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Clutch hits elude Tigers again

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Auburn baseball team allowed No. 3 LSU to jump out to an early lead for the second straight night and was unable to get a key hit in the later innings as it fell 5-1 on Saturday night at Alex Box Stadium.

Auburn coach John Pawlowski's fifth SEC season going in the wrong direction.

With the loss, Auburn dropped a series to LSU for the first time since 2009. The Tigers, swept at home last weekend by Vanderbilt, fell to 15-8 overall and 0-5 in the SEC. LSU improved to 21-2 and 4-1. Auburn will try again to get its first SEC win Sunday at 4 p.m.

“We kept the game close, and that’s what you have to do against good teams,” Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. “I thought we gave ourselves plenty of opportunities, but we just weren’t able to come up with something. I was hoping someone could find a hole and we could score some runs, but it didn’t happen. These guys keep battling hard and hopefully tomorrow we will be able to get something going.”

Michael O’Neal, who started the season 4-0, took the loss to drop to 4-2. He was charged for five runs, four of them earned, on seven hits and a walk while striking out one to take a loss for the second straight week.

Ryan Eades improved to 5-0 in six starts for LSU, surrendering one run on seven hits and two walks while striking out four in 6 2/3 innings.

LSU went up 2-0 in the first when Mason Katz doubled in two runs. Two innings later it was Raph Rhymes driving in a run with a single to make it 3-0.

A two-run fourth followed for LSU to extend the lead to 5-0 before Auburn was able to finally get to Eades in the fifth. Ryan Tella led off the inning with a double and scored on a Damek Tomscha single to make it 5-1.

Auburn would continue to get its chances off of Eades and the LSU bullpen, loading the bases in the sixth and eighth and putting a runner in scoring position in the seventh, only to come up empty all three times as the team went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Relievers Justin Camp and Rocky McCord combined to hold LSU off the board for four innings, limiting the LSU offense to four hits and two walks during their time on the mound.

“We expect those guys to go out there and keep the game close and give us a chance to fight back,” Pawlowski said. “I thought Rocky threw the ball as well as he has thrown it in a while. It looked like he had a lot of confidence and poise out there.”

Cullen Wacker finished the night 2-for-3 with a walk and extended his hitting streak to a career-best nine games with a sixth-inning one-out single. Tella also had two hits in the loss, giving him seven multi-hit games this season. Hunter Kelley, making his first start in the field for Auburn, went 2-for-5 from the leadoff spot.

Alex Bregman had three hits for the second straight night for LSU while Mark Laird scored three of LSU’s runs.

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