The loss was a heartbreaker for the Tigers after leading 4-1 and looking like a sure thing to win its sixth-straight game and move ever closer to wrapping up a spot in the SEC Tournament.
Allowing just one earned run on five hits and throwing just 100 pitches through eight and two/thirds innings, O'Neal wasn't able to finish off the complete game as Florida came back for the wild win.
"It was a tough way to lose a ballgame," Auburn Coach John Pawlowski says. "I thought our kids played hard and they competed all night long. Mike O'Neal's ball had as much movement today as it has had all year. Unfortunately that last inning just didn't work out for us tonight."
Leading 3-1 and on cruise control following a solo home run by Hunter Kelley in the eighth inning, Auburn (30-20, 10-16) got another solo homer from Blake Austin in the ninth to make it a three-run advantage for O'Neal. Mowing down the Gators in the eighth inning, O'Neal hit Mark Turgeon to lead off the inning. It was a sign of things to come for the left-hander trying for the complete game. With a runner on first following a fielder's choice, Vickash Ramjit singled through the right side to keep Florida's hopes alive. That brought Josh Tobias to the plate.
A right-hander who was 0-3 on the night, Tobias came to the plate as the tying run. Throwing 39 pitches on Friday night, Auburn closer Terrance Dedrick didn't get the call as Auburn stayed with O'Neal. With just two homers on the year, Tobias got a first-pitch fastball and drove it over the wall in left field to tie the game and end O'Neal's bid for win number nine.
Carter came on in relief of O'Neal and walked Bader to keep the inning alive for the Gators. Pinch-hitting, Zack Powers lifted a fly ball into shallow right field that neither Jordan Ebert nor Kelley could grab. Running on contact, Bader never slowed down and scored all the way from first on the blooper into right field to cap off the dramatic comeback win for Florida.
The loss spoils terrific offensive nights from several Tigers as Savage was 4-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Ebert added three hits and a run batted in while Kelley added two hits and scored a pair of runs.
Auburn got the scoring started in the second inning off Florida starter Johnny Magliozzi. Normally the closer for the Gators, he allowed a leadoff double to Savage before a one-out single from Ebert pushed the designated hitter across to put the Tigers on the scoreboard.
With O'Neal off to a good start, the Tigers came back for more in the third inning. Up with one out in the inning, Kelley singled to give the Auburn offense a spark. Following a Cullen Wacker fly ball out, Garrett Cooper walked to bring Savage to the plate. On fire, Savage singled through the right side for his second hit of the game to score Kelley for the two-run Auburn lead.
Settling down on the mound, Magliozzi held the Tigers scoreless in the next two innings to allow the Gators to finally get to O'Neal. With two outs and nobody on, Harrison Bader singled and moved to second on a throwing error by Cooper following a failed pick-off attempt. Brady Roberson then made Auburn pay with a double to push Bader across and cut the Tigers' lead to 2-1.
That's how things would remain until the eighth inning when Kelley got a pitch to hit to lead off the inning and didn't miss. His solo homer to left field was his second of the season and put the Tigers back in front by two runs. Auburn missed a golden opportunity to stretch the lead even more as singles by Cooper and Savage put runners on first and second with just one out. Following a Dan Glevenyak strikeout, Ebert collected his third hit of the game with a single to center field. Trying to score from second, Cooper was thrown out at the plate to end the inning with Auburn up 3-1. The lead would swell to three before the Florida comeback turned the tables on the Tigers.
Auburn will try to earn the series win on Sunday as either Daniel Koger or Justin Camp is expected to start for the Tigers. The first pitch is scheduled for noon central time.