Dugas Ninth-Inning Homer Beats Auburn

It has taken Alabama star center fielder Taylor Dugas two games to hit for the cycle against Auburn. The Tigers probably wish he had gotten all his hits in one game since his late inning hits have helped the Crimson Tide take the first two games of the intrastate rivalry series.

A day after his eighth inning triple that sealed Friday's Alabama win, Taylor Dugas had a ninth inning walk-off home run Saturday as Bama came from behind to defeat Auburn, 4-3, at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

It would seem that Dugas, a three-year all-star for the Crimson Tide, would have done all that could possibly be done in college baseball. Not so.

On Friday he set the Alabama record with his 14th career triple, an eighth inning bases-loaded job that extended Bama's lead to the eventual 10-6 margin.

On Saturday, the senior had his first welk-off home run. In fact, it was the first walk-off game-winning hit of his Bama career. The senior from Lafayette, La., took a 1-0 fastball from Auburn reliever Slade Smith (2-4) over the wall in right, giving him his second homer of the season and 14th of his career.

The walk-off home run was the second of the year for the Crimson Tide, as Brett Booth's two-run walk-off effort versus No. 17 Mississippi on March 24 gave Alabama its first SEC win of the season.

It was the first Southeastern Conference series victory for the beleagured Crimson Tide, and particularly sweet coming against not only a nationally ranked team (Auburn is 23rd), but also against its in-state rival.

Bama is now 12-19 on the season and 3-8 in SEC play. The Tigers have fallen to 17-13 overall and 6-5 in the conference.

Alabama will go for the sweep Sunday with the game starting at 1 p.m. CDT at Sewell-Thomas. The Tide is scheduled to start freshman left-hander Jon Keller (0-1, 4.18 ERA), while the Tigers will counter with freshman lefty Daniel Koger (2-1, 1.85 ERA).

"What a great big-time hit from Dugas at the end, a flare for the dramatic," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "The last two Saturdays at home we've had that with Booth and now Dugas. I'm happy for our team. As I've said the last week or so, they've continued to battle and compete each day and fight through a lot of adversity. They are being rewarded right now."

Dugas finished the day 2-for-4 with one run scored and two RBI. Combined with Friday night's 2-for-4, three RBI performance, Dugas has now hit for the cycle in two combined games versus the Tigers, totaling a single, a double, a triple and a home run. Bama left fielder Hunter Gregory was impressive at the plate, too, 3-for-4, one run, and one RBI . But it may have been being safe on a fielder's choice that was Gregory's most important contribution.

With one out, Cameron Carlisle walked. Gregory hit into a force play erasing Carlise, but beat out a close play at first base to avoid the final out, allowing Dugas to come to the plate and win the game for the Tide.

Trey Pilkington (1-0) earned the victory for Alabama pitching a solid 3 2/3 innings in relief of starter Justin Kamplain, allowing no runs on just one hit while striking out two batters. Kamplain, making his seventh start of the season, pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits while striking out five. Smith took the loss for the Tigers, allowing three runs on four hits in four innings of relief work.

"On the pitching end, we were good today," Gaspard said. "Kamplain gave us a really good start. Pilkington worked through some really tough spots to keep the game where it needed to be.

"I felt like in the ninth inning if we could get Dugas to the plate, we were going to have a shot. A lot happened to get to that two-run homer. (Cameron) Carlisle had the good at-bat to get on, then Gregory legs out the potential double play ball to set that up. That's just playing hard and giving Dugas the opportunity, and then he delivered the big hit."

Auburn scored the first run of the day in the top of the third inning on a RBI double by Caleb Bowen to make it 1-0, before Alabama answered back an inning later in the bottom of the fourth to even the score.

Jared Reaves led off the inning by reaching on an Auburn error, then moved to second on a wild pitch. Reaves eventually reached third on a fielder's choice before Jon Kelton ripped a two-out line drive to right field to plate Reaves and tie the score at 1-1.

The Tigers came back to notch a pair of runs in the top of the sixth, chasing Kamplain. Alabama edged closer in the bottom of the seventh, with Kelton coming around from second on Gregory's two-out RBI single, as the Tide pulled to within a run and set up Dugas' ninth inning heroics.

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