Since scoring five runs on Friday night at Ole Miss in the first six innings, eventually falling 8-5 in 12 innings, Auburn (21-15, 6-8) has scored just four runs in 42 innings of SEC play as the Tigers have now lost seven of their last nine league games.
On the mound Auburn starter Michael O'Neal allowed one run on five hits in three innings to take the loss. Reliever Trey Cochran-Gill allowed two earned runs on seven hits in just three and one/third innings while Jay Wade finished it off, allowing just one hit in one and two/thirds innings.
Even though Alabama (23-11, 9-6) pounded out 13 hits on the night, Auburn's pitching and defense did enough to keep the Tigers in the game, but a lack of offense proved to once again be a killer for Sunny Golloway's club.
"I thought we really played terrific defense," Golloway said. "Before the error that cost us two runs they had like 12 hits, but only two runs because we had turned three or four double plays. I thought we pitched tough and played good defense. That's a good sign. For us to give up that many hits and still be in the ball game late was encouraging for our guys. We just had trouble getting to Kamplain.
That was definitely the case for an Auburn offense that has struggled against almost everyone the last few times out. Getting just three hits on the night, with two of those coming in the ninth inning, the Tigers failed to put any pressure on Alabama for much of the night.
Getting 11 hits in the first three innings of Tuesday night's win over Troy, Auburn has just 10 hits in the last 23 innings at the plate. No matter how well you are pitching and playing defense, in the end you've got to score runs and that's a big problem for the Tigers at the moment. Because of that Golloway said the plan is to start closer Terrance Dedrick on Sunday and have Keegan Thompson available out of the bullpen.
"We're going to flip-flop it and start Terrance Dedrick," Golloway said. "He's from this town. He's a senior. I will like to see how he responds. If we were to start Keegan he probably wouldn't be able to go long so we're going to flip-flop it. We've got a fresh arm in Terrance Dedrick so if he finds it and he's on we'll have something special right there. Then we'll have Keegan on the back-end. We've got several guys to go to in the middle if we get in some trouble.
"The most important thing is not so much who we pitch or how we pitch it tomorrow, it's how we come out and swing the bats," he added. "We've got to get our bats going. It has been a couple of games here where scored just one tonight and two yesterday. Three runs in your first two games isn't going to get it done. We're very fortunate right now to have the rubber match going tomorrow."
Auburn got off to a solid start with three scoreless innings to open the game, but each of the innings featured an escape by O'Neal on the mound. He wouldn't be as fortunate in the fourth. Leading off the inning Kyle Overstreet took the first pitch over the left field wall for his third home run of the season.
In the fifth inning facing Cochran-Gill, who came on for O'Neal in the fourth, Georgie Salem singled to get the Alabama offense started. That's when the Tigers gave them plenty of help as back-to-back wild pitches moved Salem to third with still nobody out.
Getting a ground ball for the first out to keep the runner at third, Cochran-Gill allowed an infield single to Wade Wass to score Salem from third for the 2-0 lead. Singles by Overstreet and Austen Smith loaded the bases for the Crimson Tide, but the fourth double play of the game by the Tigers ended the inning to keep Auburn in the game.
Hitless in the first five innings, Auburn finally got something going in the sixth as J.J. Shaffer was hit by a pitch to open the frame for the Tigers. Coming to the plate with one of Auburn's four hits on the weekend, Jordan Ebert put down a perfect bunt single to give the Tigers a pair of runners with nobody out and the heart of the order coming to the plate. Trying to bunt the runners over, Ryan Tella struck out for out number one. A shallow fly ball by Damek Tomscha and a groundout by Blake Austin ended the brief Auburn threat to keep the lead at two.
Alabama loaded the bases in the seventh inning with one out before getting a gift from the Tigers. Wade got a ground ball from Chance Vincent to Connor Short at third. His throw to the plate was a little off target and Blake Austin couldn't make the play. The ball got away from the senior catcher, allowing two runs to score and push the lead to 4-0.
Auburn finally managed to get something going in the ninth inning as Austin doubled and Short was hit by a pitch with two outs to bring Damon Haecker to the plate. His single scored Austin to break up the shutout by Kamplain and send him to the dugout. With Dan Glevenyak up with the tying run, Alabama closer Thomas Burrows got a pop up to end the game and even the series.
Sunday's game is scheduled to start at 1:05 p.m.