AUBURN, Ala --- The Kentucky baseball team went 1-2 in a three-game weekend series at Auburn, getting another strong pitching effort from Joseph Blanton in the opener before dropping the next two games to the No. 24 Tigers.
It was the first SEC series of the season for Kentucky (10-10, 1-2). Auburn improved to 17-5 overall and 2-1 in league play.
The weekend got off to a good start as Blanton (3-1), the SEC Pitcher of the Week, tossed his second straight complete game in a 3-1 victory for the Cats. The junior right-hander scattered seven hits, struck out nine and walked only one.
"I thought Joseph Blanton competed extremely well tonight," UK coach Keith Madison said. "His curve ball was not as sharp as it was in his last outing, but he had great control and command of his fastball."
"Without a doubt, that was the best pitcher we have seen this year," said Auburn coach Steve Renfroe. "He lived up to everything we heard. He commanded both sides of the plate and when he wanted to go extra (more speed), it looked like he got a little extra. He was real good. He walked one guy and doesn't give you anything. With that kind of stuff, you better have a great hitting club to score runs on him."
Outfielders Caleb Stewart and Gordon Tyler each had two hits to lead the Cats at the plate. Tyler drove in one run with a hit, while second baseman Jesse Barber plated another with a sacrifice fly.
Levale Speigner (4-2) took the loss for Auburn, allowing two earned runs on six hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings.
Auburn held off a late rally by UK in the second game of the series to claim a 4-3 victory. The Cats scored a run in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, but the Tigers' Cory Dueitt slammed the door in the ninth.
Auburn starter Eric Brandon (3-0) earned the win, turning in six innings of three-hit work with two earned runs. He held the Cats hitless through the first five innings. First baseman Scott Schade went 2-for-4 with two RBI to lead the Tigers' offense.
Craig Snipp (1-1) took the loss for the Cats in his first SEC start. The freshman left-hander surrendered three runs in the first two innings before settling down to pitch four scoreless innings.
"After some first inning jitters, I thought Craig Snipp pitched extremely well today," Madison said. "He regained his poise, showed confidence and aggressiveness on the mound in his first SEC start - I'm extremely proud of him."
Seth Morris and Stewart each had two hits for UK.
Auburn took the series finale 5-0 on Sunday as sophomore right-hander Colby Paxton tossed a one-hitter. Paxton (5-1) was perfect through the first four innings and finished with six strikeouts and only one walk.
The Tigers got started on the right foot with a leadoff homerun by Javon Moran off UK starter Scott Wade (3-3).
Seth Morris had the lone hit for the Cats, a bunt single.
Kentucky 000 111 000 - 3 7 1 Auburn 000 000 001 - 1 7 2 Win: Blanton (3-1) Loss: Speigner (4-2) Time: 2:22 Attendance: 3233 ----
Kentucky 000 001 110 - 3 7 2 Auburn 210 000 10X - 4 10 1 Win: Brandon (3-0) Loss: Snipp (1-1) Time: 2:37 Attendance: 3,023
Kentucky 000 000 000 - 0 1 1 Auburn 100 120 01X - 5 6 1 Win: Paxton (5-1) Loss: Wade (3-3) Time: 1:58 Attendance: 2,815