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March 28, 2013- -
AUBURN | The Tigers' slowest start to a Southeastern Conference in six years season just got slower.
Coach John Pawlowski's team, which on Thursday came into its series-opening game against Alabama winless in six league games, squandered a pair of bases-loaded situations and lost 6-2.
The script was familiar. Alabama's Austen Smith opened the second inning with a solo home run, which put the Tigers behind for the 21st time in 26 games this season. The Crimson Tide added four more runs during the next inning via two hits, two walks and two errors.
It was that kind of night.
"They put four runs on the board in one inning and that seemed to set the tone," Pawlowski said. "I think we did a good job pitching wise except for one inning. We walked two guys in that inning, they come up with some hits and we mishandled two balls. They put four runs on the board like that. We had our opportunities to score a couple runs."
Starter Conner Kendrick, who was promoted into the rotation this week, held Alabama scoreless over six innings during the Capital City Classic earlier the month. This start was far more eventful: Two earned runs, nine hits, four walks.
"He left just a couple balls up, but, you know, overall I was encouraged with what I saw," Pawlowski said. "He will certainly get another opportunity out there. I thought he battled. That's what we needed to do. We've got to help him get of an inning -- and we didn't do that."
Blake Austin gave Auburn its first run of the game in the seventh inning with his first home run of the year. Garrett Cooper extended his hit streak to eight games, but the bats remained cold overall. Ryan Tella went 1-5 and struck out three times with the final one ending a bases-loaded situation during the ninth inning.
"Keep going. That's all you can do," Pawlowski said. "There is no magic formula or anything magical we can say to them other than the fact keep getting (baserunners) on and sooner or later we are going to come up (with clutch hits). Sooner or later, we are going to bust through with some big innings."
The series resumes Friday night at 6 p.m.