AUBURN — A mislocated pitch and late defensive switches proved mighty costly for the Doubledays.
With infielders out of position in the final inning, an extra out allowed Williamsport to come back with five runs in the ninth to defeat Auburn 9-8 Thursday at Falcon Park. The Doubledays were previously 17-2 in games they were ahead after eight innings, but a three-run home run by the Crosscutters’ Yahir Gurrola added another loss to that column.
In the ninth inning this season, the Doubledays have now been outscored 28-9.
The Doubledays were forced to move around four defensive position players entering the last frame after second baseman Joshual Ramirez was tossed during his at-bat in the eighth. The ejection forced Kameron Esthay to move from centerfield to first base, Jake Scudder shifted from first to third, third baseman Omar Meregildo flipped to second base, and Nick Choruby entered the game to play center.
Wiliamsport had batters reach on an infield single hit to third and an error that set up the winning home run by Gurrola off reliever Jeremy McKinney.
“Putting somebody who hadn’t played (at a position) … we were kind of forced to do that with some of the moves we had going,” Auburn manager Jerad Head said. “The game probably speeds up.”
The collapse wasted a 12-hit night for the Doubledays, who saw each batter in the starting lineup record at least one hit. Austin Guibor (two runs, two RBIs), Ramirez (run, RBI) and Chance Shepard (double, triple, run, RBI, two walks) each had multi-hit games.
The Doubledays opened the scoring in the top of the first on Shepard’s RBI triple. They opened the floodgates in the second, batting around with a five-run frame to take a 6-0 lead.
The Crosscutters and Doubledays traded two-run innings in the third and fourth innings, but Williamsport made its move once Auburn turned to its bullpen in the sixth. With Auburn reliever Jared Johnson in, the Crosscutters slashed the Doubledays’ lead to 8-4 in the sixth inning to set up the comeback in the ninth.
Despite the loss, it was a solid bounce-back effort from Doubledays starting pitcher Kyle Johnston, who allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched in his last outing on Aug. 9 against Connecticut. This time out, Johnston had three 1-2-3 innings and needed only 54 pitches to get through five innings.
He gave up two runs against (both unearned), walked one and struck out two.
“He commanded his fastball which is something he didn’t do in his last outing,” Head said. “He was able to make that adjustment, take that into the game and use it successfully for five innings. I thought he threw the ball very well.”
Auburn (20-33) hopes for another rebound effort from a starting pitcher as it turns to Nick Raquet in the series finale Friday at Falcon Park. In his last start, Raquet was saddled with three runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. He saw his ERA rise from 1.88 to 2.54.
With Raquet on the mound, the Doubledays will attempt to put a tough-to-swallow loss behind them.
“It’ll be the same way as if we won the game,” Head said. “We’re going to prepare the same way, we’re going to do the pregame the same way and just go out there.”