Falling to 33-23 overall, Auburn must now wait until Monday's NCAA Selection Show to see if it did enough to continue playing this season.
"It was a very good baseball game, one that I thought both teams had some opportunities to score some runs," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "We pitched out of some jams and then they had a big hit-and-run in the eighth inning and that opened the door for them. I'm really proud of the way our kids played. They played hard. Unfortunately it didn't work out for us today."
The loss continued a disturbing trend for Auburn at the SEC Tournament. The Tigers are now just 6-17 in Hoover since winning the title in 1998. That was also the last time Auburn beat Alabama in the tournament with losses the last four times they have faced each other.
Making the start on just four days' rest, Auburn junior Conner Kendrick wasn't sharp as he allowed three runs on six hits in just five innings and struck out just one batter. Unable to control his off-speed pitches, Kendrick battled though and was able to exit the game with Auburn in front.
"I felt good out there today, but I just didn't have command of my secondary pitches," Kendrick said. "That really hurt us today."
Reliever Reid Carter kept the Tigers in the game, allowing just one hit and two and one/third innings. Auburn's closer all season long, Terrance Dedrick was victimized in the end as he allowed two hits and two runs in just two/thirds of an inning.
"I think sometimes when you miss spots they can really capitalize on it," Dedrick said. "Like Coach said, that last play was a hit-and-run. I heard the runner go and I threw it out and up. Bret Booth just put his bat on the ball and hit it down the line. Sometimes those fall."
That happened in the bottom of the eighth and the game tied at three. After getting Auburn out of a huge jam in the sixth inning, Carter allowed a single to open the inning and Pawlowski called on Dedrick to keep it tied. It wasn't to be on this day, however.
Facing Booth in a huge situation, Dedrick threw a high fastball that he clubbed to right field. Smith was running on the pitch and sailed into third base while Booth legged out a double. Walking Andrew Miller intentionally to load the bases, Dedrick gave up a single over the bag that Jordan Ebert knocked down but couldn't make a play on.
Austen Smith scored on the play to make it 4-3 Alabama, but the nightmare was only starting for Tuscaloosa native Dedrick. Giving up a fly ball to right field to score the second run, the junior uncorked a wild pitch to score Miller and give Alabama a three-run advantage.
Tide reliever Ray Castillo closed out the Tigers in order in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win and end Auburn's run in Hoover.
Jay Shaw got the win in relief for the Crimson Tide. Entering the game just 1-1 on the season and having thrown just six total innings in SEC play this year, Shaw allowed just four hits and no runs to keep Alabama within striking distance on Tuesday.
At the plate Auburn was led by Hunter Kelley's two hits as the Tigers finished the day with only eight hits and left seven on base. Smith led the way for Alabama with three hits while Moore and Booth added two each.
Alabama took the early lead on Kendrick in the bottom of the first after the Tigers squandered an early scoring opportunity of their own. Committing the ultimate sin pitching at the Hoover Met, Kendrick walked leadoff man Kenny Roberts to put the Crimson Tide in business.
Up next, Georgie Salem bunted to Damek Tomscha at third base. Turning to throw to the bag at second, Tomscha's throw was on the mark but Dan Glevenyak couldn't find the bag to allow both runners to reach safely. Following another sacrifice bunt, a Moore ground ball scored Roberts for the 1-0 Alabama lead.
After leaving two more runners on in the second inning, Auburn finally got on the scoreboard in the third thanks to some help from Alabama starter Justin Kamplain. With one out the left-hander walked both Cullen Wacker and Garrett Cooper to give the Tigers some life. Looking for redemption following a strikeout in the first, Patrick Savage got a pitch to turn on and doubled to left field. Wacker scored on the play to tie the game at one.
Patrick Savage drove in one and scored one for the Tigers.
With runners on second and third, shortstop Dan Glevenyak did his job with a fly ball to right field that was deep enough to score Cooper for the Auburn lead. Up with two outs, Ebert hit a slow roller that just got by Kamplain on the mound for an infield single. Savage scored on the second hit of the inning for the Tigers to make it 3-1.
Following a scoreless bottom of the third, Kendrick again ran into trouble in the fourth. Leading off the inning, Moore singled to left for Alabama's first hit of the game. With one out Smith singled to right field to move Moore around to third. Coming up throwing, Kelley's toss sailed over the head of the cutoff man allowing Smith to advance to second base.
Booth then lifted a single into shallow center field to score Moore from third and put runners on the corners with just one out for Miller. A left-handed batter, Miller sliced a ground ball down the third base line that Tomscha stabbed on the backhand side. Throwing to Ebert at second base, he started an inning-ending 5-4-3 double to play to keep Auburn in front 3-2.
The lead wouldn't last long as Moore led off the bottom of the sixth with a single. Mikey White followed with a single of his own to put two on and nobody out for the Crimson Tide. Continuing his big day, Smith doubled just under the outstretched glove of a diving Wacker in left field. Moore scored on the play and it left runners on second and third with nobody out and the game tied at three.
That was all for Kendrick and Carter came on to replace him in one of the biggest situations of the season for the Tigers. Facing Booth, Carter got the strikeout to bring Miller to the plate. Hitting from the left side, Miller was walked to load the bases and set up the force for the Tigers.
Facing number nine hitter Chance Vincent, Carter got a slow roller just to the right of the mound that he snared and threw to Blake Austin at the plate for the second out. With two outs Roberts' grounder to Cooper at first put an end to the threat with the game tied 3-3.
Auburn came back to threaten in the top of the seventh as Kelley and Wacker singled with one out to bring Cooper to the plate. Lacing a ground ball up the middle, Cooper appeared to put the Tigers back in front but White made a diving grab to start a 6-4-3 double play to keep Auburn off the scoreboard and set up Alabama with the opportunity to win the game late.
Now the Tigers must wait until Monday to see if they have done enough to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. With nothing but time on their hands the Tigers noted it is going to be a long week of wondering and worrying.
"It's nerve-wracking on us," Kendrick said. "We all want to play in the postseason. It would be devastating if we don't make a regional."