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February 23, 2014

Another misstep

Untitled

AUBURN | Small ball isn't working well at Auburn.

Not yet, anyway.

Auburn ended a disappointing weekend with a Sunday loss to East Tennessee State, which followed a script that already is becoming familiar. The Tigers simply aren't in tune with new coach Sunny Golloway's focus on situational hitting and failed several times Sunday to follow through on specific demands while at the plate.

ETSU won 3-2 in 10 innings -- bumping Auburn's losing streak to two games.

"We'll be a work in progress," Golloway said. "We'll get it fixed. It'll take a lot of hard work. It'll take a lot of sleepless nights. We play a long, 56-game schedule. Thank God we're not in conference play having the woes that we are right now. We'll get it figured out."

Auburn made almost every kind of mistake Sunday.

Outfielder Anfernee Grier made his way to third base after being hit by a pitch, moving to second on a wild pitch and on to third via sacrifice fly. With the Tigers' top hitter, shortstop Dan Glevenyak, at the plate, Golloway called for a squeeze bunt on a 1-0 pitch.

The ball was low. Glevenyak couldn't touch it.

Grier had no chance and was called out at home.

Another gaffe, this one in the fourth inning, was on the coaching staff. Second baseman Damon Haecker led off with a single and later advanced to second on a walk. Third baseman Blake Austin singled to right field and third-base coach Greg Norton, working a role typically handled by Golloway, made an aggressive to send Haecker home.

He was out by two steps.

The next batter, Blake Logan, doubled.

Why was Golloway in the dugout instead of coaching third base?

"Our dugout has not been very good," he said. "It has been really negative; guys not pulling for each other and guys not fighting for each pitch, guys not being in the ballgame. It has just not been very good. The coaches were talking to me about it last night. They were like: We've got guys in there that don't even belong in the dugout because they are talking about life, they're not talking about baseball. Today we had a really good baseball environment in our dugout."

Auburn led 2-0 after Logan's fourth-inning double. ETSU added a run in the seventh and tied the game in the ninth. The Pirates moved ahead in the 10th when left fielder Hunter Kelly, with one out, dived at a shallow line drive and missed it.

The ball rolled all the way to the wall for a triple.

The next batter drove home the runner with a sacrifice fly. That was enough to dash Auburn's hopes.

"You can't dive for a single and turn it into a triple in a tie ballgame," Golloway said. "That's just a cardinal rule, and again, it's a returning, veteran player that does that."

Keegan Thompson was strong in his second college start Sunday. He allowed one run on four hits in 8 1/3 innings of work and struck out five batters.

The freshman, whose fastball topped out at 91 mph, didn't issue a walk.

Still, the lack of offensive execution left Golloway annoyed. He bumped third baseman Damek Tomscha from the lineup Sunday in favor of Austin, who's a catcher by trade. Freshman Blake Logan got the start behind the plate and sophomore Jackson Burgreen started as the designated hitter.

Golloway said after Auburn's loss to Cal on Saturday that he'd make some substantive changes. He reiterated that stance Sunday.

"We didn't make any wholesale changes as far as not allowing anybody to suit up, but if we're going to end up having some cancer in our clubhouse (then) we're going to end up having to cut that out and move forward," he said. "I don't want that to happen and I pray that doesn't happen because we're all pretty good people, but we've got to make some changes. There are a lot of guys hurting that are doing things right and there are some guys that are doing things wrong and I don't think they are hurting."

Auburn (3-4) resumes play at home Tuesday afternoon against Alabama A&M.



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