Tide Enters in Style

The Alabama baseball team could have backed its way into clinching an SEC tournament spot Saturday without beating Auburn, but the Crimson Tide instead went in with style, posting two decisive runs in the ninth inning to even the series and assure itself of no worse than fifth seeding in the tournament next week in Hoover.

About the midway through Bama's game, Florida beat Vanderbilt 2-1 in 13 innings to ensure the Crimson Tide a berth in next week's Southeastern Conference Tournament (May 25-29) at the Hoover Met.

Then, Alabama battled back from two different deficits to post an 8-6 come-from-behind win over Auburn, leaving the Tigers hanging by a thread for a tournament berth heading into the final day of SEC play.

The two teams will meet in the rubber game at 1:06 p.m. Sunday afternoon in a game televised by CSS Sports.

Alabama (36-19, 16-13 SEC) can finish no worse than fifth in the overall SEC standings following Saturday's come-from-behind win.

The Crimson Tide has posted 22 come-from-behind wins this season, including 10 in SEC play. Of the 22 comeback wins, 14 have come in the sixth inning or later.

Bama enters the final day of the regular season in third place in the SEC West, one game back of LSU (17-12) and Ole Miss (17-12). Alabama can win a share of the SEC Western Division championship with a win over the Tigers on Sunday and losses by LSU (at Miss. State) and Ole Miss (at Arkansas).

If that happens, Alabama would win the tie-breaker with LSU and Ole Miss and be seeded second in next week's SEC Tournament.

The Crimson Tide capped the see-saw affair with two runs in the ninth inning to claim an 8-6 win. Senior first baseman Zac Welch, who went 3-for-4, led off with a base hit to right field and moved to second on freshman shortstop Cale Iorg's sacrifice bunt. Senior Morrow Thomley entered the game to pinch run for Welch at second and moved to third on senior Allen Rice's base hit to right field.

Thomley scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball by Auburn catcher Josh Bell to give Alabama a 7-6 lead. After Emeel Salem's ground out moved Rice to third base, senior third baseman Rocky Scelfo singled through the left side of the infield to score Rice and give Bama the two-run lead.

Freshman right-hander David Robertson (7-4) retired the Tigers in order in the ninth inning for his seventh win of the season. He added one strikeout and 97 for the season, one shy of the single-season freshman record at Alabama.

Auburn (33-23, 13-16 SEC) tied the game with two runs in the eighth inning off Robertson. After a pair of walks to Karl Amonite and Jeff Boutwell to lead off the eighth, pinch-hitter Russell Dixon and center fielder Bruce Edwards delivered RBI singles to even the score at 6-6.

Edwards had three of Auburn's eight hits on Saturday. Boutwell and Donaldson had two RBI each for the Tigers.

The Auburn rally came after Alabama had taken a 6-4 lead with three runs on four hits in the eighth inning off AU relief ace Michael Nix, who logged his fourth blown save of the year. Nix, who leads the SEC and ranks third nationally with 13 saves, gave up four straight two-out hits in the eighth and the lead.

Rice started the rally when he was hit by a pitch and moved into scoring position on Salem's sacrifice bunt. After Scelfo's ground out moved the tying run to third, senior mright fielder Gabe Scott tied the game with a two-strike single to left.

Junior DH Evan Bush followed with a ringing double off the wall in left field to put runners at second and third. Senior left fielder Matt Grooms, a former Auburn player, plated the go-ahed run with an infield single. Bush scored on a wild pitch by Nix to give the Tide a 6-4 lead. Junior Kody Valverde singled to right, but Grooms was thrown out at home by right fielder Clete Thomas on a close play to end the inning.

Nix (5-3) was roughed up on Saturday by Alabama as he allowed five runs and seven hits in two innings for the loss.

Auburn had taken a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning when Josh Donaldson hit a solo home run to right field off UA starter Brandon Belcher.

Belcher left the game later in the inning with an elbow injury and his condition was still unknown after the game.

Alabama tied the game in the top of the sixth inning when Scott blasted a two-run home run off the scoreboard in left-center field to make it a 3-3 game. Scott went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI in win.

Scott's home run and a couple of dazzling plays at short by Iorg seemed to spark Alabama to its 22nd come-from-behind win of the season.

Alabama got on the board in the third inning when Welch singled and later scored on Salem's sacrifice fly.

Auburn scored three times in the first inning to take a 3-0 lead.

Belcher walked Thomas with one out and then gave up a base hit to Bell and a walk to Amonite to load the bases. Boutwell then ripped a two-run double to center to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. Donaldson followed with an infield ground out to score Amonite with the three-run lead.


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