AUBURN – Facing an opportunity to a major step forward, Auburn’s baseball team fell flat Saturday afternoon at Plainsman Park.
Ryan Tella had seven hits in the first two games, but none in the third.
The Tigers won the first two games to win the weekend series, putting themselves in position to make a move up in the standings and make up for one of the two sweeps they suffered in the first half. Instead, against a woeful Georgia team that had only two Southeastern Conference wins, both by one run, they went without a whimper in the series finale.
Georgia won the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader 7-1 to salvage a win in the series and do serious damage to Auburn’s hopes of rallying from an 0-7 SEC start.
“It’s disappointing,” Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. “No doubt about it. But I try to tell them to keep it all in perspective. We’ve won two series in a row, which is a positive, considering the hole we dug ourselves early in the season. Georgia has a good club and played extremely well in Game 2 today.”
The Bulldogs jumped on Auburn starter Will Kendall for six runs, five of them earned, in 3 1/3 innings. They got another one off Dillon Ortman in the fourth. They wouldn’t score again, but they didn’t need to.
Pawlowski began pulling starters in the first inning when he replaced catcher Blake Austin. He later replaced left fielder Jackson Burgreen and right fielder Hunter Kelley. Mitchell Self started both games in place of Dan Glevenyak.
After getting 25 hits in winning 4-3 and 8-4 in the first two games, Auburn hitters had just three against the No. 3 group of pitchers on the No. 12 pitching staff in the league.
Jared Walsh, who spent most of the season as Georgia’s closer, got his second consecutive start and dominated Auburn’s hitters for 5 2/3 innings. Three relievers held the Tigers hitless until a meaningless single in the ninth.
At the halfway point of the Southeastern Conference season, Auburn is 22-14 overall and 5-10 in the league. Georgia is 13-24 and 3-12.
A win would have put the Tigers four games clear of Georgia. Instead, they are two games out of last place overall and in last place in the West. The standings won’t shake out until Sunday’s games, but Auburn sits alone in 11th place. An opportunity was lost.
Centerfielder Ryan Tella, who had seven hits in the first two games, was hitless in the finale.
“We just didn’t have an approach,” Tella said. “We were swinging at balls letter high and at our head. You can’t do much with that. It was just a breakdown of our approach at the plate.”
The Tigers clinched the series in the first game Saturday
Cullen Wacker hit a two-run homer in the first and Damek Tomscha hit a solo homer in the fifth as Auburn banged out 13 hits to beat Georgia for the second consecutive time.
Michael O’Neal gave up four runs, two of them earned, on five hits in seven innings to get the win and improve to 6-2. Auburn improved to 22-13 overall and 5-9 in the SEC. Georgia sank to 12-24 and 2-12.
Terrance Dedrick, who got the save Friday night, pitched a perfect ninth to win it.
Tella, who went 4-for-5 Friday night, was 3-for-5 with an RBI. Wacker was 3-for-5 with two RBI. Hunter Kelley, getting the start in right field, was 2-for-2 with two runs scored and an RBI.