AUBURN — It’s been rare that the Auburn Doubledays have needed runs in the ninth inning at home this season.
Facing that situation in the series opener against Lowell, the Doubledays submitted a valiant effort but fell one hit short.
Auburn dropped a 6-4 contest to the Spinners Wednesday at Falcon Park in an uncommon home defeat. The Doubledays entered the contest 8-3 in Auburn this season.
There was a golden opportunity to tack on another win to that total as the Doubledays loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth down two. With Jacob Rhinesmith on first and two outs, Israel Pineda dropped in a single and Cody Wilson forced a walk to fill the basepaths.
Any hope of Auburn’s first extra-inning game ended when Jonathan Pryor struck out on a low breaking ball from the Spinner’s Andrew Politi to end the contest.
“They put theirselves in a position there to tie the game or win the game. Those at-bats leading up to that were very good to get us there and give us a chance,” Doubledays manager Jerad Head said. “They kept the line moving and were able to get the next guy up, but just weren’t able to get it done.”
Rhinesmith (RBI triple) and Pablo O’Connor (RBI double) finished with three hits apiece to lead the Doubledays offensively, while Pineda (run) and Pryor (run) dropped in a pair of hits.
Auburn starting pitcher Yonathan Ramirez went five innings and allowed three runs on six hits.
Down 3-1 in the sixth, Auburn strung together three runs, assisted by a blown double play from the Spinners, to take a 4-3 lead.
On the first pitch of the eighth inning, Kole Cottam slammed a solo home run off Auburn’s Nector Ramirez to tie the score. The Spinners then took back the lead on Xavier LeGrant’s sacrifice fly and Jarren Duran made matters worse with an RBI single for a two-run score differential.
It could’ve been worse. On LeGrant’s sacrifice, Auburn centerfielder Cody Wilson fully extended on a dive to prevent the ball from hitting the field.
Wilson, who nearly flubbed a fly ball in the first after colliding with his right fielder Rhinesmith, was a target for the Spinners all night. He finished with 10 put-outs and set up the Doubledays’ comeback attempt with his highlight-reel play to rob LeGrant.
“Early on there he had some miscommunication out there, but he stays ready and got some good jumps,” Head said. “He’s an extremely athletic kid. When the ball goes up we let him go get it.”
In the loss, the Doubledays also got a look at former MLB All-Star Brandon Phillips who is down in the New York-Penn League after signing a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox last month.
Phillips is a former major league All-Star and Gold Glove winner from his days with the Cincinnati Reds, and his mere presence was worth paying attention to.
“I think it gets the kids’ attention with guys that have been there, competed at the highest level and been very successful at the highest level,” Head said. “It tends to open your eyes and you can learn from it, and at the same time its fun to play on the same field with him and against him. It happens a lot in Florida when we’re down there in extended (spring training). Having Daniel Murphy and Mark Reynolds down there at the same time, watching the way they go about there business is always good for your dugout.”
Doubledays pitchers had a fair amount of success facing Phillips Wednesday — the veteran finished 1-for-3 with a RBI on a sacrifice fly.
“It builds your confidence, especially when you get a guy out who is a former Silver Slugger, and All-Star,” Head said. “But he’s here too trying to work on stuff and get back to his midseason form. I thought they did a good job tonight, especially against him throwing the ball over the plate and challenging him.”
Auburn (14-10) continues its series against Lowell at Falcon Park Thursday.