The Tigers were unable to hold off Georgia Southern’s comeback in an extra-inning, 7-5 loss Saturday night.
“A good Georgia Southern ball club,” Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said. “Well coached, a veteran club, just stayed after it and found a way to win there late in the ball game.”
Bullpen struggles and a lack of offense in the latter half of the game kept Auburn from being able to take a 2-0 lead in the series going into Sunday’s Game 3. Instead, the series is now tied at 1-1.
“Where the bullpen saved us yesterday, we had some challenges there,” Thompson said.
The game opened on what could have been a disastrous note for the Tigers. In the first inning, starting pitcher Tanner Burns was hit with a 107 mph line-drive on the top of his shoulder. Burns hit the ground immediately and stayed down for several minutes while trainers checked him over.
After having to go to bullpen in the third inning yesterday because of tightness in Davis Daniel’s forearm, the last thing the Tigers needed was another starter leaving the game early.
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Burns was able to get back up though, and, after throwing some warm-up pitches, he struck out the next batter he faced to end the inning. He pitched five innings and allowed only one run on three hits. He struck out seven.
“I thought his fifth inning was one of the best I’ve seen him throw,” Thompson said.
Auburn’s offense was right there to support its starting pitcher. In the third inning, the Tigers scored four runs on four hits to take a 4-0 lead that would hold up until the sixth.
In the sixth, Burns allowed a single and Brooks Fuller came in to pitch for the Tigers. A two-run homer by shortstop Austin Thompson cut the Tigers’ lead in half to 4-2.
In the seventh Will Morrison took the mound and Georgia Southern was able to get two hits off of him. A wild pitch by Morrison loaded the bases, and the ball was handed off to Cody Greenhill. He had an error and a wild pitch that allowed two more runs to come in and tie the game 4-4.
Georgia Southern’s comeback continued into the eighth when it took the lead, 5-4. Auburn came back to tie it in the bottom of the ninth when Kason Howell hit a single that allowed pinch runner Jackson Henderson to score.
Ryan Watson came in to pitch the tenth for the Tigers, and he was arguably the highlight of the game for the Auburn bullpen. He threw three straight 1-2-3 innings, but one swing in his fourth inning of work was all it took to get him the loss for the night.
“Ryan Watson for three innings, some of the best baseball he’s thrown in an Auburn uniform,” Thompson said.
Noah Ledford, the designated hitter for Georgia Southern, hit a home run to left center that gave the Eagles a 6-5 lead in the top of the thirteenth. After allowing only his second hit of the night with a single immediately after the homer, Watson was pulled and Garrett Wade came out to pitch. Georgia Southern would score its seventh run of the night while Wade was pitching due to a wild pitch.
“I can see what we’re trying to do,” Thompson said. “But just the execution of everything fell to our opponents today.”
It was not just the struggles on the mound that kept the Tigers from winning a close game; it was also the nearly nonexistent offense after the third inning.
In the last ten innings of the game, they scored only one run and had only five hits. Two of those hits belonged to Judd Ward. He went 3-for-5 on the night with three singles. Howell had two hits and one RBI. Edouard Julien had one hit and three RBI.
“It didn’t take great swings,” Thompson said. “When we put it in play it was either a routine nature of a fly ball or… they took the sting out of our swing.”
Auburn looks to get the series win on Sunday with Kyle Gray slated as the starting pitcher for the Tigers. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. CST.
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