The story of night was defense and pitching as the three errors were huge for the Tigers, but just as important was the struggle on the mound from starter Cory Luckie. Lasting just two and one/third innings, Luckie allowed four runs on eight hits to get his second consecutive loss in league play. While Jon Luke Jacobs and Stephen Kohlscheen did an admirable job eating some innings for the Tigers, coach John Pawlowski said Friday night's loss was one he would just as soon forget.
"We didn't play well in any phase tonight," Pawlowski said. "I think they had six leadoff guys on to start an inning. That's tough. I thought the biggest thing we didn't do well tonight is that we didn't defend. We kicked it around a little bit. I don't know if I've seen an inning where a guy puts down a bunt and the next thing you know they've scored three runs on it. We have to do a better job of defending. That was the thing I talked to them about. We've got to communicate and know where we've got to be. It was a tough all-around night tonight. Not a great performance by us."
It didn't take long to figure out it was going to be one of those nights for the Auburn baseball Tigers as left fielder Justin Fradejas reached on a bunt single to get things going, bringing Tony Caldwell to the plate. Normally a bunt situation for Auburn, Caldwell was instead swinging away and hit a rocket up the middle that pitcher Adam Morgan snagged to start a double play.
The Tigers did get on the board first in the second inning as designated hitter Brian Fletcher tattooed a fastball to right field for a triple to lead things off. Shortstop Casey McElroy's fly ball to left was easily deep enough to score Fletcher to make it 1-0 Auburn.
After getting through the first two innings, Luckie wouldn't make it out of the third as Alabama's offense and shaky defense by the Tigers contributed to an early exit for the sophomore. Leading off, center fielder Taylor Dugas singled to right field and quickly moved to second on a Josh Rutledge single to bring Ross Wilson to the plate. Looking to bunt, Wilson laid one down perfectly towards third base that Justin Bryant fielded on the run.
Attempting to cut down Wilson at first, Bryant's throw instead was wide of Hunter Morris and careened down the line in right field. The error allowed both runners to score and it only got worse as Caldwell's throw from right field got away at the plate allowing Wilson to come all the way around and score.
Shockingly down 3-0, Luckie never recovered as Clay Jones and Jake Smith had back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners with still nobody out. Following a strikeout, Cal Tinsley singled to left field to make it 4-0 Alabama and end Luckie's day. Jacobs came on and quickly walked the first man he faced to load the bases. Following a strikeout, Dugas was hit by a pitch to force home the fifth run of the inning and leave the Tigers in a big hole.
Auburn looked to get something going in the fourth as a Caldwell walk and a Morris single brought Fletcher to the plate with a chance to get the Tigers back in the game. Fielding a slow chopper at third base, the umpire said Smith touched the bag before throwing to first for the double play. After a lengthy Pawlowski argument, the call stood and Morgan finished off the inning to keep his 5-1 lead.
The lead would stretch to 8-2 later in the game before a solo homer from Bryant cut the Alabama lead down to five in the top of the seventh. That's when the error would strike again as Auburn's defense cost the Tigers as a misplayed ball allowed two Crimson Tide runs to score to make it 10-3 Alabama.
Auburn managed to put a scare into Alabama in the top of the eighth as one-out singles from Caldwell, Morris and Fletcher loaded the bases for McElroy. A wild pitch allowed Caldwell to score to cut the Alabama lead down to six and a groundout from McElroy made it a 10-5 game, but pinch hitter Kevin Patterson's fly ball to center field brought the threat to a close as Alabama cruised to the five-run victory.
Saturday's 4 p.m. start time for game two will feature a match up of Nelsons as Cole Nelson (4-1, 3.12 ERA) gets the call for Auburn against Jimmy Nelson (4-0, 1.78) for Alabama.