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Friday, February 19, 2010

Auburn baseball: Familiar problems plague Tigers in 13-8 season-opening loss to Southeast Missouri

AUBURN, Ala. — The Auburn baseball team’s 2010 opener bore a striking resemblance to the latter half of its 2009 season, with ineffective pitchers, a comedy of errors and poor clutch hitting.

The Tigers gave up four multiple-run innings, committed five errors and left 10 runners on base in a 13-8 loss to Southeast Missouri at Plainsman Park on Friday.

“Obviously very disappointed for our kids and our program,” Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. “These guys, they worked so hard in the preseason and put so much effort into it, and unfortunately today we weren’t very good.”

Auburn (0-1) hoped a deeper pitching staff would give it more options this year. Instead, it simply provided more pitchers for the Redhawks (1-0) to batter around.

Starter Jon Luke Jacobs (0-1) lasted only 4 1/3 innings, tagged for six runs (four earned) on five hits.

“He’s been throwing the ball well, but you know how it is when the season starts, you’ve got to be able to execute,” Pawlowski said.

The big blow came in the third, when Southeast Missouri catcher Jim Klocke got a hold of a changeup Jacobs left out over the plate, crushing a towering three-run home run that snuck inside the right field foul pole for a 4-2 lead. Klocke went 3-for-6 with five RBIs.

Auburn relievers Bradley Hendrix (two runs in 2/3 innings), Sean Ray (four runs in 1 1/3 innings) and Michael Hurst (one run in two innings) all failed to halt the Southeast Missouri onslaught.

The Tigers’ fielders did little to help their cause, committing five errors that led to six unearned runs.

Shortstop Jordan Neese, who started in place of the injured Casey McElroy, misplayed two ground balls. Left fielder Brian Fletcher let a ball go through his legs and roll to the fence on a routine single. And catcher Ryan Jenkins skipped a throw into center field, leading to another run.

“In college baseball there are too many good teams,” Pawlowski said. “When you make five errors, you should lose.”

Auburn managed eight runs on 12 hits, getting solo home runs from Justin Hargett and Justin Fradejas and three-hit efforts from Creede Simpson and Hunter Morris.

But the Tigers failed to capitalize on a number of opportunities. After drawing within four in the eighth with one out and runners on second and third, Dan Gamache grounded out to the pitcher before Jenkins flew out to center to end the rally.

Making matters worse, Auburn suffered another injury. Fradejas left early with a hand injury, forcing Tony Caldwell, a catcher by trade, to play right field.

The Tigers were already playing without McElroy and starting center fielder Trent Mummey, who is out four-to-six weeks with an ankle injury.

“It’s part of it, unfortunately,” Pawlowski said. “But it’s not going to be an excuse. The guys that we put out here are going to play hard and they’re going to do the best they can.”

Auburn will throw left-hander Grant Dayton in today’s game against Southeast Missouri, which starts at 4 p.m. ET.

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