Alabama has been the victim of several walkoff losses this season, but the Crimson Tide picked a good time to get its first of the year hosting Auburn at Sewell-Thomas Stadium Saturday night. Bama got some help from the Tigers for the winning run, but as Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said, “You take it any way you can get it, and at the end of the day it’s a win.”
With one out and two on in the 11th inning, Georgie Salem sent a hard grounder up the middle, a potential double play ball, but the Auburn second baseman couldn’t handle it and Ryan Blanchard came home from second to give Alabama the 4-3 victory and clinch the series for the Tide.
“We kept responding, despite missing some opportunities,” said Gaspard. “The leadoff guy kept doing a good job getting on, and (Daniel) Cucjen did a good job bunting (Ryan Blanchard) over in the ninth.”
Alabama began its 11th inning rally with a leadoff single from Blanchard. Daniel Cucjen then sacrificed himself to move Blanchard into scoring position. A four-pitch walk put runners on first and second for the Crimson Tide and brought Salem to the plate. The senior sent a grounder at the Auburn second baseman, and Blanchard never slowed down, scoring easily after the error.
The Tide made it to extras thanks to a ninth-inning solo home run from Will Haynie. The junior catcher was the first man to the plate for Bama and sent the first pitch he saw deep to left to even things at 3-3.
Alabama then called on reliever Thomas Burrows (1-0), who worked the final two innings to collect his first win of the season.
Starter Jake Walters tossed five innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits and three walks with five strikeouts before turning it over to the bullpen. Dylan Duarte, Sam Finnerty, and Burrows combined to work the final five innings and afford the Tide the time for the win. Finnerty tossed a season-high 2 2/3 innings and struck out three before handing it over to Burrows.
The win improved Alabama’s record to 27-20 overall, including a 12-11 Southeastern Conference record. The Tigers fell to 20-26, including a 7-16 league record.
Alabama goes for the sweep on Sunday, sending junior right-hander Nick Eicholtz to the mound. Auburn counters with junior lefty Ben Braymer. First pitch is at for 3 p.m. CDT on the SEC Network.
Auburn scored first Saturday contest, plating a pair in the third inning. A leadoff walk followed by a double put two in scoring position before an error allowed the batter to reach and a man to score for the game’s first run. Two batters later, a fielder’s choice groundout brought in the second run of the inning for the Tigers and made it a 2-0 game.
The Tide narrowed the gap in the fourth, using a two-out double from Chandler Taylor to make it a 2-1 game. Auburn added one more in the sixth, singling home a runner from third to push the score to 3-1.
Alabama answered with one in the seventh. Chance Vincent led off with a single and then moved into scoring position on a Keith Holcombe walk. Haynie followed with a single to score the leadoff man and make it a 3-2 game after seven frames.
In the ninth, Haynie answered the call again with his team-high tying sixth homer of the season to send the game into extras. Haynie also had a big home run in Friday’s game, and Saturday’s was almost a duplicate, high and long onto the screen protecting the children’s play area behind the left field fence. Haynie has had four career home runs against Auburn.
“It’s a big win, as it wins the series for you and puts you in the position to sweep tomorrow,” said Gaspard. “You just build on it. We’re not going to look at the negatives at this point. A win is always a positive and there was a lot of good things that went on. There were some things that we want to clean up and get better in, but anytime you’re up 2-0 after Saturday, you’re going to like where you’re at.”