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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn falls apart late in game one versus Tennessee

No. 19 Auburn gave up six home runs and 15 runs in the seventh and eighth innings while the offense was a non-factor, as it fell to No. 1 Tennessee 17-4 in game one in Knoxville. 

Things got disastrous early for Auburn. After starting pitcher Hayden Mullins threw a scoreless first, he gave up two runs in the second inning before he exited the game with an apparent arm injury.

From that point, Tommy Sheehan took over and kept Auburn in the game, recording 2.1 scoreless innings to send it to the fifth inning down just 2-0.

Chase Isbell kept things manageable in the fifth as well with another scoreless inning, and then Auburn took its one and only lead of the contest in the sixth inning.

With the bases loaded and one away, Cole Foster stepped up to the plate after making a terrific defensive play in the first inning and lined it up the middle for a single. Coming in to score was Cam Hill and rounding third was Brooks Carlson. However, he was hosed at the plate for the second out. 

Blake Rambusch continued his clutch, two-out hitting in the sixth inning, putting Auburn in the lead 4-2 with a three-run bomb. This stood as the leadoff hitter's third homer of the season and it gave the Tigers their one and only lead of the night.

This seemed to set up Auburn to turn to its two most dominant relievers, Carson Skipper and Blake Burkhalter, to try to get the last 12 outs. Instead, it turned into a home run parade for the Volunteers. After Skipper struck out two in a scoreless sixth, both pitchers combined to face six batters without recording an out.

Skipper, returning for his second inning of work, was hit hard immediately in the seventh. He was greeted by a leadoff double that was followed up by two singles to make it 4-3 with no outs.

In a jam, head coach Butch Thompson turned to his closer Blake Burkhalter to try to escape the threat. Things did not go as planned. After a single loaded the bases, Jorel Ortega blasted a grand slam to retake the lead. 

With the score now 7-3 and still nobody out for Tennessee, Auburn turned to Carson Swilling to try to turn things around. He, too, was hit hard by Tennessee, and the Vols blew things open with a three-run homer to make it 10-4. Another extra-base hit ensued as the Vols looked to tack on, but the runner was thrown out stealing, and Auburn sighed in relief as the disastrous frame came to a close.

However, more of the same ensued in the eighth, as Auburn was held scoreless again, and Tennessee hit four more long balls and racked up seven runs on seven hits off of Jordan Armstrong and Cam Hill, the eighth Auburn pitcher of the game. 

Out of life, Auburn went down in order in the ninth inning to seal the deal for the first-place Volunteers.

In his first loss of the season, Skipper was the first of a long chain of Auburn relievers that were teed off on by Tennessee's hot bats. When Mullins went down early, that was not a good sign for Auburn, but Sheehan and Isbell got things to the sixth inning and Rambusch's long ball gave Skipper the lead going into the sixth. The Tennessee bats just got hot, and Auburn could not find anyone to stop them.

Despite getting blown out, Auburn tallied nine hits and had two players with multi-hit games. Both Hill and Nate LaRue got two hits.

Rambusch also had a big night with three of his team's four RBIs, and Cole Foster had an RBI single, run scored and a defensive gem on a ground ball up the middle in the first inning.

Both teams came into the night with a seven-game winning streak, and the Volunteers will take an eight-game win streak into game two of the series tomorrow night, which will start at 6 p.m. CST and will air on the SEC Network.

"It's a tough way to end the seven-game winning streak," Thompson said. "It was a really good ballgame until the seventh. We did not plan or forecast for the injuries tonight. We will take it one day at a time and refocus our guys to let them know it's OK. It's just one baseball game, and we have to come out ready to play tomorrow."

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Noah Griffith | Assistant Sports Editor

Noah is a senior in journalism from Salem, Alabama. He joined the Plainsman in August of 2021 after transferring in from Southern Union Community College.

Twitter: @NoahGG01

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