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A spirit that is not afraid

Late offensive surge not enough as Auburn loses to Vanderbilt in SEC Tournament

<p>Bryson Ware stands at third at the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama, on May 24, 2023.</p>

Bryson Ware stands at third at the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama, on May 24, 2023.

Auburn’s bats went cold for just too long Wednesday night, as the Tigers’ ninth-inning rally was not enough to pull off a comeback win, with Auburn losing 6-4 to Vanderbilt in the second round of the SEC Tournament.

The loss snapped a nine-game winning streak for the Tigers which dated back to early May, and the six runs allowed was just the third time in the last 10 games where Auburn pitchers have allowed more than five runs.

"No matter where we play or what time of day we play, we're gonna have to be able to make the other fella beat us, have disciplined at-bats and dominate routine play," said head coach Butch Thompson. "And that's been a challenge for us at least enough to put us 1-1 in this tournament."

Cole Foster mirrored his home run from Tuesday with a solo blast over the wall in right field to open the scoring for Auburn in the first inning, giving the Tigers a surge of early momentum.

However, Auburn’s lead did not last through the first inning, as Vanderbilt brought home two runs in the bottom half of the first.

The Commodores’ leadoff hitter, Enrique Bradfield Jr., drew a walk in his first at-bat at the plate and made Auburn pay for giving him the free base. Bradfield Jr. immediately stole second base and wasted no time stealing third after that.

A single from Vanderbilt scored Bradfield Jr. from third to give Auburn starting pitcher Chase Allsup his first earned run of the game. Allsup pitched seven scoreless innings in his last start against Missouri on May 19, but did not perform similarly against the Commodores.

“Everybody knows he’s the fastest guy in the country, and then not really holding the running game the way we should, he turned that walk into a triple really quick,” Allsup said. “And I feel like he kind of sped up on everybody right there from the start.

Allsup gave up a second run in the first after a Vanderbilt sacrifice fly and ended the day with four walks, three earned runs and two strikeouts through five innings. Allsup was also hit with his second loss of the season while Vanderbilt’s Patrick Reilly got the win for the Commodores — pitching five innings out of the bullpen and recording eight strikeouts while allowing just two runs.

“Reilly was the difference in the ballgame. I just thought we took strikes, and we swung at balls,” Thompson said. “And that hadn’t been what we’ve done for a period of time.”

Auburn bounced back in the third via a solo home run from freshman Chris Stanfield, his third of the year, to tie the game. However, Auburn did not score another run until the ninth inning, going cold in the middle part of the game when Vanderbilt took advantage of Auburn’s mistakes.

Allsup walked the first batter in the bottom of the sixth and after giving up an infield single, was replaced by John Armstrong. Armstrong walked one after a sacrifice bunt to load the bases, and the Commodores regained the lead after a fielder’s choice brought home the go-ahead run.

Issues rolled into the seventh when Foster misfired on a throw to first which allowed Bradfield Jr. to move ahead to second. Bradfield Jr. scored after a single in the next at-bat for his second run of the game.

The Commodores plated two more runs in the eighth to stretch the lead to 6-2 after Auburn walked the initial two batters in the inning who eventually came around to score. The final two runs for the Commodores marked five of Vanderbilt’s six runs initially getting on base due to a walk or error.

Bryson Ware hit a two-run home run in the top of the ninth to bring the deficit to two with no outs, but the next three Auburn hitters went down in order to end the game shy of making a ninth-inning comeback. Ware’s home run brought his tally to 23 on the season, tying the Auburn program record for single-season home runs.

With the loss, Auburn moves to the loser side of the bracket but will play again Thursday against rival Alabama. The Tigers lost the series 2-1 to the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but have their chance to win two games in the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2018.

“We’ll get to bed and get up here and get ready to fight,” Thompson said. “It’ll be awesome to play. They’ve had a great year, and I think that’s a great roster they have. We need to bounce back, so we’re learning lessons.”

The game will be televised on SEC Network and take place 30 minutes after the conclusion of South Carolina vs Texas A&M which begins at 9:30 a.m. CST.

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Jacob Waters | Sports Editor

Jacob Waters is a senior majoring in journalism. From Leeds, Alabama, he started with The Plainsman in August, 2021.

Twitter: @JacobWaters_

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