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Tennessee Baseball Drops Series Opener At Auburn

Photo By Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball came out on fire in Friday night’s series opener at Auburn. But the Tigers punched back and the Vols’ offense fell flat late in the game as Auburn took the series opener 9-5 at Plainsman Park.

It was a second straight poor start for AJ Causey while Tennessee’s offense couldn’t capitalize on a strong night from its bullpen.

Here’s everything to know about the series opener.

Bad Outings From Both Starting Pitchers

Auburn sophomore Dylan Watts was making his first career start in the series opener against Tennessee.

The Vols’ bats ambushed him from the jump. Christian Moore opened the game with a double to left field before Blake Burke drove him home with double to right field. Two batters later, Vols’ cleanup man Kavares Tears punished a hanging breaking ball with a towering two-run homer to right field.

After Watts faced seven batters in the first inning, Auburn’s offense gave him the chance to settle down by scoring five runs all with two outs off AJ Causey in the bottom half of the first.

It mattered little. Tennessee ran Watts from the game with a one-out Cal Stark single and then a Moore home run over the batter’s eye.

Things were even worse for Causey. The Tigers’ five first inning runs came on five straight hits including an Ike Irish solo homer and a Cade Belyeu three-run bomb.

Causey retired the first batter in the second inning but three straight Auburn hits brought one run home and ended the Vols’ starters day.

The two starters combined to allow 14 hits and 13 earned runs while recording just eight outs. Pitching is both teams weakness. Both teams starters set them up in a bad spot for the weekend.

It’s particularly worrisome for Causey who has been good for most the season but has struggled badly in two straight starts.

More From RTI: Play-By-Play Of Tennessee Baseball’s Series Opening Loss At Auburn

Middle Relievers Settle In

While things went very poorly for both starting pitchers, both teams first pitcher out of the bullpen did a good job of settling in to the game.

Auburn’s Carson Myers immediately ran into trouble in the second inning. With Tennessee loading the bases against him. But Myers got out of the jam and cruised over the three innings.

The left-handed reliever allowed three hits and three walks but no runs in 3.2 innings of action while settling things down for Auburn’s pitching staff and preserving the lead.

Aaron Combs was put in a harder spot, entering with two runners on in the second inning. He allowed both of the inherited runs to score but allowed no more damage.

The right-handed reliever was good from there, facing little pressure in the third, fourth and fifth inning. Combs ran into some trouble in the sixth inning and exited with runners on corners and one-out. One of the runners scored to make it a four inning relief appearance while allowing three hits, three walks and one runs.

Both Myers and Combs did a strong job of settling into the game. But Myers getting out of the jam of his own making while Combs couldn’t get out of the jam he inherited proved to be a major difference in the game.

Vols’ Bats Go Quiet After Quick Start

Tennessee recorded eight hits in the first two innings. They recorded just one hit the rest of the way while scoring no more runs.

Auburn used its top bullpen arm, John Armstrong, in addition to Myers as a struggling pitching staff found a way to hold down Tennessee’s elite lineup.

With its pitching woes, Tennessee’s offense has to be extremely consistent and active. The Vols are asking a lot of them but they have to be able to create consistent pressure in most SEC games.

The lack of success from the third inning on also amplified the inability to capitalize with the bases loaded in the second inning. With Tennessee’s offense struggling, a four-run deficit felt nearly insurmountable in the game’s late innings.

Box Score


Up Next

Tennessee and Auburn resume the weekend series on Saturday afternoon at Plainsman Park. First pitch between the Vols and Tigers is at 4:30 p.m. ET.

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