Extra-inning loss leaves Tigers looking for answers



Blake Logan drives home Auburn's two runs against East Tennessee State (Zach Bland photo)

Auburn
Auburn
(3-4)
 Game 7
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 ETSU
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 Auburn
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ETSU
(4-3)
WP: Will Chesney (1-0) | LP: Terrance Dedrick (0-1) | S: None
 
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By Phillip Marshall
AuburnTigers.com

AUBURN, Ala. - Freshman Keegan Thompson gave Auburn a chance to win Sunday, dominating East Tennessee State hitters into the ninth inning.

But the Tigers, mired in a suffocating offensive slump, could not take advantage. Two misplays on defense opened the door, and the Bucs escaped Plainsman Park with a 3-2 victory in 10 innings in the final game of the Tiger Classic at Plainsman Park.

It was Auburn's third loss in four games. The Tigers scored just four runs in their own tournament, beating Arkansas-Pine Bluff 2-1 on Friday and losing 5-0 to California on Saturday. Auburn fell to 3-4 on the season. East Tennessee State improved to 4-3.

First-year coach Sunny Golloway was left looking for answers.

"We're a work in progress," Golloway said. "We'll get it fixed, but it's going to take a lot of hard work and some sleepless nights. We play a long 56-game schedule. Thank God we're not in conference play having the woes we are having now. We'll get it figured out."

Auburn took a 2-0 lead in the fourth on freshman Blake Logan's two-run single. It might have been more, but freshman Damon Haecker, trying to score on Blake Austin's single, got the go sign from third-base coach Greg Norton and was thrown out easily at home plate.

Another opportunity was lost in the third inning when, with Anfernee Grier on third and Dan Glevenyak at bat with one out, head coach Sunny Golloway called for a squeeze. The pitch was in the dirt and Grier was tagged out.

After Thompson retired 16 consecutive hitters, the Bucs scratched out a run in the seventh. In the top of the ninth, Jeremy Taylor reached second on Glevenyak's error and went to third on a sacrifice. Closer Terrance Dedrick replaced Thompson. Clinton Freeman's single through the drawn in infield tie the game.

In the 10th, left fielder Hunter Kelley dived and turned what would have been a single into a triple for Chris Cook, who scored the winning run. Auburn went quietly in the bottom of the 10th.

As he promised, Golloway shook up his lineup. But in the end, it didn't matter.

Logan and Austin led Auburns offense with two hits apiece. Thompson gave up two runs on four hits in 8 1/3 innings and striking out five. Dedrick took the loss, giving up a run on two hits in 1 2/3 innings.

Golloway expressed dismay in much of what he saw, especially what he saw from some upperclassmen. Here are the highlights of what he had to say:

On letting the game get away

"We had a baserunning mistake again. We had an opportunity to squeeze early. We got a pretty good pitch and didn't get that down. When we did squeeze, we got a pitch in the dirt. It took a fortunate hop for them to be able to corral it and tag us out.

"We get the bases-loaded hit to score a couple of runs. We need to be a team that learns to keep tagging on after we get a lead. We try to show that by making some changed in our personnel. I'm really disappointed in just the breakdown in fundamentals. The breakdowns in fundamentals are returning guys.

"You have to be backing up Glevenyak on that groundball. 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 from the outfield. We let him get to second and that run ends up tying it up. You can't dive for a single and turn it into a triple into a tie ballgame. That's just a cardinal rule. That's a returning player that does that. That's disheartening because they don't score - two popups with our closer in the game."

Praise for some young and old

"I thought Keegan pitched really well. I thought Blake Logan played really well. Glevenyak continues to play well. I thought Blake Austin did a good job at third base. Anfernee Grier has a chance to be a really good player."

On disappointment in veteran players

"Our veteran players are making mistakes. (Ryan) Tella has the talent to put our team on his shoulders if he wants to. I thought, reading his Tweets, he was going to get a little fire in his belly and get going. Today, he gets one hit but they are not on really good swings. He's a talented guy. He has a chance to put us on his shoulders and go."

"We are trying to give some of our returning players an opportunity to contribute and asking them to be ready when they are called. To be quite honest with you, there has been so much lack of work ethic, lack of team first that they're not ready when they are called upon. The proof is in the pudding. That's unfortunate. It's a learning experience for all of us, and it's part of building our program. The mistakes that we are seeing now are not mistakes that are going to be repeated in this program."

On hitting coach Greg Norton taking over as 3B

"Our dugout has not been very good. It's been really negative - guys not pulling for each other, guys not fighting for each pitch, guys not being in the ballgame. It's just not been very good. The coaches were talking to me about it last night.

"Today we had a really good baseball environment in our dugout. We will build on that and continue to move forward. We didn't make any wholesale changes as far as not allowing somebody to suit up, but if we're going to end up having some cancer in our clubhouse we are going to end up having to cut that out and move forward. I don't want that to happen. I pray that doesn't happen. We are all pretty good people, but we have to continue to push hard to make some changes. It's hurting us.

"There are a lot of guys hurting that are doing things right and there are some that are doing things wrong. I don't think they are hurting."

Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: