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Monday, Oct 2, 2023 | Latest Print Edition

Auburn implodes in 11th, drops regional opener against Penn

<p>Cole Foster heads for first after hitting a fly ball when Auburn went to extra innings against Penn in the team's opening game of its NCAA Regional on Friday, June 2, 2023.</p>

Cole Foster heads for first after hitting a fly ball when Auburn went to extra innings against Penn in the team's opening game of its NCAA Regional on Friday, June 2, 2023.

Auburn battled back twice in its regional opener as the No. 1 seed and host against No. 4 seed Penn, but an 11th-inning fall apart resulted in a 6-3 loss for the Tigers, snapping a streak of nine consecutive wins in regional play.

“I’m reminded that true success is defined with effort and process and not results,” said head coach Butch Thompson. “And thought I got great effort from our ballclub tonight. I thought our pitching staff kind of held us at bay until right there at the end.”

After falling behind 1-0 in the fourth, Auburn used three walks, a single and a fielder’s choice all in the sixth inning to push across two runs for the lead and seemingly grab the momentum.

Auburn failed to take advantage however, as the Tigers recorded just one hit after the sixth inning.

The Tigers got on base throughout the game, drawing eight walks and getting hit by a pitch twice, but did not bring many of those runs home. Auburn left 10 runners on base and hit just 1-for-15 with runners on base. Furthermore, with runners in scoring position, Auburn recorded zero hits in nine opportunities. Two of those opportunities came with the bases loaded.

“We just didn’t get enough hits,” Thompson said. “... When we did hit a ball hard, it just didn’t seem to happen tonight.”

Auburn’s one-run lead was erased in the eighth after a couple quality two-out at-bats from Penn. After back-to-back fly outs to open the eighth, Penn’s Cole Palis worked a four-pitch walk. His walk was followed by a Jackson Appel two-run home run sent over the wall in right against Tanner Bauman, who entered the game in relief of starting pitcher Chase Allsup.

After Bauman had pitched 2 ⅔ innings, Auburn was in position to bring in its closer, Will Cannon, to get the team to the ninth inning, but elected to keep Bauman in the game.

“I just thought Tanner was throwing that good,” Thompson said. “We were really trying to line him up for the next guy… but I wish I would have bought Cannon in the pitch before.”

Despite just losing the lead, Auburn battled back for a second time in the bottom half of the eighth. Two Tigers were hit by a pitch and fifth-year senior Kason Howell drew a walk to load the bases with just one out. Sophomore Brody Moss pinch-hit for Nate LaRue and facing a full count, drew a walk to score Josh Hall and tie the game. With the bases loaded, freshman Chris Stanfield drove one to deep right field, but the ball died at the warning track to keep Auburn from taking the lead.

After leaving the loaded bases stranded in the eighth, Auburn only put one more runner on base through the remainder of the game.

After scoreless innings in the ninth and 10th, Penn broke the game open in the 11th. Cannon struck out the first Quaker in the 11th but followed that with a walk and allowed an RBI double to lose the lead. After the double, Penn used three consecutive bunts to record three hits and plate two runs.

The first bunt pushed a runner to third, setting up the Quakers to perfectly execute a squeeze bunt to score that runner. Cannon picked up the squeeze bunt but his toss to catcher Carter Wright sailed, allowing the Quakers to extend their lead.

Cannon was pulled from the game for Zach Crotchfelt, but the new pitcher did not stop Penn from using another squeeze bunt to bring home a third run in the inning.

Auburn was unable to threaten with a ninth-inning rally as Brody Wortham flew out and two Tigers struck out swinging to end the game and send Auburn to the losers’ bracket. The final two strikeouts pushed Auburn to nine of its 11 batters striking out against the Quakers.

Auburn has its season on the line Saturday as the Tigers face Southern Miss in an elimination game at 2 p.m. CST. Southern Miss fell to Samford Friday 4-2.

“No time to be sad tonight. It hurts, but we get another chance to play baseball tomorrow," said outfielder Kason Howell.

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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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