Tennessee baseball drops series opener at Auburn


Photo by Kate Luffman/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee baseball shined in Friday night's series opener at Auburn. But the Tigers fought back and the Vols' offense failed late in the game as Auburn won the series opener at Plainsman Park 9-5.

It was the second straight bad start for AJ Causey, while Tennessee's offense couldn't capitalize on a strong night from its bullpen.

Here you can find out everything you need to know about the start of the series.

Bad outings from both starting pitchers

Auburn sophomore Dylan Watts made 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 brought him home with a double to right field. Two batters later, Vols' cleanup man Kavares Tears punished a hanging breaking ball with a towering two-run home run to right field.

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

It does not matter. Tennessee drove Watts out of the game with a one-out single by Cal Stark followed by 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 a solo home run by Ike Irish and a three-run bomb by Cade Belyeu.

Causey gave up the first batter in the second inning, but three consecutive Auburn hits brought home a run and ended the Vols' starter's day.

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

It's particularly worrying for Causey, who has been good for most of 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 helpers are setting up

While things went very poorly for both starting pitchers, both teams' starting pitchers out of the bullpen managed to settle into the game well.

Auburn's Carson Myers immediately ran into trouble in the second inning. While Tennessee loads the bases against him. But Myers got out of trouble and sailed through three innings.

The left-handed reliever allowed three hits and three walks but no runs in 3.2 innings while calming things down for Auburn's pitching staff and maintaining the lead.

Things were more difficult for Aaron Combs when he faced two runners on in the second inning. He allowed both inherited runs to score but didn't allow any further damage.

The right-hander was good from then on, facing little pressure in the third, fourth and fifth innings. Combs ran into trouble in the sixth inning, leaving with runners on corners and one out. One runner scored, making it four innings of relief while allowing three hits, three walks and one run.

Both Myers and Combs settled into the game well. But Myers getting out of the fix of his own making while Combs didn't get out of the fix he inherited proved to be a big 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 and scored no more runs the rest of the way.

Auburn utilized its top bullpen arm, John Armstrong, in addition to Myers, as a struggling pitching staff found a way to stifle Tennessee's elite lineup.

Given its pitching issues, Tennessee's offense needs to be extremely consistent and active. The Vols are asking a lot of them, but they need to be able to generate consistent pressure in most SEC games.

The lack of success starting in the third inning also compounded the inability to capitalize on the bases loaded in the second inning. With Tennessee's offense struggling, a four-run deficit felt almost insurmountable in the late innings of the game.

Box score


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