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Vandy too much for Tigers again

AUBURN – Eight days ago, Auburn’s baseball team was ranked No. 20 in the nation and feeling good. But the good feeling is gone, replaced by consternation, confusion and disappointment.

Zach Alford rounds third after his first career home run/Leffie V. Dailey

No. 1 Vanderbilt scored eight runs, all after two were out, in the eighth inning Saturday against Auburn’s beleaguered bullpen and romped on to an 11-2 victory before a crowd of 3,663 at Plainsman Park. It was Auburn’s fifth consecutive Southeastern Conference loss.

The Commodores broke open a close game late Friday night and won 11-4.

As is this team’s way, the game was tight early. But the bullpen couldn’t hold on when Jon Luke Jacobs left after 5 1/3 innings, having given up just two runs.

Auburn sagged to 15-11 overall and 2-6 in the SEC. Vanderbilt improved to 25-3 and 5-2.

The Tigers had ample chances through the first seven innings, but they were 1-11 with runners in scoring position and 2-for-16 with runners on base.

Senior first baseman and team captain Kevin Patterson said the frustration is growing.

“Having 17 news guys come in, your chemistry is going to get a little out of sync,” Patterson said. “But that was last September. As far as the team goes, we’re fine in the locker room. I think it’s just one of those confidence things, frustration. Everybody, including me, has to step it up. It’s not what we expected. We are kind of getting our butts kicked right now.”

Auburn led 2-1 after five innings, thanks to Zach Alvord’s first career homer and a run-scoring error on an Alvord bunt.

A bizarre play gave Vanderbilt a lead it wouldn’t give up. After Anthony Gomez hit a one-out double, Cory Luckie replaced Jacobs and walked Aaron Westlake. He got the hook in favor of Ethan Wallen.

Wallen got what looked to be a double-play ball to Justin Hargett at second. Instead of tossing it to Alvord coming across the bag, he went to the bag himself and his throw to first wasn’t in time. Meanwhile, with Auburn players seeming paying him no attention, Gomez scored from second base and made Jacobs the losing pitcher.

Creede Simpson led off the bottom of the sixth by lining a double over the centerfielder’s head. But three Auburn hitters were struck out by three different Auburn pitchers. And in the eighth inning, Vanderbilt assaulted Auburn’s bullpen and turned what the game into a second consecutive embarrassment.

“We talk about trying to make it a short game,” Pawlowski said. “You look at it and we’re right there. A couple of plays, a couple of swings and it’s a different game. We made a couple of mistakes, and against good teams you can’t do that.”

The Tigers will try to end their losing streak and salvage a game in the series Sunday at 1 p.m. Ace Derek Varnadore will be on the mound.

During the SEC losing streak, Auburn pitchers have given up a startling 35 two-out runs. That’s an average of seven per game.

“We are going to have to keep trying different guys,” Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. “We’ve pitched well in spots and other times we haven’t. It’s been inconsistent.”

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