"I think it was big to see some smiles in our clubhouse," Coach John Pawlowski says. "I think these guys have been working really hard and finally got to see some rewards for their hard work and effort. It was important for us to get that lead. We were down 1-0 and score two runs and finally got some things to go our way. We did some really good things offensively."
On the mound it was O'Neal that once again carried the day for the Tigers. Entering with four wins on the season, the junior college transfer was on top of his game after a rough first inning and was proud to be the guy to get Auburn over the hump and on the board in SEC play.
"It's Alabama and you want to win, especially after we have lost seven-straight SEC games," O'Neal says. "We haven't been doing very good lately. Everything that could happen bad has been happening to us. It was nice to see Hunter take that one deep because you knew from there we were about to win. I felt all the momentum after that. It was good to get the win and get that monkey off our back."
At the plate Ryan Tella had two hits from the leadoff spot to show signs of coming out of his slump, but the night belonged to Kelley and Cooper. In the third Kelley's two-run blast gave Auburn the lead while Cooper's three-run shot in the fifth proved to be the difference in the victory. He says once the ball came off his bat he knew the ball was gone.
"I was looking for a ball up and luckily he left a fastball over the middle of the plate," Cooper says. "As soon as I hit it I knew I got a good amount of it. Thank goodness it went over the fence."
With the victory Auburn improves to 16-11 overall and 1-7 in SEC play while Alabama falls to 17-11, 6-2 in league play.
Alabama didn't waste any time getting on the scoreboard on a beautiful Friday night as right fielder Ben Moore singled to right field with two outs and advanced to second on an error from Hunter Kelley. An Auburn killer the last few seasons, catcher Brett Booth made the Tigers pay as he doubled home Moore for the first run of the game.
Two innings later however Kelley more than made up for his mistake. With Blake Austin on second base following a leadoff walk and a sacrifice bunt, Kelley got a pitch to hit and didn't miss his opportunity. Driving the ball deep into the night over the left field wall, the junior put Auburn up 2-1 to give the Tigers their first lead in a conference game this season.
Hunter Kelley got his first career home run in the win.
With O'Neal cruising on the mound, Auburn's offense went back to work in the fifth inning as Kelley walked with one out to bring Tella to the plate. Pulling a pitch through the right side for a single, Tella's single set the table for Jordan Ebert and the freshman came through with a single of his own to make it 3-1.
That brought Cooper to the plate looking for more. Facing the left-hander, Cooper got a chance to extend his arms and hit a bomb to dead center and just over the 385 sign for his second homer of the season. The three-run blast made it 6-1 Tigers, but things would get interesting down the stretch.
Still rolling through the Alabama order, O'Neal ran into his first trouble since the first inning as Georgie Salem singled and moved to second on another single from Kenny Roberts. With Moore at the plate the left-hander looked like he might be out on a ground ball to Tomscha at third, but he couldn't find the handle and it loaded the bases for Booth.
Continuing his tear against Auburn, Booth's fly ball to left made it 6-2 before Austen Smith singled to left to make it a three-run lead. With Kyle Overstreet coming to the plate, the Tiger went to the bullpen for Dedrick and he came through with a ground ball to end the inning.
In the ninth Alabama got a leadoff single from Mikey White to bring pinch hitter Cameron Carlisle to the plate. Getting a ground ball to Cooper at first, Dedrick raced to cover the bag and take the return throw from Dan Glevenyak to complete a double play. The Tuscaloosa native finished off the win with a strikeout to make it a perfect night for him.
"It was definitely special," Dedrick says. "One of the things I have been thinking about for a while growing up in Tuscaloosa and coming down here to play, I have been waiting to play against them for a long time. It felt good to get out there and win."
Auburn looks for its first series win on Saturday at 3 p.m. as the Tigers will start junior Will Kendall on the mound. The game can be seen on CSS.