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Grayson Belanger/Auburn Tigers
Grayson Belanger/Auburn Tigers

Tigers lose another to Tennessee, dropping their fourth straight SEC series

AUBURN, Ala. - The Auburn Tigers (18-13, 2-10) were drubbed by the Tennessee Volunteers (26-6, 7-5) 19-5 in seven innings on Sunday, dropping their fourth straight SEC series to open the season.

After struggling from the plate on Saturday, the Tigers found some life in the bottom half of the first. Two straight singles from graduate student Cooper Weiss and sophomore Ike Irish led to a 3-0 green-light home run from redshirt-junior Cooper McMurray.

Tennessee responded immediately, putting up seven runs in the top of the second, and four in the top of the third. Before the Tigers could blink, they were down 11-3.

The hot hitting Volunteers carried their momentum from game two straight into game three. They would score in every inning but the first, totalling 16 hits, 12 extra-base hits, six home runs and seven walks.

Senior catcher Cal Stark did the majority of the damage for Tennessee. Stark racked up seven RBIs on a perfect 3-3 day from the plate. His grand slam in the second gave the Volunteers their first lead of the contest, and went on to spark 13 unanswered runs.

“Their stats are unbelievable,” Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said. “Unfortunately [we] saw it the last few days. That’s what’s disappointing when you had a chance. Really, winning Wednesday and Friday, you want this team to kind of make a move when you have a chance to win a series. Their strength absolutely outshined our strength, and it beat up probably one of our glaring, glaring weaknesses.”

An Auburn pitching staff that has been struggling all year looked to junior Will Cannon to right the ship. In Cannon’s first start of the season, he could only manage one and a third innings pitched, giving up three hits, six earned runs and two walks.

It did not get any better on the bump for the Tigers. Junior Parker Carlson was inserted in the second inning and was only able to record one out before being pulled. Redshirt-junior Joseph Gonzalez, a usual weekend starter for the Tigers, also had a rough outing. In his two innings of work, he would allow five earned runs on five hits.

“I think we have a lot of guys, especially on the mound, where it looked like a decay or underachievement,” Thompson said. “Some guys are more capable of what they put out there this week, and we expect them to make some adjustments and get their head back right.”

The loss drops Auburn to just 2-10 in conference play. The Tigers are now alone in last place in the SEC with six weeks of baseball left to be played. 

“It’s my responsibility,” Thompson said. “I apologize to our fans, the people that love our program and our stakeholders. I commit to force our guys and our staff to figure out some solutions to get better and meet the expectations.”

The road ahead does not get much easier for Auburn. The Tigers will host Alabama State in the midweek contest, before the Kentucky Wildcats roll in for the weekend series. The Wildcats are tied for first in the SEC with an impressive 11-1 conference record.

The action against Alabama State will be the focus for now, as the Hornets will face the Tigers on Tuesday. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. CT and can be streamed live on the SEC Network or the Auburn Sports Network.

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