“The two home runs, I’ll be quite honest with you, were very surprising,” Coach Sunny Golloway said of the big blows for Alabama in the ninth. “That’s baseball and our guys continued to fight in the bottom of the ninth, but we just came up short. We’re going to be tested tomorrow, there is no doubt about it. This is where that mental toughness is really going to come into play.”
On a night when Auburn missed opportunity after opportunity, leaving a total of 10 runners on base, it was the sixth inning that proved to be the downfall for the Tigers. With Auburn starter Cole Lipscomb in command, having allowed just one hit to Alabama in the first six innings, the Tigers had a chance to add to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth as Melvin Gray singled to start things off for the Tigers.
They were just getting started as Grier singled through the left side to move Gray around to third. Grier advanced to second on the throw and just like that Auburn had runners on second and third with nobody out for the heart of the order.
Auburn’s leading hitter in SEC play, Daniel Robert’s ground ball to second base with the infield in wasn’t enough to score Gray as the throw to first retired him for out number one. Following a liner to first by Damon Haecker for out number two, Jordan Ebert struck out to leave two in scoring position and give Alabama some momentum going to the seventh.
“The bottom of the sixth inning was really a key,” Coach Sunny Golloway said. “We were up 1-0 and I tell you what the way Melvin ran in his face to third base and allowed Anfernee to get to second was really big. We’ve got to be able to score there and when we didn’t push the runs across that swung the momentum.”
With one out Kyle Overstreet singled to give Alabama only its second hit of the game, but that was just the start for the Crimson Tide as Cody Henry stepped to the plate looking to do some damage. Already with a double on the night the DH lifted a fly ball down the left field line that Bo Decker dove for, but missed. The ball rolled down the left field line and under a bench, a result that had Decker raising his hands for a dead ball.
The only problem was the umpire didn’t agree with Decker and by the time he picked the ball up and threw it back to the infield Overstreet had scored and Henry was at third for a triple. When J.C. Wilhite followed with a single through the left side it put Alabama in front 2-1. Two more hits would load the bases for Alabama with two outs before reliever Izaac Yarbrough got Georgie Salem to fly out to end the threat.
At the plate Deese and Gray led the Tigers with two hits each while Lipscomb allowed just two runs on six hits in six and one/thirds innings for another solid outing on the mound. Alabama starter Taylor Guilbeau allowed two runs on seven hits in six and two/thirds with reliever Thomas Burrows getting the win. Wingenter took the loss for the Tigers to drop to 1-5 on the year, allowing two runs on three hits in two innings.
Auburn wasted no time getting to Guilbeau on Friday night as Kyler Deese went the other way and sliced a double down the left field line to put the Tigers in business. Following a Melvin Gray sac bunt to move Deese to third, Anfernee Grier’s ground ball to second pushed across Deese to give the Tigers the early advantage.
In the bottom of the seventh trailing 2-1 following Alabama’s two-run outburst in the top of the inning, Auburn would get the run back as Blake Logan doubled to start the inning and later scored on a Gray single through the right side with two outs following a Deese walk. With runners on the corners and a chance to give the Tigers the lead back Grier struck out looking to keep the game tied.
Auburn had another opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth as Sam Gillikin reached on a fielder’s choice with two outs to bring Ben Craft to the plate. Entering the game for Logan two innings earlier, Craft struck out, but the ball got by Haynie and allowed Craft to reach and put runners on first and second with two outs for Nulph. Facing Burrows, Nulph fell behind 1-2 and struck out on a breaking ball down in the zone to end the inning and set the stage for a wild ninth inning.
With one out and a chance to give Auburn a shot to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, Wingenter left a pair of fastballs over the heart of the plate that Vincent and Haynie sent out of the yard in no-doubt fashion to give Alabama a 4-2 lead. In the bottom of the ninth Auburn got a pair of walks to bring Grier and Robert up with a chance to tie the game or take the lead, but a Grier strikeout and a Robert fly ball gave Alabama the victory.
Auburn and Alabama will play game two of the series on Saturday at 3 p.m. Senior Rocky McCord (5-3, 3.34 ERA) will get the start for the Tigers against Jake Walters (4-3, 2.45) for Alabama.