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Tigers get tough but not enough

AUBURN – Auburn hitters finally figured out Vanderbilt starter Kevin Ziomek on Friday night at Plainsman Park, but in the end, they couldn’t break through.

Jay Wade pitched two perfect innings as Auburn retired 20 straight Vanderbilt hitters.

The left-handed Ziomek took a perfect game into the sixth and a no-hitter into the seventh inning and the Commodores held off two late Auburn rally attempts to win 5-2 in the Southeastern Conference opener at Plainsman Park.

Ziomek, who came into the game with a 4-0 record and an 0.87 ERA, couldn’t pull off a third consecutive complete game. He was lifted for Brian Miller with Auburn threatening with one out in the ninth. After striking out 46 in 31 innings, he struck out just five.

Auburn hitting coach Gabe Gross said Tiger hitters got better as the game wore on.

“After the first few innings, I thought our guys adjusted,” Gross said. “It was really kind of a microcosm of the last few weeks. We hit a lot of balls hard that just didn’t fall in. I was proud of them. The later the game got the tougher our kids’ at-bats got. We just didn’t get enough done to win.”

Vanderbilt jumped out 2-0 off Koger after two were out in the first inning on Conrad Gregor’s solo homer and Mike Yastrzemski’s run-scoring double. Connor Harrell’s three-run homer in the third made it 5-0. But that was the end of the road for the Commodores on offense. They would not get another baserunner. Starter Daniel Koger and relievers Jay Wade and Will Kendall retired the next 20 batters they faced.

Auburn got a run in the eighth on Jordan Ebert’s RBI single and another one in the ninth on Garrett Cooper’s sacrifice fly. They left two runners on base in the eighth and one in the ninth.

“The difference was they had a couple of big swings. The second home run was obviously the determining factor in the game. Good teams are going to take advantage of mistakes.”

Koger fought back after Harrell’s home run and went six innings, giving up five hits and striking out one. He retired the last 11 hitters he faced. Wade retired six straight and Kendall three straight.

“I thought he settled in and gave us a chance,” Pawlowski said. “Jay Wade came in and did a good job and Will Kendall, too. We were one hitter away from getting the tying run to the plate after being behind 5-0. I was encouraged by the way they kept playing hard to the final out.”

Auburn played its fifth consecutive error-free game. Vanderbilt’s only error came in the bottom of the ninth.

Auburn saw its seven-game winning streak end and fell to 13-4 overall. Vanderbilt improved to 17-2.

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