One of the beauties of baseball is that there is no time limit. That aspect was severely tested Sunday evening as Alabama played the longest baseball game in Crimson Tide history, six hours and 36 minutes. But the wait was worth it.
In a 15-inning game at Auburn, the Crimson Tide emerged with an 11-9 win over Auburn, completing a three-game sweep of the Tigers.
Alabama had not won a series in Southeastern Conference play this year, but not only won the series with a doubleheader sweep on Saturday, but took all three games by a total of only four runs against the heretofore top ten Tigers.
Alabama improved to 18-29 overall and 5-19 in SEC games.
The Tide more than doubled its SEC win total for the year with its trip to Auburn, and also improved its record in one-run games by taking two from the Tigers. Bama is now 5-12 in one-run games this year.
The victory marks the third time Alabama has swept the Tigers in Auburn in consecutive weekend series and the first time in program history the Tide has completed back-to-back three-game series sweeps of AU in Auburn. Alabama has also won seven straight games at Auburn to tie for the longest winning streak over the Tigers in Auburn, which also came from May 6, 1955-April 21, 1958.
Auburn fell to 32-17 overall and 14-10 in the conference.
The game was 5-5 after nine innings. Alabama went ahead by 1 in the 10th, with Auburn equaling the run. The Tide went up by 7-6 in the 11th, again the Tigers tying it. In the 12th there was no score by either team. In the 13th Alabama went up by two runs, but Bama couldn’t hold on as AU sent it to the 14th at 9-9.
In the 15th, Chandler Taylor led off with his second double of the game. A ground ball to short was bobbled, the Auburn defender perhaps distracted by Taylor running for third on the play. That mistake was rewarded by the error and the Tide had men at first and third. Sam Finnerty, who spent a few innings in very effective relief pitching, singled to left to put Bama up. A wild pitch and a sacrifice fly by Conner Short made it 11-9 and the Tide’s eighth pitcher, Garrett Suchey, retired the Tigers in the bottom of the 15th for the sweep.
The Tide offense was led by Chandler Taylor, who finished 4-for-6 with two doubles, a home run, one RBI, a team-high three runs scored and two walks. Also homering was Hunter Alexander as part of his 2-for-6 night that included a team-high tying two RBI, two runs scored and a pair of walks.
Alabama used eight total pitchers and 20 players saw time at the plate, including three who did both – Finnerty, Zac Rogers and Sonny Potter. The Crimson Tide’s seventh pitcher, Potter (1-1) got his first career win with 1/3 of an inning worked. Garrett Suchey followed him with one on in the 15th and retired the side for his third save of the season.
The game featured some sloppy play on both sides and two notable missed calls by umpires which more or less offset one another, each giving one side a run.
Next up for the Crimson Tide is a Tuesday trip to Birmingham to take on the Samford Bulldogs at Joe Lee Griffin Stadium at 6 p.m. CDT. In the euphoria of the sweep of Auburn, it should be remembered that Alabama and Samford met earlier this season, with the Bulldogs claiming a 10-3 win on March 15 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
And don’t ask who is going to pitch against Samford, or against Grambling in Tuscaloosa Wednesday. In Sunday’s game those eight Bama pitchers tossed 311 pitches. Auburn’s nine pitchers threw 256 pitches.
Here’s a recap of the Alabama scoring at Auburn Sunday:
Alabama starter Nick Eicholtz was wild early, helping Auburn score a run in each of the first two innings for a 2-0 lead, putting the crowd of 3,614 in good spirits. That crowd would dwindle to a few dozen at game’s end.
Alabama took its first lead in the fourth, scoring three runs on four hits for the 3-2 lead. Alexander blasted a two-run home run to the deepest part of the park making it a 2-2 game. Kyle Kaufman followed with a double and then Short delivered a two-out ground rule double to make it 3-2.
The Tigers evened things up in the bottom of the fifth then took a one-run lead at 4-3 in the sixth.
In the top of the seventh, Alabama pulled out front, scoring a pair of runs on just one hit, and it wasn’t really a hit. The umpires failed to see that Cobie Vance had hit a ball that had bounced off the ground. What should have been ruled a soft fly out to first base – and actually the end of the inning, since he threw to third for a double play on the runner going home. But the umpires ruled the Vance ball a chopped hit, thus a ground ball. That brought in one run and put runners at first and third. Alexander’s chopper up the middle was misplayed by the Auburn second baseman allowing another run to score and make it Alabama 5, Auburn 4.
The umpire crew evened it up in the bottom of the seventh, helped by a mental error by Tide first baseman Alexander. A leadoff single and a wild pitch put a Tiger at second. An error put men on first and third. With one out, a ground ball to shortstop Chandler Avant was fielded and tossed to Cobie Vance at second, who relayed to Alexander at first for a clear inning-ending double play. But the umpire called the runner safe at first. When Alexander turned to face the umpire in silent protest, the Auburn runner on second sprinted home with the tying run.
The two teams stayed scoreless in regulation to move the game into extras, where they would first match each other with one run apiece in the 10th inning. Walker McCleney singled up the chute with a man on third to score one, giving the Tide the advantage heading into the home half. Auburn answered the call with one of its own in the bottom of the 10th.
In the 11th, the two teams matched with one apiece again. Taylor sent a 2-2 pitch to straightaway center for a solo homer to move Alabama in front, but the Crimson Tide was unable to maintain the lead. In the bottom of the inning, Auburn scored one to send things forward.
The game went scoreless in the 12th, but the 13th saw each squad post a two-spot in the inning. A squeeze bunt by Vance with runners on the corners brought in the go-ahead run and became out No. 2 for UA in the inning. Intentional walks to Taylor and Alexander loaded the bases for pitcher Zac Rogers – who had to stay in the game as a hitter. Incredibly, the Auburn pitcher walked Rogers to bring home a run. And make it a 9-7 game.
But Auburn tied it up in the 13th and the 14th was scoreless.
Another Taylor double led off the frame before an error on Alexander's grounder to short put Tide at the corners. One out later, Finnerty found an opening on the left side for a single to score the go-ahead run. A wild pitch moved both into scoring position before Short's sacrifice fly to deep left added one more insurance run.
Auburn would reach the tying and winning runs in the bottom of the 15th, but a lineout to center ended the game with both men stranded.