Looking for the sweep and the top overall spot in the SEC, Auburn instead settles for the series win and falls to 17-8 on the season and 4-2 in conference action.
"You feel good about winning series," Golloway said. "That's what college baseball is about, winning series, but we have put ourselves in really good position two weekends in a row. It's not like we didn't finish off Mercer when we had to chance to. You've got to give Dave Serrano and Tennessee a lot of credit. They are a talented group and ranked nationally for a reason and they are really tough at home. We pushed them really tough at the end and I'm really proud of our fight."
The story of the game was clutch hitting for the Vols as Tennessee scored all seven of its runs with two outs in the game as Auburn starter Justin Camp lasted just two innings in the loss, allowing three runs on five hits. Coming on relief, senior Michael O'Neal didn't fare much better as the Vols touched him for four runs on seven hits in five innings of work.
Offensively, Blake Austin had a big day for the Tigers with a three-run homer as part of his two-hit, two-run day. Fellow senior Ryan Tella added a solo home run as well, but a ninth inning rally proved to be too little and too late for Auburn as the Vols pulled out the win.
"We came back and fought really well," Golloway said. "Our guys are swinging the bat well, but we're still not running the bases very good. We had a crucial mistake where it's a double and we tried to extend it to a triple. It was nowhere close to being a triple. With one out you try to get there if you can. We just need to shut it down. (Sam) Gillikin gets a hit later in the inning and it's another run we left out there. Our base-running has not been very good and we've got to clean it up because it's really costing us."
Following a scoreless first inning, Tennessee jumped all over Camp in the second to put the Tigers in an early hole. Getting two quick outs against the Vols and seemingly in control, Camp allowed a double to Taylor Smart and the inning unraveled from there. A single from David Houser pushed him across to put the Vols on the board. Up next, second baseman Will Maddox reached on an infield single to put runners on first and second for leadoff man Scott Price. Getting a pitch to handle Price drove the ball into the gap for a triple to score both runners and make it 3-0 Vols.
Auburn had a chance to to cut into the lead to start the third inning when freshman Daniel Robert scorched a double down the right field line, but he was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple for the first out. That proved to be big as Sam Gillikin singled with one out. Instead of scoring a run the inning ended on a Jordan Ebert groundout.
With O'Neal on to start the third Tennessee kept the pressure on thanks to plenty of help from the Auburn defense. A double by Jeff Senzel started the Vols out on the right foot with one out in the inning, but the senior recovered to get a ground ball out to move Senzel to third with two outs. Following a walk to put runners on the corners, O'Neal caught the runner leaning at first base and threw to Damek Tomscha. Dropping the ball, Tomscha threw to third to catch Senzel in a rundown. Unfortunately nobody was left to cover the bag for Connor Short, allowing the runner from first to reach second. Continuing to do damage, Smart singled to center field to score both runners for the five-run lead.
Auburn finally got the offense going against Tennessee starter Andrew Lee in the fourth inning as Tomscha drove the ball off the wall in left field for a double with one out. A walk to Tella followed to bring Austin to the plate. Finding his rhythm at the plate against the Vols this weekend, the senior catcher got a pitch to hit and didn't miss it with a blast over the left field wall for his first home run of the season.
In the sixth Auburn continued its comeback and once again it was in the form of the long ball as Tella's second home run of the season cut the lead down to just one. It didn't last long however as Tennessee answered with three two-out hits to score two more runs and push the lead back to 7-4. A single run in the eighth made a four-run deficit heading to the ninth, but Auburn wouldn't quit.
In the ninth the Tigers got singles from Austin, pinch-hitter Blake Logan, and short to load the bases with one out. Coming off the bench, freshman Keegan Thompson battled for a walk on nine pitches to force home a run and make it a three-run game once again. A sacrifice fly from Jordan Ebert scored pinch-runner Anfernee Grier from third while Short tagged and advanced to third. With speedy Shaffer running for Thompson at first and Damon Haecker at the plate with Tomscha on deck, Auburn rolled the dice trying to get the runner into scoring position, but it didn't work as Shaffer was caught stealing to end the game.
Auburn will return home to face Kennesaw State on Tuesday night at Plainsman Park. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.