"It's good for our guys," Coach Sunny Golloway said of the walk-off victory. "Our seniors have had a tough go this year and they have showed a lot of character. They are tough guys. They have been through, I have never seen so many breaks go against them. I don't tell them that because I want them to keep fighting, and they showed that tonight. I'm proud of this group. We're not where we want to be and we have to fight tooth and nail this weekend. They are going to have senior day this weekend and let's hope some breaks go our way."
With the game tied at five in the ninth inning the Blazers looked like they were going to take the lead off Auburn senior Terrance Dedrick. Getting a leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt to move a runner into scoring position, UAB got a second runner on when Dedrick walked Jeff Schalk intentionally. That move almost backfired when Dedrick uncorked a wild pitch to put runners on second and third, but the senior came back to strike out the next two hitters and give Auburn the momentum heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Leading off the inning, senior catcher Blake Austin was hit by a pitch to put the potential winning run on base. With Shaffer inserted for Austin at first, Damek Tomscha bunted him to second but a fly ball out by Blake Logan for the second out left the Tigers needing some two-out magic. It came from the bottom of the lineup as Dan Glevenyak was walked intentionally to bring Damon Haecker to the plate.
Getting a pitch to turn on, Haecker ripped a ground ball to the left side that UAB shortstop Adam Smith fielded but didn't have a play to any base. That brought Ebert to the plate. Auburn's leading hitter, Ebert watched as four consecutive pitches missed the strike zone to force home Shaffer with the winning run.
"I didn't have a take on the first pitch," Ebert said. "I could just see myself hitting a gap-shot and scoring the winning run. I just really wanted to walk it off. I haven't done it since I have been here. It's just one of those things that's really special. It's just fun. Baseball has to be fun and that's one of the things I was really looking forward to do."
Michael O'Neal was the first Auburn pitcher of the night and the senior struggled to get the ball over the plate from the outset. Working around a walk in the first inning, he wouldn't be as fortunate in the second. With one out a walk to Nathan Vincent got things started and he quickly stole second to move into scoring position. Recovering to get the next batter, O'Neal hit Ivan DeJesus and then walked Matt Morse to load the bases.
Facing the number nine hitter, O'Neal bounced a breaking ball into the leg of Adam Smith to force home the first run of the game. Chase Davis followed with a bouncer off the bare hand of O'Neal on the mound for an infield single. The only hit of the inning scored DeJesus to give UAB the early 2-0 advantage.
Auburn got one run back in the bottom of the second when Tomscha walked and stole second to move into scoring position. With one out second baseman Glevenyak singled to drive him across. The hit continued a strong finish to the season for Glevenyak after a major struggle for much of the campaign.
Daniel Robert had two hits while playing first base for the Tigers. With Keegan Thompson out the rest of the year with a broken bone in his foot the role at first could be his against right-handed pitching.
The Tigers continued to attack in the third inning as Gillikin doubled to lead things off and bring Grier to the plate. Checking his swing, the speedy freshman reached first on an error by the UAB pitcher to put runners on the corners with no outs and bring Ryan Tella to the plate. Doing his job, Tella put down a bunt to score Gillikin and tie the game a two.
Back at the plate, Tomscha singled home Grier to put the Tigers in front for the first time but they weren't done yet. Moving to second on a wild pitch, Tomscha scored when Daniel Robert singled him home for the 13th RBI of the year for the freshman.
Now in front 4-2 the Tigers looked to be in good shape with Reid Carter pitching one and one/third innings of scoreless baseball out of the bullpen, but the Blazers had the answer for Daniel Koger when he came on to start the fifth. Giving up a single to Ryan Prinzing before getting a fly ball for the first out, Koger walked Jeff Shalk to put the pressure on himself.
Facing Vincent, Koger left a ball out over the plate and the third baseman laced it into center field. Taking a step in, Gillikin couldn't recover as the ball sailed over his head for a triple to score both runners and tie the game. Mitch Williams followed with a single to put UAB back in front 5-4 before Trey Wingenter came on to get a double play to end the inning.
In the sixth Gillikin once again came up big for the Tigers with his bat. With one out and Ebert on second, the sophomore laced a double down the left field line to score Ebert without a throw to tie things at five before the Tigers got the win in the ninth.
Auburn will face LSU this weekend in a three-game series at Plainsman Park needing a big finish to have any chance of making the postseason. A half-game behind Georgia (home vs. Kentucky) and one game behind Tennessee (home vs. Florida), Auburn needs to win one more game than either to make it to the SEC Tournament in Hoover. Game times are 6 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday with a 1 p.m. start on Saturday.
Click HERE for the stats from Tuesday night's game.