'Tough weekend' for Tiger baseball

AUBURN – Auburn’s baseball team didn’t go quietly Sunday, but that was little consolation at the end of a lost opening Southeastern Conference weekend.

Auburn catcher Blake Austin tags Vanderbilt's Chris Harvey out at home on a failed squeeze attempt/Anthony Hall photo

No. 2 Vanderbilt bolted to a 7-1 lead in the fourth inning and held on for dear life as Auburn came fighting back. In the end, the Commodores escaped with an 8-6 victory a sweep of the three-game series.

Auburn coach John Pawlowski was left to look for whatever glimmers of light he could find.

“We made it a ballgame after it didn’t look like one early,” Pawlowski said. “That’s the encouraging thing we can take from it. The discouraging thing is it was a tough weekend. It was a tough way to open up SEC play. We have lots of baseball yet to go, but lots of work for us to do, too.”

Auburn, on a seven-game winning streak coming into the weekend, fell to 13-6. Vanderbilt improved to 19-2.

Since winning the West Division title in 2010, Auburn has been swept in six of 21 SEC series. Sweeps the past two seasons were the difference in playing in NCAA regionals and going home after the SEC Tournament.

Auburn starter Rocky McCord struggled from the start and couldn’t get out of the second inning, giving up four runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings. Justin Camp gave up three runs on four hits in two innings. Terrance Dedrick got the Commodores under control, giving up a run on four hits in 3 2/3 innings. Conner Kendrick gave up a hit to the first batter he faced and retired five straight.

The Tigers, meanwhile, got a run in the second on Blake Austin’s sacrifice fly and two in the fourth when Damek Tomscha drove in one with a double and scored another on a wild pitch. Jackson Burgreen had a two-run single in the sixth to cut the gap to 7-5. Vanderbilt made it 8-5 in the top of the eighth and pinch hitter Hunter Kelley’s run scoring double, his first Auburn hit, made it 8-6 in the bottom of the eighth.

Ryan Tella laced a two-out double in the bottom of the ninth, but the game ended when Vanderbilt closer Brian Miller got Tomscha to fly out to centerfield.

McCord took the loss for Auburn and fell to 2-1. Jared Miller was credited with the win for Vanderbilt. Miller got his seventh save.

Auburn hitters came up empty on some hard-hit balls, none harder in the sixth inning. With Burgreen running on the pitch, Jordan Ebert hit a blistering line drive. Vanderbilt second baseman Tony Kemp, leaping, snared the ball in the top of his glove. Burgreen, already at second base, had no chance and was doubled off first.

Auburn plays Alabama State, off to its best start in years with a 13-7 record and a win over Troy, on Tuesday at Plainsman Park and Southern Mississippi on Wednesday in Mobile. Next weekend, the Tigers travel to Baton Rouge to play No. 3 LSU, which won two of three at Mississippi State over the weekend.

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