drew Fann's mitt. He was awarded first base with an error ruled to fan. Caldwell scored on the play to make it 2-0 Auburn. The Tigers finished out the scoring on a shallow fly ball to Joseph Sanders into center field. It was just deep enough to score Gilmer though to give Dayton a three-run lead to work with.

The lead didn't last long as a one-out walk by Dayton to Curt Casali opened the floodgates for the Commodores with some help from the Auburn defense. First Andrew Westlake singled and Andrew Giobbi followed with a single of his own into left field. On the play Brian Fletcher threw late to the plate. Coming up to meet the throw, Caldwell wheeled and threw high to second attempting to catch the runner rounding the bag. The throw skipped by Mummey in center field allowing both runners to score and tie the game at three.

Singles by Joe Loftus and Jason Esposito kept the inning going for Vanderbilt before catcher Drew Fann's perfect sacrifice bunt scored Loftus to put the visiting Commodores on top 4-3. Dayton managed to get out of the inning with no more damage, but the Tigers now trailed by one.

Things went from bad to worse for the Tigers in the seventh as reliever Rus Harper came on and immediately gave up a solo homer run Steven Liddle to increase the lead to 5-3. A single by Casali put a quick end to Harper's day as true freshman Zach Blatt came on with nobody out. A Westlake single put runners on first and second before a Giobbi fly ball left runners on first and third with nobody out.

Faking a run from first, Westlake drew a throw from Caldwell that allowed Casali to score easily and extend the lead to three. Esposito closed out the scoring in the inning with an RBI single and just like that Vanderbilt led 7-3. The Commodores added three in the eighth and two more in the ninth to make the final score 12-3.

Auburn and Vanderbilt are scheduled to play game two of the three-game series on Saturday at 3 p.m. weather permitting.

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