No. 14 Auburn falls to No. 10 Virginia in Jax Classic championship

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Auburn fell to Virginia in the Jax Classic Championship 6-4 Sunday night. (AU Athletics)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – No. 14 Auburn dropped a back-and-forth affair against No. 10 Virginia 6-4 Sunday afternoon in the championship game of the Jax College Baseball Classic at 121 Financial Ballpark.

The Tigers (6-1) led 2-1 through four innings, but Virginia (7-0) scored in each of its next four at-bats to ultimately remain unbeaten. Auburn’s six-game win streak to begin the season was the team’s second longest since 2001.

“I thought the difference was their two-strike, two-out hitting,” head coach Butch Thompson said. “They were a little more timely, and that was the huge difference in the game. Good effort by our guys. I thought we locked in and stayed in there, but we were not given as much and our at-bats were just not quite as good and as timely as Virginia tonight.”

After Carson Myers held Virginia scoreless in the first two frames, the Tigers threatened with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the second, but Virginia made a nice double play on a grounder up the middle to end the inning.

The Cavaliers then put runners on the corners with one out and struck first on an RBI groundout. The ball seemed destined to get through the left side, but Deric Fabian made a nice diving stab and throw from third base to avoid the potential big inning.

Auburn responded in the bottom of the frame, making Virginia pay for a leadoff, two-base error. Green reached on an errant throw and Cooper Weiss executed the sacrifice bunt to move him to third. Ike Irish then put a tough two-strike pitch into play to even the score.

The defense continued to shine in the top of the fourth as Bobby Peirce brought back what would’ve been a two-run home run to end the inning. Peirce leaped up against the short wall in right and caught the fly ball while crashing into the wall and going to the ground.

The Tigers continued to scratch at the plate and took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Fabian extended the inning with a two-out single to left, and Mason Maners drove in Cooper McMurray, who drew a leadoff walk.

The back-and-forth affair continued in the fifth as the first two Cavaliers reached base and a double steal moved both into scoring position. A sacrifice fly to center field then tied the game, 2-2. Armstrong entered in relief with a runner on second and one out and avoided further damage with a groundout and strikeout.

Virginia eventually took the lead and added to its advantage with RBI doubles in the sixth and seventh innings, but Auburn got one back on an RBI groundout from Peirce in the bottom of the seventh. Weiss drew a leadoff walk, marking the team’s fourth straight inning with a leadoff walk, and moved to third on a single back to the pitcher from Irish.

Virginia answered with an RBI double for the third straight inning and extended the lead with a two-out single through a shifted infield.

Fabian got Auburn back to within two with a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth, his first in an Auburn uniform, and Weiss started the ninth with a single back up the middle, but reliever Aidan Teel retired the next three batters to end the game.

Fabian led the way with three hits, including the homer. He, Peirce, McMurray and Irish were all named to the Jax College Baseball Classic All-Tournament Team, with Peirce taking home MVP honors.

The Tigers return to Plainsman Park for a week at home, starting with a midweek matchup vs. Samford (4-3) Tuesday at 6 p.m. CT.