Managing just three hits on the night, including a two-run homer from senior Dan Gleveyak and an RBI single from Blake Austin, Auburn (6-6) missed golden scoring opportunities throughout the night thanks to five walks and two hit batters. Coach Sunny Golloway said that was the most disappointing part of the loss for his team.
"I thought it was a good baseball game," Golloway said. "There were clearly some mistakes made, but you're talking about the 11th and 12th game for both participating teams.
"From our side I see us getting better and getting more consistent," he said. "We pitched the ball really well and I thought we defended really well. We had a costly mistake there at the end, but I thought we competed well."
The costly mistake came at the most inopportune time for Auburn. Tied at three in the top of the ninth inning and reliever Trey Cochran-Gill on the mound, a one-out walk to number nine hitter Will Haynie gave Alabama some life and that's all the Crimson Tide would need.
Facing Georgie Salem, Cochran-Gill got a ground ball to Keegan Thompson at first. Bobbling the ball for just a second before throwing to Damon Haecker at second was just enough to allow Salem to beat the return throw to first and stay out of the double play.
It proved to be a huge play in the game when Mikey White singled to right field to put runners on the corners. With closer Terrance Dedrick on the mound, Ben Moore hit a slow chopper to freshman Connor Short at third base. Forced to make a play on the run, the throw from the freshman was just over the outstretched glove of Thompson at first. The error allowed Salem to score the game winner for Alabama as the Crimson Tide took their first lead of the game.
Moving to second on a Haecker groundout, Shaffer was in scoring position when Anfernee Grier stepped to the plate. Ripping a ground ball to the third baseman, Grier's shot was fielded cleanly by Chance Vincent. Instead of throwing across to first, he ran towards Shaffer and dove for the speedy freshman as he was racing back towards second. The umpire ruled he applied the tag on the heel to end the game and the last chance for Auburn.
On the mound Justin Camp pitched a solid game for the Tigers, allowing three earned runs on nine hits in six and one/thirds innings. Cochran-Gill allowed a run on two hits in two and one/thirds innings with Dedrick getting the final out. Overall, Golloway said his pitching was definitely good enough to win, but with just three hits his offense left much to be desired.
"I was disappointed in the way we swung the bat," Golloway said. "Clearly, we're not thinking, going up and being sluggers. We have been talking to our guys about a lot of things, but to me it's our approach that needs to be fixed.
"In the first inning we bunted the ball right back to the pitcher, that's one out," he added. "We took a called third strike for the second out, and we left the bases loaded. That ended up coming back to haunt us."
Auburn missed a golden opportunity to get on the board in the first inning following a leadoff single by Haecker and a walk to Grier. Up to third in the order, Ryan Tella attempted to bunt the runners over, but Alabama pitcher Nick Eicholtz fielded the ball and threw to third to cut down Haecker. A walk to Damek Tomscha loaded the bases for Glevenyak, but he took a called third strike to bring Austin to the plate. Jumping on the first pitch, the senior catcher lifted one deep to left-center before Casey Hughston tracked it down to end the inning.
The game would remain scoreless until the bottom of the third when the Tigers finally got the offense going thanks to one swing of the bat. With two outs and two strikes on Tomscha, Eicholtz tried to come inside and hit him on the shoulder to bring Glevenyak to the plate. Struggling early this season, hitting just .243 entering the game, the senior second baseman got a pitch to drive and didn't miss it. His blast cleared the wall for a two-run shot and just like that Auburn was in the lead.
"I think my first at-bat I made a few mistakes in that first inning," Glevenyak said. "We should have had a few runs from that. So in my second at-bat I made an adjustment. They were trying to jam me inside and I got a good count 2-0 and they threw a fastball in. I threw my hands at it and there it goes."
Following a rough first inning, Camp had settled down to sit Alabama down in the second and third with no problems. That wasn't the case in the fourth. With one out DH Wade Wass singled and moved to second on a single from Kyle Overstreet. A ground ball back to Camp on the mound and his throw to second left Alabama with runners on the corners and two outs. Back-to-back singles from Casey Hughston and Haynie came before out number three, tying the game at two.
That's how things would remain until the bottom of the sixth when Auburn would once again pull out in front thanks to some help from Alabama, With one out and Glevenyak at the plate he fouled a ball off the right side, but was awarded first base on interference from the catcher. With reliever Taylor Guilbeau on the mound a wayward pickoff attempt at first base sailed down the right field line. Standing on third following the error, Glevenyak walked home on a single from Austin to put the Tigers in front 3-2.
Leading off the seventh, Haynie's second hit of the night got Alabama started against Camp. Following a strikeout, Salem singled to right field to put runners on first and second for White. Going inside out on the pitch, White singled to right field just in front of Grier. Handcuffed on the play, Grier deflected it towards the right field line. Haynie scored on the hit and the error left runners on second and third with one out.
That was all for Camp as Cochran-Gill came on to try to stem the Tide. Facing Moore, Cochran-Gill got a ground ball back to the mound. His throw to third retired the runner for the second out. Getting Wass on a ground ball to Short, the Tallassee native kept the Tigers even with Alabama before the Crimson Tide would come up with the last-inning victory.
Auburn will return home this weekend to face the Mercer Bears in a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times are set for 6 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.