A day after Casey Mize helped No. 24 Auburn snap a four-game losing streak with another spectacular pitching performance, Davis Daniel couldn't keep the momentum going as he gave up six earned runs on seven hits in just three innings of work.
The offense wasn't much better for Auburn Saturday, as the Tigers mustered just five hits in a 7-2 loss to Mississippi State.
Daniel started strong, recording three strikeouts and cruising through his first two innings. The Bulldogs got to Daniel in the third, as a five-run inning capped off by a three-run double by Marshall Gilbert forced Auburn head coach Butch Thompson to go to his bullpen much earlier than he had hoped.
"That third inning, I wrote it down as a defining moment, a storyline," Thompson said. "I thought they did a good job with their approach for the first few hitters and just found holes, and the swings got bigger and we couldn't get out of the inning."
The Tigers scored two runs of their own in the third and eventually had a chance to tie the game with two men on, but first baseman Brendan Venter struck out to end the inning.
The missed opportunity in the third would loom large as the Tigers were held scoreless in the game's final six innings. Ethan Small kept the Tigers off balance throughout as he gave up just two earned runs on four hits in seven innings of work.
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Thompson gave credit to Small, but also suggested the Tigers need to adjust their approach at the plate.
"Ethan Small threw great, I'm sure that's the longest outing of his season," Thompson said. "Each day, I'm having to compliment the starting pitcher, I think, too much to the point of we have to have a better plan of attack against the starter to get to the bullpen quicker. Because we only made them use one guy today."
Auburn's bats remained until the eighth, when the Tigers threatened to cut into the Bulldogs' lead, but a lineout by outfielder Conor Davis took the life out of a potential comeback.
The loss is Auburn's seventh in their last nine games and the Tigers are just 1-6 in their last seven SEC contests. After the loss, Thompson was asked if he was considering making a change to the starting rotation, and he didn't mince words when assessing Daniel's performance.
"I don’t think that’s a knee jerk [reaction],” Thompson said. “I think that’s something we’ll probably be proactive with. That will involve talking with players, talking with coaches, but I don’t think that would be knee-jerk at this point.”
Daniel has now allowed 11 runs in his last 6.1 innings and has seen his ERA skyrocket from 3.34 to 5.35 in that span. It remains to be seen if the Montgomery native will be in the starting rotation when Auburn opens a three-game series against Alabama on April 20.
Auburn will get another chance to win the series Sunday. First pitch is set for 1:00 pm CT at Plainsman Park.
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