Tuscaloosa, Ala.--Alabama catcher Will Haynie tied the game with a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning and then Auburn’s defense fell apart in the 11th as a Melvin Gray error allowed the winning run to score as the baseball Tigers fell 4-3.
Auburn now drops to 1-10 in one-run games this season and 20-26 overall. Currently 7-16 in SEC play the Tigers are still in the hunt for the tournament in Hoover, but once again Coach Butch Thompson’s team will have to recover from another devastating loss.
On the mound Auburn senior Justin Camp gave the Tigers another quality outing, allowing two runs on five hits in six innings. Coming on in relief, freshman Casey Mize pitched well, but one mistake in the bottom of the ninth cost him and the Tigers in a big way.
Facing Haynie for the second time on the night, Mize was trying to avoid throwing the fastball to the .190 hitter and left a breaking ball over the middle of the plate. Haynie didn’t miss it, hitting a bomb over the left field wall to tie the game at three.
With the game now tied, Alabama had a great chance to win the game in the 10th when Cody Henry doubled and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Facing a runner on third and nobody out, Mize came back to keep the Crimson Tide off the board and keep the game tied at three.
Auburn’s night would end in the 11th, but not before a couple of bad calls cost the Tigers in a big way. With a runner on first and two outs, Kyler Deese hit a slow roller to third base. Digging down the line, Deese appeared to be safe when the foot of Alabama’s first baseman came off the bag, but it was ruled an out to end the inning. Opening the bottom of the 11th, Mize appeared to strike out Ryan Blanchard, but home plate ump Nelson Graham flinched before calling it a ball. It was a huge play as Melvin Gray booted his ground ball on the next pitch to put Alabama in business.
Following a sacrifice bunt Mize walked Cobie Vance to bring Georgie Salem to the plate. His ground ball to second looked like a perfect double play chance for the Tigers, but instead it went under Gray’s glove to allow Blanchard to score the game winner for the Crimson Tide.
“One or two pitches, but our guys just battled in there the whole way,” Thompson said. “Justin Camp did a tremendous job for us and Casey Mize did as well. Haynie, the veteran, got him in the ninth inning but he came back around and Casey did a nice job. He just kept giving us a chance.
“We just have to continue to get better in a couple of areas,” he added. “We need one or two pitches there to give ourselves a chance. We’ll keep trying to grow and get better.
“It’s the Auburn way for us to continue to battle. We grow in a couple of areas and shore a couple of things up and a lot of these hard-fought losses are going to start going our way.”
Auburn got on the board first in Saturday night’s game in the bottom of the third inning when Damon Haecker walked to bring catcher Kyler Deese to the plate. Without even a sniff of a hit the first two innings off Alabama starter Jake Walters, Deese got a pitch to hit and drove it the other way for a double. That put runners on second and third with no outs for the Tigers.
Stepping to the plate, Auburn shortstop Cody Nulph hit a ball deep in the hole that Alabama shortstop Daniel Cucjen booted for an error. That allowed Haecker to score to put the Tigers on the board. A walk to Gray then loaded the bases with no outs for the Tigers, but Anfernee Grier continued his slide with a strikeout on three pitches. Auburn took a 2-0 lead when Jordan Ebert beat out a double play ball at first, but Niko Buentello struck out to leave the bases loaded for the Tigers.
Alabama got a run back in the bottom of the fourth off Camp after Salem singled up the middle on a ball that bounced off the mound and into the outfield. With him on first and two outs Chandler Taylor smoked a ball to the wall in right-center for a double. Trying to stretch it for a triple, Taylor was thrown out at third to end the inning with Auburn up 2-1.
With reliever Dylan Duarte in for Alabama, the Tigers added to the lead in the sixth. Leading off, Buentello laced a double into left-center to get Auburn’s offense started. Following a Blake Logan line out, Jackson Burgreen singled to right field to put the Tigers back in front by two.
Working around a pair of walks in the sixth, Camp ran out of gas in the seventh as a leadoff single a walk brought his day to a close as Thompson called on Mize out of the bullpen. He quickly allowed a single to Haynie that allowed a run to score. When Grier booted the ball in center field it put runners on the corners with still nobody out and Auburn’s lead down to just one.
Coming back strong, Mize recovered to strike out Tanner DeVinny and Cucjen to bring Vance to the plate. Getting him on a line out to Gray at second, Mize worked out of the jam to keep Auburn in front 3-2. Alabama would get the comeback however to take the series.
Auburn and Alabama will finish off the series on Sunday with the final game scheduled for 3 p.m. The Tigers are expected to send left-hander Ben Braymer to the mound hoping to salvage a game.