Bama Bungles Away Series

The University of Alabama baseball team committed a season-high five errors in a 6-3 loss to Auburn at Plainsman Park on Saturday afternoon, as the Tigers captured their first series win over the Crimson Tide since 2004.

The Crimson Tide self destructed in the bottom of the seventh inning as Auburn took advantage of three errors, one passed ball and a walk to score four runs en route to its second straight win in the series.

Sophomore second baseman Jeff Texada had two errors in the decisive inning, while junior reliever Josh Copeland and junior first baseman Matt Bentley had one error each on two separate botched pickoff attempts. Sophomore catcher Ryan Rhoden was also charged with a passed ball as the Tide was trying to intentionally walk Auburn left fielder Mike Bianucci to set up a double play.

"In the game of baseball when two teams are competitive and fairly similar, one inning can decide the game," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "That has now been the case two days in a row. The defense struggled today. There were a lot of errors in one inning and that will get you beat."

Philip Skinner started the inning with an infield hit and took second when Texada's throw to first base got past Bentley, hit the dugout railing and caromed all the way to home plate. Center fielder Bruce Edwards then moved Skinner to third base with a sacrifice bunt.

Luke Greinke then slapped a single to center to knock in Stringer and tie the game at 3-3. It was Greinke's third RBI of the game and sixth of the series. Catcher Josh Donaldson greeted Copeland with a base hit to left to put runners on the corners with one out.

Greinke scored the go-ahead run on Rhoden's passed ball as the Crimson Tide was trying to intentionally walk Bianucci and set up an inning-ending double play. Then with runners at first and second, Joseph Sanders hit a ground ball to Texada, who turned an apparent inning-ending double play into an error to load the bases.

"We've talked to our guys about moving on to the next pitch," Wells said. "We made the first error then put our heads down and made two more. Our inability to score on offense is now affecting the other parts of our game."

Dustin Spruill then drilled a two-run single to right to score Donaldson and Bianucci to give the Tigers a 6-3 lead.

Auburn reliever Chris Dennis (2-3) benefited from the seventh inning to earn his second win of the year. He retired all seven batters he faced and got a double play in the sixth inning to keep hold the Tide to a one-run lead.

Alabama (22-18, 7-10) hit into three double plays in Saturday's loss.

Senior right-hander Bernard Robert (4-5) was the victim of the seventh inning in taking the loss. He allowed four runs and five hits in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out six, walked five and hit one batter.

Alabama had regained the lead in the sixth on sophomore Kent Matthes' RBI single up the middle to score senior center fielder Emeel Salem. Salem drew a four pitch walk and moved to second on Texada's infield single. Salem took third on Avila's pop up to right field and gave Bama a 3-2 lead on Matthes' base hit.

Auburn (27-15, 6-11 SEC) had tied the game in the bottom of the fifth when Stringer and Edwards drew consecutive two-out walks and Greinke followed with a base hit to left to score Stringer and tie the game at 2-2.

The Tigers scored an unearned run in the bottom of the first inning to take a 1-0 lead. Edwards was hit by a pitch with a two-strike count and then went to third base on Robert's throwing error on a pick off attempt at first base. Greinke's sacrifice fly to center field easily scored Edwards from third to give the Tigers the lead.

Alabama answered in the top of the second inning when junior first baseman Mat Bentley wrapped a 3-1 fastball around the foul down to the right field line to tie the game at 1-1. It was Bentley's sixth home run of the season and second in SEC play.

The Crimson Tide grabbed a 2-1 lead with back-to-back two-out hits in the third inning. Salem started the rally with a base hit up the middle and scored on Texada's RBI double into the left field corner to give Bama the lead. Texada and Matthes had two hits and one RBI each for Alabama.

The Crimson Tide looks to avoid the sweep against the Tigers with a 1:36 p.m. (CDT) Sunday afternoon. The game will be televised by CSS Sports. Auburn has not swept Alabama since 2001.

GAME NOTES:

*Alabama senior center fielder Emeel Salem (Mountain Brook) made is 125th consecutive start Saturday afternoon against Auburn. The streak dates back to April 29, 2005.

*Alabama sophomore DH Alex Avila (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) played his 100th game for Alabama on Saturday against Auburn. He recorded his 100th career hit in the series opener with a three-hit game to give him 102 career hits.

*Senior RHP Bernard Robert (Denham Springs, La.) recorded his league leading seventh pickoff of the season when he nailed AU catcher Josh Donaldson at second base in the first inning.

*Junior RHP Josh Copeland (Palmetto, Ga.) saw his streak of nine consecutive inherited runners stranded come to an end in the seventh inning Saturday. The Crimson Tide's streak of 16 consecutive inherited runners stranded also came to an end.

*Alabama made a season-high five errors in the loss to Auburn, including three errors in a four-run Auburn seventh inning. The last time UA made five errors in a game was March 9, 2005 against Birmingham Southern.


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