Auburn Home Runs Key In Tide Loss
"You have to tip your cap to O'Neal, as he did a really good job on the mound for Auburn," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "The fourth inning was the big blow as Cooper hit the three-run home run to make it a big deficit. I thought our guys did a good job in the back of the game, competing and battling to give ourselves a chance."
Auburn starting pitcher Michael O'Neal (5-2) threw 7.2 innings, allowing three unearned runs on eight hits with no walks and three strikeouts to pick up the victory. After Alabama scored a pair of runs against O'Neal in the eighth, cutting the deficit to 6-3, reliever Terrance Dedrick got the final out of the inning and then threw a scoreless ninth to record his second save of the year.
Trailing 6-1 heading into the ninth inning, Alabama loaded the bases with one out for Brett Booth. Booth hit a towering fly ball to left center where Cullen Wacker made the catch, allowing Salem to score. Austen Smith followed with a RBI single to left field, making the score 6-3 to end the night for O'Neal. Dedrick entered to face Kyle Overstreet, who grounded out to shortstop to end the Alabama threat.
"Brett hit that ball really good and I thought it had a chance to hit off the wall and give us a chance to score a few more runs at that time," Gaspard said. "The energy stayed really good and I thought we fought hard throughout the game. We have to bring that same energy tomorrow and pick up where we left off and be better offensively in the front part of the game tomorrow."
Alabama starting pitcher Jon Keller took the loss after lasting five innings. Keller allowed six runs on six hits, two of which were home runs, which accounted for five of Auburn's runs. Keaton Haack threw 3.0 innings in relief, allowing no runs on one hit with two walks and two strikeouts.
Offensively the Tide outhit the Tigers 9-7, but the two Auburn home runs proved to be the difference in the game. Ben Moore was 2-for-4, with a single and his second triple of the season and the series, to extend his hitting streak to six games. Mikey White was 2-for-4 and Booth was 1-for-3 with two RBI.
With two outs in the first inning, Alabama took advantage of an error by the Tigers' right fielder when Moore singled to right and advanced to second on the error by Hunter Kelley. Booth then stepped up and doubled to left field to drive in Moore for a 1-0 Alabama lead in the first.
The Tigers took a 2-1 after three innings after nine-hole hitter Kelley hit a 2-run home run off Keller over the wall in left field. Auburn extended its lead to 6-1 following a four-run fifth inning that included an RBI single by Jordan Ebert, then Garrett Cooper followed with a three-run home run to straight away center field to cap the inning.
Alabama tried to mount a comeback in the last couple innings, scoring a pair of runs in the eighth on the sacrifice fly by Booth and the RBI single by Smith. The Tide got the leadoff man aboard in the ninth as well, but a 3-6-1 double play prevented Alabama from completing the comeback.
Alabama and Auburn will wrap up the three-game SEC series on Sunday with first pitch scheduled for 3 p.m. CDT. The game will be televised on CSS. Alabama will start sophomore right-handed pitcher Spencer Turnbull (2-1, 3.31 ERA) the Tigers have not announced a starter.
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