The Auburn baseball team’s chances at winning the SEC West title took a major hit Thursday night.
The Tigers lost 5-2 at lowly Tennessee, dropping to 13-15 in league play with two regular season games remaining. Auburn (28-26) entered the night in a four-way tie for first place in the SEC West with Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi State.
The Volunteers (24-28, 6-22) had lost 11 straight SEC games. It was their first league win since April 22.
Auburn managed only six hits in the loss, stymied by Tennessee starter Steven Gruver, who gave up two runs and struck out seven in 7 1/3 innings.
Tennessee took a 3-0 lead on Tigers starter Jon Luke Jacobs in the first. Auburn pulled within 3-2 in the seventh, but the Volunteers went up 5-2 on Davis Morgan‘s two-run single in the seventh.
Auburn loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but Dan Gamache struck out and Casey McElroy flew out to center to end things.
The Tigers have more on their mind now than winning the West. They need to win one of the final two games in the series to qualify for the SEC tournament.
They also need to win both games to guarantee themselves a final record of at least .500, a requirement for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.
Auburn and Tennessee play again Friday at 6 p.m. ET. Derek Varnadore (5-2, 3.60) takes the mound for the Tigers against Nick Blount (1-4, 5.52).
UPDATE: The finals are in. Alabama beat South Carolina 2-1. Ole Miss beat Arkansas 2-1. And LSU beat Mississippi State 17-1.
The Crimson Tide clinched an SEC tournament berth with its win, leaving three spots for five teams. Here are the updated SEC West standings:
Alabama…………. 14-14 — vs. USC (2)*
Arkansas………… 13-15 — vs. MISS (2)
Mississippi State.. 13-15 — vs. LSU (2)
Auburn………….. 13-15 — at TENN (2)
Ole Miss………… 13-15 — at ARK (2)
LSU……………… 12-16 — at MSU (2)
* — clinched SEC tournament berth