Montgomery, Ala.--Auburn continued its dominance of Alabama in the Capital City Classic on Tuesday as the Tigers’ bullpen pitched the final five and two/thirds innings without allowing an earned run in a 4-3 baseball victory at Riverwalk Stadium for the eighth win in nine tries in the game. With the victory Auburn improves to 21-6 overall while Alabama falls to 12-13 on the season.
Starter Christian Camacho pitched three and one/third innings, allowing two runs on four hits, but it was the bullpen that stole the show. Corey Herndon, Ryan Watson and Andrew Mitchell combined to allow just one hit the rest of the way with Herndon picking up his first win. Mitchell pitched the final one and one/third innings to record his first save of the year for the Tigers.
“I look at the first three guys to enter the game and I got a freshman, a junior-college transfer who has never played in this game and another freshman who get us all the way to (the eighth inning),” Thompson said. “You can’t put new players on our team in a better environment than they were in tonight.”
Auburn junior Jay Estes earned MVP honors because of two impressive defensive plays. The first came after moving from left field to second base in the sixth. Chandler Taylor hit a ringing double to right field and Estes threw him out trying to stretch a double to a triple.
In the eighth inning he made an even more important play. With runners on first and second for Alabama and Auburn clinging to a one-run lead, Estes fielded a ball behind the bag sliding to his right. His flip to Will Holland covering second base was just in time to retire the runner.
“I just got to the ball and flipped it up," he said. "I’ve got to give Will Holland a huge thank you for staying on the bag and finishing the play."
Jay Estes goes to his right to make the game's biggest play.
Following a pair of scoreless innings Auburn finally broke through in the third against Alabama starter Garret Rukes. Entering the game with a 2-1 record and an ERA of 0.74, Rukes kept Auburn off balance until Anthony led off the third with a single through the right side.
Working a walk, one of his two on the night, Blake Logan moved to first to bring Holland up with a chance to move the runners into scoring position. Putting down a bunt, Holland reached first with a single and when Connor Short’s throw got by the first baseman it allowed Anthony to score the game’s first run.
With runners on second and third following the error, Rukes came back to strike out Jonah Todd for the first out of the inning before intentionally walking Estes to load the bases for Luke Jarvis. The plan worked for Alabama as Rukes struck out Jarvis for the second out to bring Robert to the plate.
Battling at the plate, Robert got down 1-2 before fighting off a pitch that fell into left field for a single. Both Logan and Holland scored to make it a 3-0 lead before Dylan Ingram struck out to end the frame.
Alabama got one back in the bottom of the third thanks to plenty of help from Auburn. With one out Camacho hit Short before uncorking a wild pitch to move him to second. Chandler Avant moved him to third before he scored on a Cobie Vance single to put Alabama on the board.
In the fourth Alabama inched closer with another single run, again thanks to some help from the Tigers. Leading off with a single to right field, Kyle Kaufman advanced to second on a walk to Tanner DeVinny. Attempting to bunt the runners over, Hunter Alexander reached first when Camacho’s throw to first pulled Ingram off the bag.
Now with the bases loaded and nobody out, Chandler Taylor’s fly ball to center scored Avant and put runners on first and third for Short. Bringing Herndon out of the pen, Auburn pulled the right card as he got a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning and keep the Tigers in front.
That lasted just an inning and once again Auburn’s defense was the culprit. An error on Jarvis started things for Alabama and a bunt moved him to second with one out. Following a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly to center field scored the runner to tie the game at three.
In the sixth Auburn moved back in front and Robert was again at the center of things. Working a walk to start the inning, the senior stole second base to move into scoring position with one out. That brought Alabama reliever Garrett Suchey out of the pen to face freshman Conor Davis. His fly ball to right moved Robert to third and brought Anthony up with a chance to put the Tigers in front. Rolling over a ball to the left side, Anthony beat the throw to first for an infield single to score Robert and make it 4-3 Tigers.
Cruising through his first two and two/thirds innings, Watson ran into trouble with two outs in the eighth. Issuing back-to-back walks to Kaufman and DeVinny brought Mitchell out of the Auburn bullpen trying to protect the lead.
That’s when Estes would make the play of the game.
Facing Alexander, Mitchell got a ground ball deep in the hole behind the bag at second. Moving from right field to second earlier in the game, Estes slid to his right and grabbed the ball. His flip to Holland just beat a sliding DeVinny to end the inning and keep Auburn in front. Mitchell finished things off for the Tigers to secure the win.
Auburn returns to action this weekend when the Tigers take on sixth-ranked South Carolina in a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times are scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT on Friday, 5 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.