AU Stifled By Gators In SEC Tourney Opener

Jon Luke Jacobs

Auburn will play the Georgia Bulldogs on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.

Hoover, Ala.—It was complete domination from start to finish on Tuesday as the Florida Gators (41-16) defeated the Auburn Tigers 6-1 to put Coach John Pawlowski's club in the loser's bracket at the SEC Tournament in Hoover. Auburn managed just three hits against Florida pitching in the loss and has combined for just eight hits in the three losses to Florida in the last week.

"Florida pitched extremely well today," Pawlowski said. "We didn't have many opportunities to do an awful lot offensively. Give credit to them on the mound. They did a great job.

"They've executed pitch after pitch," he added of the three losses. "They've been very good at locating their fastball. They've got tremendous arms and they have out pitches. When you have fastball command and the ability to put people away with out pitches, that's what they've done."

With the loss Auburn falls to 30-27 overall and into the loser's bracket of the SEC Tournament. The Tigers will face #8 seed Georgia after the Bulldogs fell 4-1 to Vanderbilt Tuesday night. It also puts a serious dent into the Tigers' NCAA hopes as they likely need at least two wins now to be in consideration for a regional.

"We definitely have some work to do," senior Creede Simpson said. "We're disappointed to get this loss. We need to come out tomorrow with a different attitude and execute. We need to find a way to win and continue to win and see how many games we can win and ultimately win it."

Creede Simpson had Auburn's only RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly

After allowing five runs in just one and one/third innings in a loss to Florida last Thursday, Auburn starter Jon Luke Jacobs had a much better outing on Tuesday but the results were the same. Allowing five earned runs on six hits in five and one/third innings, he was the unfortunate pitcher against Florida's Jonathan Crawford. The senior said it was just a matter a few mistakes for him in the loss.

"The first hit (two-run single in the second inning) I was just trying to get that ball to the outside corner and kind of left it up a little bit and he put a barrel on it," Jacobs said. "He got it to the outfield and scored the two runs. The last guy with the double, we kind of put ourselves in a situation where we kind of had to come get him. It was a strike and he got hold of it pretty good. You kind of roll the dice in that situation and try to split it up with that guy and take your chances with him. Unfortunately he squared it up and hit it in the gap and scored two runs."

Making his 12th start of the season, Crawford shut down the Tigers from the start. Despite walking four in five and two/thirds innings, he allowed just one run on two hits and struck out a career high nine batters. Florida's relievers finished off the game by not allowing an Auburn hit as the Tigers fall into the loser's bracket with the loss.

Auburn got a pair of runners on base in the top of the first inning off Crawford as Jay Gonzalez walked and moved to second on a one out bunt single by Ryan Tella. However a double play ball off the bat of Justin Bryant ended the threat for the Tigers.

In the bottom of the second Florida would have its chance to break on top early as Brian Johnson led off with a single and Justin Pigott followed to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Following a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position, Jacobs struck out Vickash Ramjit to bring number eight hitter Justin Shafer to the plate. Hitting just .267, he got a 3-2 breaking ball and deposited it into left field for a two-run single for Florida.

Down 2-0, Auburn showed some life in the third as Bobby Andrews beat out an infield single and moved to second on a smash from Zach Alvord that a diving Nolan Fontana grabbed at shortstop but threw high to first for the error. Looking to bunt the runners over, Gonzalez was thrown out by a half-step at first to bring Creede Simpson to the plate with a pair of runners in scoring position. Jumping on the first pitch, he hit a fly ball to center field to easily score Andrews. A Tella strikeout ended the Auburn threat, but not before the Tigers had cut the lead down to 2-1.

That's how things would stay in this one until Florida struck again in the bottom of the sixth inning. After Auburn left runners on in both the fifth and the sixth, the Gators capitalized on their opportunity. After striking out Mike Zunino, Jacobs allowed the second hit of the day to Johnson to put Florida in business.

A single by Pigott put a pair of runners on base for second baseman Casey Turgeon. After a lengthy discussion on the mound, Pawlowski decided to stay with Jacobs to face the .259 hitter and it proved to be the wrong decision as a double deep to right field easily scored both runners to put the Gators up by three. Later in the inning a Shafer bloop single off reliever Slade Smith gave Florida a commanding 5-1 advantage.

That's all they would need as reliever Steven Rodriguez, on in place of Crawford in the sixth, shut down the Tigers to preserve the lead. He pitched into the eighth inning before giving way to Greg Larson and ultimately Austin Maddox. A Dan Glevenyak double in the ninth off Maddox was the third and final hit of the day for the Tigers as they fell by a final of 6-1.

Auburn will send freshman Daniel Koger (3-5, 3.42 ERA) to the mound for the 4:30 start on Wednesday. The Tigers were swept earlier this season at Georgia.

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