Game 1: Vanderbilt 5, Auburn 4
Game 2: Auburn 5, Vanderbilt 2
Game 3: Vanderbilt 11, Auburn 2
Auburn went to Nashville looking to redeem itself after getting swept by Alabama last weekend. However, the Tigers will be returning home with their second consecutive SEC series loss after winning their first three. Hopes were high that Auburn could win at least two of three because Vanderbilt had only won one SEC series prior to Auburn's visit. Instead, the Tigers will need to regroup quickly before a five-game home stand.
Things are not getting any easier as two-time defending national champion South Carolina comes to the Plains next weekend. During the midweek, Auburn will host Troy and Alabama A&M on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. The Tigers are hoping that returning to Plainsman Park will help them return to their winning ways.
What Went Right?
Defense: For the first time in a long time, Auburn played solid defense all weekend. The Tigers were errorless through the first two games and committed only one error on Sunday. That is a far cry from their defensive efforts earlier in the year. The defense has to play well the rest of the way for Auburn to have a chance in any of the remaining series
Jon Luke Jacobs: Jon Luke Jacobs was called upon to be the Saturday starter and replace Will Kendall, who will miss the rest of the year. Jacobs showed why he is a veteran leader on this Auburn team and went out and had a great performance -- one run on three hits and four walks in six innings -- to give the Tigers a chance at a series win on Sunday.
What Went Wrong?
Inability to Manufacture Runs: When a team lacks power like Auburn does, A-B-C baseball is a must. "Get 'em on, get 'em over, get 'em in" is the name of the game. Auburn usually does a good job getting them on, but fails in the other two parts. With runners on base on Friday, Auburn went 4 of 16. Auburn did a better job in the win on Saturday, but it was back to the same story again on Sunday, as the Tigers were 2 of 17 with men on base.
Mental Mistakes: Someone has to lose. When a team is playing hard and it just gets beaten by a better team, it's understandable. What is not acceptable is for a team to make mental mistakes at this time of year with so much on the line. One play sticks out from Sunday. With Vanderbilt runners on first and second, the batter hit a ground ball and Auburn unsuccessfully tried to turn a double play. The runner on second base was forgotten about when the double play attempt failed and he scored. If Auburn wants to go anywhere this year, the mental mistakes must be cut out because frankly, Auburn is not a good enough team to make those mistakes and still win.
Starting Pitching: One of the bright spots for this Auburn team all year has been the starting pitching. For the past two weeks, it has been the downfall. Other than Jacobs, this weekend was bad weekend Auburn starters. Derek Varnadore was hit for five earned runs on Friday, and Daniel Koger did not make it through the third inning on Sunday. Most games that Auburn will win will be low scoring due to our offensive philosophy, so getting a quality start is a must.
Jon Luke Jacobs, SP: It is not easy for a pitcher who is in a groove as a middle-of-the-week starter to get thrust into weekend duty. Knowing that Auburn had to win on Saturday to have a chance at a series win, Jacobs went out and gave Auburn a chance to win. He threw a lot of ground balls and never let Vanderbilt string a bunch of hits together. Auburn needs Jacobs to continue to pitch this way.
Auburn will go into next weekend's series against South Carolina tied with three other teams in sixth place in the SEC standings. The Tigers are still in the conversation for getting into the SEC and NCAA tournaments as long as they continue to win the midweek games and do not get swept the rest of the way. The schedule does not get any easier, though. Tennessee is probably the easiest team remaining on the schedule, and Auburn still has to play South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia and Florida. At this point, could be a three- or four-seed in the NCAA Regionals. Next weekend will say a lot about what this Auburn team wants to accomplish this year.