Auburn came up short in another midweek game after an exhausting a weekend series against Arkansas at home. An early offensive explosion and a strong start from Garett looked to set the team in a positive direction, but six scoreless offensive frames and a season-high number of walks leaves the home team saddled with yet another weekday loss.
FINAL – Auburn-6 Jacksonville State-11 – W-Gilliland (1-0) L-Anderson (5-1)
Garett Wade made his tenth appearance of the season as he given the weekday nod a week removed from his last start against Georgia Tech. In response, Wade dealt for the Tigers, pitching three scoreless frames and retiring the first 13 Gamecocks without much incident, allowing only two hits in the first three innings.
The Tiger offense also got off to an outstanding start, with five different batters crossing the plate to give Auburn a 6-0 lead. The offensive explosion was kicked off with a Judd Ward single that he took for extra bases with a stolen bag. Julien followed up by jacking a towering home run that sailed over the batter’s-eye wall in center field to clear the bases.
Auburn’s bats seemed to rattle the starting arm of Willingham who was only able to record three outs across nine Tigers faced. The visiting starter was yanked following a throwing error that sent Will Holland to third. Isaiah Magwood took to the mound in relief was immediately tagged by Judd Ward in the top of the second to bring Will Holland home, and a pair of RBI’s from Julie and Davis dug the visiting reliever in a deep hole.
Willingham was not the only arm to run out of gas as Garett Wade hit his limit as the fourth inning began. A four singles, a walk, and a passed ball with no outs to show for it was seemingly all the Auburn dugout needed to see before reaching into the pen, and Wade’s day ended after 66 pitches, three walks, and only two strikeouts.
As Auburn tried to put out the fire on the mound, Jacksonville State continued to fan the flames. Six Gamecocks, including five straight, crossed the plate in an inning to forget for the Auburn bullpen as Ryan Watson failed to stop the bleeding. When all was said and done, Garrett had five earned runs to his name.
While Magwood got off to a shaky start, he effectively shut down the Auburn offense, and had the best outing any pitcher on either team. After escaping the second inning, Magwood finished his day with seven strikeouts and only one walk. The righty also caught Kason Howell stealing and headed back to the dugout after a Matt Scheffler strikeout, presumably a move by the visiting skipper to save his arm for the weekend as Magwood put on a clinic fanning Auburn batters.
The rest of the game was more of the same, culminating in an atrocious top of the sixth for the Auburn bullpen that saw six straight batters crossing the plate, with five of them reaching on walks. Brooks Fuller and Carson Skipper both made appearances in an attempt to get a hold on the situation, but neither managed to record an out in their 25 combined pitches.
After the Auburn deficit had ballooned to five runs, Will Morrison was able to put a lid on the situation and close out the game, recording the final nine outs. Excluding Morrison, the Auburn relief core combined for four hits, six earned runs, and six walks. The nine walks delivered by the Tiger pitchers was second only to the 11 recorded in the 15-inning marathon against Arkansas.
The Auburn bullpen falls flat for the third week in a row as the past two weekday starts proved unimpressive for the relievers. After the game, Coach Thompson made reference to the fact that Wade and other relievers had made an appearance Friday afternoon before getting the nod this afternoon, but the team isn’t looking to make excuses for the poor performance.
Brody Moore’s presence in the lineup was another notable development for the team, with Coach Thompson describing his performance in relief of Rankin Woley “Awesome.” Moore saw some action in the Arkansas series, but made his first real impact of the season in the starting lineup. Moore had a hit, an RBI, and drew a walk out of the nine-hole, and his offensive support may be useful down the stretch as the offense continues to struggle.
Coach Thompson emphasized “pace, tempo, and rhythm” as ways that the team can “exude confidence” down the stretch as all but one of their upcoming weekend series will be against top ranked teams in what he described as the toughest division in baseball.
Auburn will play a pivotal road conference series this weekend against Texas A&M, with Game 1 coming Friday at 6:30 p.m., Game 2 on Saturday at 4 p.m., and Game 3 Sunday at 1 p.m.