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Vandy pitchers dazzle Tigers again

AUBURN – Gabe Gross has liked the approaches, liked the mindset of Auburn hitters. He’s liked a lot of what he’s seen the past two days against No. 2 Vanderbilt

Damek Tomscha makes a play at third base Saturday against Vanderbilt/Anthony Hall photo

What he hasn’t seen the past two days is enough hits. Not nearly enough

Vanderbilt pitchers gave up nine walks Saturday at Plainsman Park, but Auburn managed just four hits and the Commodores pulled away late for an 8-1 victory that clinched the three-game series. They won 5-2 on Friday night. In both games, Auburn went into the seventh inning without a hit.

Saturday, it was sophomore hard-throwing right-hander Taylor Beede, the 21st player chosen in the 2011 major league draft, who shut down the Tigers. Though he issued six walks, four to lead off innings, he gave up just two hits and no runs in 6 2/3 innings.

“The thing about it is that the only thing that disappoints me is we didn’t get hits,” said Gross, a former Tiger and major league outfielder in his first season as hitting coach. “We battled that guy all day. We took our walks. We put ourselves in position to hit. We just didn’t hit.

“I think it’s going to flip, and when it does its going to be pretty nice.”

Auburn stranded 11 baserunners in falling to 13-5 overall and 0-2 in the SEC. Vanderbilt improved to 18-2 and 2-0.

Auburn starter Michael O’Neal dominated Vanderbilt hitters into the fifth inning. He left after a leadoff walk in the seventh. He gave up three hits and was charged with three runs.

The Commodores broke through in the fifth with two runs. The got two more in the seventh, another in the eighth and ended any question with three runs on five hits off Chase Williamson, Auburn’s third pitcher, in the ninth.

Auburn got its only run on a bases-loaded walk in the eighth and left the bases loaded when Kody Ortman flied out.

“It’s a little frustrating,” Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. “We had guys in scoring position. We just unfortunately weren’t able to come up with a big hit. I know the guys are frustrated, but they have to keep working.”

The two teams meet in the series finale Sunday at 1 p.m.

“It’s a real big game for us,” Pawlowski said. “Tomorrow is a great opportunity, and you don’t want to pass up on that.”

Junior Conner Kendrick, Auburn’s ace reliever, pitched for the first time in 12 days and struggled. He gave up three hits and two runs in 1 1/3 innings.

“(The layoff) might have had an impact,” Pawlowski said. “We got him out. Hopefully, he’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

Damek Tomscha, Dan Glevenyak, Cullen Wacker and Patrick Savage had hits for Auburn, which has managed nine singles in two games.

Auburn played its fifth consecutive error-free game.

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