Chalk up another win for Auburn baseball in Montgomery over Alabama. In one of the more competitive Max Capital City Classics, the Tigers out-lasted game Alabama 4-3 before a Riverwalk Stadium crowd of 7,605. Each team got but five hits in the contest. Auburn is now 8-1 in the Classic against Bama.
“We got some guys on base, but just couldn’t get the big hit there” said Crimson Tide Coach Greg Goff. “That’s kind of been the Achilles Heel for us the last few weeks.
“I thought we pitched good enough to win. I thought we shut down a really good offense in Auburn.”
In what began as a freshman pitcher’s duel, Auburn’s josh Anthony led off the top of the third with a hit off Bama lefty Garret Rukes and scored two batters later on a throwing error by Tide third baseman Connor Short. The miscue happened when Auburn’s Will Holland was attempting a sacrifice bunt, beat the throw, and the toss got away. With two down, Auburn right fielder Daniel Robert lined a two-out, two-strike, two-run single. Heading to the bottom of the third, the No. 18 Tigers (21-6) led 3-0.
“Two out hits are everything for us,” said Tigers Coach Butch Thompson. “If you’ve watched us, it’s been one hit here, one hit there that’s defined us.”
Short was hit by Auburn freshman Christian Camacho to open the Tide third. Henry took second on a wild pitch and third on Chandler Avant’s single to center. One out later, Cobie Vance got Bama on the board with a rope to left, scoring Short. The rally died, but the Tide was on the board and down 3-1 after three frames.
Goff replaced Rukes with Sam Finnerty on the hill to open the fourth. He took the loss to fall to 1-2.
Kyle Kaufman led off the Tide fourth with a hit to right. After Tanner DeVinny walked, Hunter Alexander dropped a bunt down and reached on an errant toss by Camacho. Montgomery native Chandler Taylor got a run in with a deep sacrifice fly to right scoring Kaufman, and Thompson pulled Camacho in favor of Corey Herndon (1-0). That rally died when Short grounded into an inning-ending double play. A stretch by Tiger first sacker Dylan Ingram saved a run. Goff argued the call to no avail.
Avant reached on a boot by Auburn shortstop Luke Jarvis to open the Bama fifth, and he took second on a Gene Wood sacrifice bunt. A passed ball sent Avant to third, and Vance walked. Henry hit a short fly to center, and Goff elected to send Avant, who scored when Jonah Todd’s throw was wide of the plate. With two gone, Kaufman went down swinging, but the score was tied at three after five.
Auburn retook the lead for good on a two-out infield single by Anthony in the sixth.
Taylor excited the crowd with frozen rope to right center with two down in the Tide sixth, but was gunned down at third after ignoring a Goff stop sign, drawing an on-field lecture from the coach.
Two out walks to Kaufman and DeVinny gave Bama fans in the crowd hope in the home half of the eighth. They were replaced by pinch-runners Connor Wright and Zack Coker, as Alexander dug in. Meanwhile Thompson brought in lefty reliever Andrew Mitchell. After Coker was forced out following a dive and flip by Tiger second baseman Holland, Goff argued, but again (as usual) to no avail.
“It was right there. You get the call there at second base, we tie the game up, and we’re probably still playing,” Goff said.
Facing a last chance in the bottom of the ninth, Taylor popped to third to open the inning. Short went down swinging, and Avant grounded to third to end it.
Next up for the Tide (12-13) is a home series with Arkansas, starting at 6 p.m. Friday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.