Auburn baseball gets swept in a series for the first time in two years
Auburn dropped game three of the series at Arkansas, 5-0, in Fayetteville on Sunday afternoon. What do we need to take away from the contest?
A series sweep isn't the end of the world
Ole Miss traveled to Vanderbilt and got swept this weekend, while Alabama got swept by Florida, Kentucky swept Mississippi State, and Missouri won the first two against #2 Tennessee and was angling for a sweep as Auburn's series concluded.
Losses happen in the SEC, especially on the road. Ole Miss got swept by Tennessee AND Alabama at home last year and went on to win a National Championship.
It's not the end of the world.
But there IS cause for concern
For the series, Auburn pitchers struck out twenty-eight batters.
But Auburn also allowed nineteen free runners (thirteen walks, five HBP, one defensive error) and Arkansas was able to barrel balls in those scenarios, winning the "big inning" in all three victories.
"The difference in the two games here is we just have not played at gametime," said head coach Butch Thompson after game two. "Arkansas is playing at gametime. At gametime, we are not playing defense, pitching, or getting the barrel in position. That's the difference."
Auburn cut down the walks significantly after game one - seven walks on Friday as compared to six combined in the next two games - but it wasn't enough.
Because the larger issue was the offense.
For the series , Auburn was held to fifteen hits. Offensively, Auburn had little answers for the Razorback arms and when they did manage to get multiple baserunners on, couldn't bring them in to score. Auburn didn't score more than one run in any inning on the weekend, while Arkansas did it seven different times.
Bright spot: Pitching outings in relief
After getting down early in all three games, Auburn saw late success from their staff, with three pitchers getting extended outings and performing well.
Freshman lefty Drew Nelson took the ball on Friday night to open the 7th and gave Auburn 1.2 innings of no-hit, scoreless ball with one walk and five strikeouts before ceding to Parker Carlson for the final out of the 8th inning once he hit 30 pitches.
Saturday, Christian Herberholz did Nelson one better, taking the ball for the final two full innings and also allowing no hits or runs, striking out three while facing the minimum six batters, and on only 25 pitches.
Will Cannon saved the best for last. Auburn's closer, having not worked on the weekend since Auburn didn't have a lead in the series after the 3rd inning of Friday's game, emptied the tank on Sunday with 4.2 innings of two hit, scoreless baseball. Cannon struck out four, with two walks and a HBP, using fifty-eight pitches to go through his outing.
It's a consolation prize, but it's good to know that Nelson and Herberholz are capable of outings like that - Auburn may need that as the season progresses.
When do we get Joseph Gonzalez back?
Everyone's waiting for word on the status of ace righty Joseph Gonzalez, who has been slowed by a recurrence of this winter's scapula injury. He threw a bullpen later in the week and it was believed he'd be available on Sunday, but he never entered the contest.
The program's pretty quiet on these things, but there are no indications that "Gonzo" has been shut down or otherwise is unable to pitch. Most likely, Auburn wanted to wait and get him into a less-demanding midweek game and/or see him in one more bullpen before turning him loose. Auburn's being as safe with him as they can, and it's the best thing for the young man and the program in the end, even if it hurts in the moment.
Auburn has one more road matchup before returning to Plainsman Park, as they take on South Alabama in Montgomery in Riverwalk Stadium, home of the AA Montgomery Biscuits, on Tuesday at 6PM. There is no broadcast information listed as of now, but the radio call with Brad Law and Andy Burcham will be available on AuburnTigers.com, the Auburn Athletics app, and locally on 95.9FM.
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