Posted: 8:26 p.m. Friday, March 15, 2013
Kevin Ziomek (5-0) lost his no-hitter in the seventh and his complete game streak, but he got the win in the SEC opener for both sides as No. 2 Vanderbilt moved to 17-1 overall and Auburn dropped to 13-4.
Vanderbilt's presence brought a lot of scouts to Plainsman Park and with every pitch their starting hurler threw, a fury of radar guns and notepads busily went to work. Ziomek came in riding two straight complete games in which he struck out 28 batters, and for the year had a 0.86 ERA with 46-7 K-BB ratio in 31 innings. In short, Auburn knew it'd be tough.
And it was from the get-go. Daniel Koger (0-1) came in looking for redemption for his poor outing in Nashville last year (2 IP, 4 ER) and for the most part didn't pitch bad. He got two good outs in the first and was ahead of Conrad Gregor with a 1-2 count but got lit up to right field on the next pitch for a solo homer and then went through a couple of tough at-bats allowing a walk and a RBI double before getting out of the frame.
In the second, Damek Tomscha had a great play at third and Blake Austin picked off his third runner of the year at first, but in the third Vanderbilt capitalized on a couple of pitches Koger showed too much of for singles, then were drove in on a three-run blast from Connor Harrell. Just like that after fewer bad pitches than you could count on one hand, Auburn trailed 5-0.
Meanwhile, Ziomek was setting down every single batter he faced until the sixth, combining speeds (though hitting well over 90 mph when he wanted to, even into the seventh) and mixing locations to the tune of ground ball outs and five 5 K's. The Tiger hitters were making contact, though, and eventually lifted the balls off the ground and were hitting them hard, but right at Vanderbilt fielders. A walk by Austin broke up the perfect game 5.1 IP in and a Tella single with one out in the seventh took away the no-no, but Auburn didn't seriously threaten to score until the eighth.
While the Auburn bats struggled pretty much throughout the heart of the game, the pitchers continued to throw well, getting a little more luck with the balls in play and Koger, Jay Wade and recently returned Will Kendall ended the game setting down the final 20 batters in gold and black.
The Tigers finally put together strings of baserunners in the final two innings off Ziomek and his reliever, the more than competent Brian Miller (0.57, 15 IP). In the eighth, Garrett Cooper walked, keeping alive his games on-base streak to open the season and his OBP hovering around .500. Cooper then was retired at second on an Austin fielder's choice and the catcher advanced on a balk then scored when Jordan Ebert got back to his hitting ways with an RBI single. In the ninth, Patrick Savage and Cullen Wacker singled, and the pinch runner Hunter Kelley scored on an Cooper sac fly.
Auburn plays Vanderbilt tomorrow at 2:15, moved up from 3 for TV coverage. Starting for coach John Pawlowski is lefty Michael O'Neal (4-0) while the Commodores will send out right handed Tyler Beede (4-0).