Auburn, Ala.--Sunday afternoon’s final game of the Tiger Classic was much of the same for Sunny Golloway and the Auburn Tigers as missed opportunities early and a lack of fundamentals late came back to haunt the team in a 3-2 loss in 10 innings to East Tennessee State at Plainsman Park. With the loss Auburn falls to 3-4 overall and more questions than answers said Golloway.
Following a loss to Cal on Saturday when his team failed to do anything offensively, Golloway said to expect major changes for Sunday’s game. While it wasn’t the earthquake he predicted, Auburn did have freshman Blake Logan behind the plate with senior Blake Austin at third base. That move paid off for the Tigers as the duo combined for four of Auburn’s eight hits on the day.
While Ryan Tella was still in center field, freshman J.J. Shaffer started in left before being replaced by senior Hunter Kelley late in the game. Golloway said to expect even more changes in the days ahead and things could get worse before they get better.
“We didn’t make any wholesale changes as far as not allowing anybody to suit up, but if we’re going to end up having some cancer in our clubhouse we’re going to end up having to cut that out and move forward,” Golloway said. “I don’t want that to happen and I pray that doesn’t happen because we’re all pretty good people, but we’ve got to make some changes.
“We’ve got to continue to push hard to make some changes because it is costing us. There are a lot of guys hurting that are doing things right and there are some guys that are doing things wrong and I don’t think they are hurting.”
Things looked good for much of Sunday’s game as freshman Keegan Thompson was masterful on the mound for the Tigers. Retiring 16-straight hitters at one point, Thompson pitched into the ninth inning and allowed just one earned run on four hits while striking out five. Closer Terrance Dedrick allowed a run on two hits in one and two/thirds innings to pick up the loss.
“I thought Keegan pitched really well and I think our freshmen, I thought Blake Logan played really well,” Golloway said. “(Damon) Haecker continues to play well. (Dan) Glevenyak continues to play well. Blake Austin did a really good job for us at third base. Anfernee Grier has a chance to be a really good player.”
After leaving a runner on base in the first, Auburn had a golden opportunity to get on the board in the second. Freshman first baseman Daniel Robert laced a double to start things off and following a Jackson Burgreen strikeout he moved to third on a bloop single by Austin. With runners on the corners Logan popped up on the infield for the second out before Shaffer’s attempted bunt was popped up to end the Auburn threat.
In the third Auburn again looked to be headed for a possible big inning as Anfernee Grier was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a wild pitch. At third after a Ryan Tella groundout, Grier took off from third with Dan Glevenyak at the plate on an attempted squeeze. Unable to get a bat on the ball, Grier was an easy out to once again kill Auburn’s inning.
“Again, it goes back to looking at what has happened,” Golloway said. “Even though Glevenyak is our hottest bat right now it happened earlier in the game with Blake Logan. We had runners at first and third and hit a ball straight up the chute. I think our guys are pressing when we’re swinging the bat with men at third base. We just wanted to make sure we got the run across. We thought we were going to get a good pitch after ball one and he is one of our best bunters.
“I thought it was an unfortunate situation for us. It was a breaking ball in the dirt and you don’t see many teams throw anything in the dirt with a man on third. The last thing we thought was that there would be a ball in the dirt. In hindsight he would have had a better opportunity just swinging it, but given that situation we just wanted to get the run across.”
Grier caught on a failed squeeze attempt.
For the fourth consecutive inning the Tigers got the leadoff man on when freshman Damon Haecker reached on an infield single. Advancing to second on a Robert fielder’s choice, Haecker was joined on the bases by Burgreen following a walk. Getting a pitch to turn on, Austin ripped a single into left field and third base coach Greg Norton kept Hacker running as he rounded third. It proved to be a bad decision as Clinton Freeman came up gunning to easily retire the freshman at the plate.
Needing someone to come up with a clutch hit for the first time this week, Auburn turned to Logan and he delivered. Turning on an inside pitch he drove it deep into left-center for a double. The drive scored both Burgreen and Austin to give Thompson a two-run advantage to work with.
Retiring 16-straight batters following a shaky first inning, Thompson ran into some trouble in the seventh as Clinton Freeman singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Following a strikeout he allowed a single to Tyler Roach to put runners on the corners for ETSU shortstop Chris Riopedre. Playing left field, Shaffer caught a fly ball in left field and came up throwing. His strike to the plate wasn’t quite early enough to gun down the runner however to put the Bucs on the scoreboard.
That’s how things would stand when Thompson went back out to finish things off in the ninth inning. Facing leadoff man Jeremy Taylor, the freshman got a ground ball that forced Glevenyak deep in the hole at shortstop. The ball bounced off the glove of the senior as he attempted to backhand the ball and careened into left field. Never slowing down, Taylor cruised into second base to give the Bucs a runner in scoring position.
With the runner moving to third on a sacrifice bunt, Auburn went to the bullpen for Dedrick. Facing Freeman, Dedrick allowed a bouncing single just past the glove of Haecker at second base. That scored Taylor from third to tie the game. The Tigers were unable to score, sending the game to extra innings.
In the 10th the Tigers again made a careless mistake when Chris Cook hit a one-out liner into left field. Trying to make the heroic play, Kelley dove for the ball and it bounced over his glove. By the time the Tigers got the ball back in he was sliding into third base for a triple. A fly ball to right field pushed across the eventual game winner for ETSU as Auburn failed to score in the bottom of the 10th to drop their third game of the week.
“Doggone, I’m just really disappointed in just the breakdown of fundamentals,” Golloway said. “The breakdown in the fundamentals are returning guys. You got to be backing up Glevenyak on that ground ball (in the ninth inning). You can’t assume he’s going to make a play. Be moving hard because it’s a one-run ballgame. When the ball gets away from him, we’re not moving 100 percent to the ball from the outfield and we allow him to get to second. That run ends up tying it up.
“You can’t dive for a single and turn it into a triple in a tie ballgame. That’s just a cardinal rule, and again, it’s a returning, veteran player that does that. That’s disheartening because they don’t score as you see two more pop-ups with our closer in the game.”
Auburn will return to action on Tuesday at 3 p.m. when the Tigers take on Alabama A&M at Plainsman Park.