Through six innings, Auburn’s chances against No. 1 seed Florida were very slim. The Gators had dominated the game, as ace Alex Faedo held the Tigers scoreless through the first six frames. In the seventh, things dramatically changed for Auburn.
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The Tigers rallied for four runs in the seventh inning to tie the ballgame, but ultimately fell short as the Gators (41-15) scored a run in the bottom of the eighth to defeat Auburn (35-23) 5-4.
“They battled their heart out. I love it,” Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said. “Got down two nights in a row and continued to battle back. I love how we play. I think it’s a great lesson to learn, to get to play one of the premier teams in the country. Keep making these adjustments. There’s a couple little things.
“We got to make sure we’re interested in hitting and not umpiring. We just got to keep fighting. We fought for every pitch tonight and played as hard as we possibly could. I still think it’s a great night with the loss. I thought we played good and lost the game, instead of playing bad and losing. We took a lot of positives away from it.”
Blake Logan began Auburn’s big inning with a single, and Bowen McGuffin followed with a four-pitch walk, which chased Faedo from the game. After Will Holland bounced into a fielder’s choice, Jonah Todd drove in Auburn’s first run of the game on an error by Florida third baseman Jonathan India.
After Dylan Ingram walked with two outs, Conor Davis laced a two-run double to right field to cut Florida’s lead to 4-3.
With Josh Anthony at the plate, Florida reliever Tyler Dyson unleashed a wild pitch, which allowed Ingram to score and tie the game at four.
The two teams traded zeroes in the bottom half of the seventh and top of the eighth, but the Gators rallied for the winning run against Auburn reliever Calvin Coker.
After Coker retired eight straight Florida batters, JJ Schwarz started the eighth-inning rally with a one-out single to right field. Nick Horvath followed with a nine-pitch walk, and India loaded the bases with a base hit.
Thompson called for freshman left-hander Elliott Anderson to try to get out of the jam, but he walked Christian Hicks on five pitches to bring in the go-ahead run.
Coker (3-3), the hard-luck loser, was excellent in relief for the Tigers as he held Florida to one run over 3.2 innings. He struck out six consecutive batters at one point, setting a career-high for strikeouts in the process.
“I thought he found a breaking ball, I thought he found a fastball, he found swing and miss and he got on a roll,” Thompson said.
Dyson (2-0) picked up the win for Florida with 1.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Michael Byrne picked up his 14th save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning.
Todd finished the night 3-for-5 with an RBI for Auburn. Daniel Robert finished with two hits for the Tigers.
Deacon Liput, Mark Kolozsvary, Hicks and India each had RBI hits for the Gators. Faedo went six innings and allowed just one earned run on six hits. He struck out seven and walked two.
With the loss, Auburn falls into the loser’s bracket of the SEC Tournament and will take on the loser of the Arkansas-Mississippi State game Thursday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. CST.
Despite the loss, Thompson and Davis were both very proud of the fight the Tigers showed in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
“It’s good to fight. When I see fight in my ball club, I’ll never have a problem,” Thompson said. “We’re here to win. If we’re going to stay up ‘til 1:14, we plan on winning. There’s no moral victories. This is SEC baseball at the highest level. We fell a bit short, but our effort was tremendous tonight.”
“We learned as a team, we’ve got to keep fighting,” Davis said. “We have more than we think. People get down on us sometimes when we get behind, but we’re a lot better than a lot of people think. We got a lot of heart on our team.”
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