Alabama's Pitching Too Much For Tigers

Sean Gamble had two of Auburn's seven hits against Alabama Saturday in a 3-2 loss.

Auburn, Ala.--Alabama starter Seth Johnson allowed just five hits and one run in seven innings to lead the Crimson Tide (21-9, 6-5) to a 3-2 victory over the sixth-ranked Auburn Tigers (26-7, 8-3) Saturday afternoon in front of 4,673 fans at Plainsman Park, the second-largest crowd in stadium history.

Leading 2-1 in the ninth inning, Alabama scored insurance run off Auburn closer Steven Register to extend the lead to 3-1. That would prove to be the difference as the Tigers left the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning when Sean Gamble ground out to second baseman Allen Rice to end the game.

The loss spoiled a terrific outing by Auburn starter Arnold Hughey. Getting the loss to drop his record to 4-2 on the season, the sophomore gave up just four hits and one earned run in 6 1/3 innings while striking out six Alabama batters. Reliever Levale Speigner pitched 1 2/3 innings and gave up just one hit while Register gave up one run on one hit in 1/3 of an inning.

Freshman Chris Dennis pitched 2/3 inning of perfect baseball in the ninth inning to give the Tigers a chance to win in dramatic fashion, but Alabama closer Brian Reed would prove to be too tough.

"You have to tip your hat to them, they just pitched outstanding today," Auburn Coach Steve Renfroe said. "Their pitchers just stuffed us, that's all there was to it. We battled back, we didn't get the big hit. They out-hit us and out defended us today.

"I thought he did a great job," Renfroe added about Johnson. "He got in a groove and he got in a zone there. He got it going and stayed in it. We just didn't have enough adjustment and he was too good for us today. It was just one of those things. He got rolling. We got a lot of pitches in him early, but he settled down. He was just a machine."

The Tigers got off to a good start as Gamble led off Auburn's half of the first inning with a single up the middle. After moving to second on a Javon Moran ground ball, the sophomore left fielder scored when Tug Hulett singled to right field on a 2-2 pitch. Leading 1-0 going to the second inning, Auburn would see its lead quickly evaporate on one swing of the bat from Alabama right fielder Beau Hearod. Jumping on a 1-0 fastball, he drove it over the left-center field wall for his 12th bomb of the season. Tied at one, both pitchers settled down and pitched well until Alabama got on the board again in the fourth inning.

Hearod was hit by a pitch to open the inning and one out later Grant Redding walked to put runners on first and second. Hearod stole third on the full count pitch to Redding and that would prove to be a big play as freshman Brandon Avalos flew out to Clete Thomas in right field to easily score Hearod from third. Now with the lead at 2-1, Johnson kept the hammer down on the Tigers.

Auburn didn't have a legitimate scoring threat until the eighth inning. Shortstop Chuck Jeroloman led off the inning with a double to right-center off Johnson to signal the end of the day for the tough right-hander.

Facing closer Brian Reed, Gamble sacrificed Jeroloman over to third with just one out in the inning bringing Moran to the plate. Throwing his patented sinker, Reed got Moran to hit a ground ball to Evan Bush at third base. Stabbing the ball to his left, the freshman wheeled and threw a strike to the plate to gun down Jeroloman and make the play of the game.

Alabama got a run in the ninth and it started with a leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Nathan Meiners. One out later, Bush hit a ground ball to Scott Schade at third base. Catching and looking at second before throwing to Josh Todd at first base. Having to reach to his right, Todd was unable to handle the throw, allowing both runners to be safe with pinch runner John Marshall moving around to third. The error would prove to be huge as pinch hitter Zac Welch singled through the left side on a 0-2 pitch to drive home Marshall to make it 3-1 Alabama.

The Tigers made a run for the win in the bottom of the inning when pinch-hitter Derek Sain reached on an infield single with one out. Schade followed with a double to right-center that moved Sain around to third. Thomas was up next and the freshman hit a sharp grounder back to Reed for the second out of the inning. That's when things got interesting.

Back-to-back walks to designated hitter Doug Vines and Jeroloman cut the lead to 3-2 with Gamble coming to the plate. With the crowd on its feet hoping for another walk or a base hit, Gamble hit the first pitch he saw to the right side to end the game and the Auburn rally.

The Tigers will send junior Colby Paxton to the mound on Sunday to face Alabama's Brent Carter. The game will be televised live by College/Comcast Sports Southeast at 1:30 p.m.

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