Auburn, Ala.--A thorn in Auburn’s side all weekend, Chandler Taylor’s leadoff double in the 15th inning led to a pair of runs for Alabama and they held off a Tiger rally for an 11-9 victory to sweep the series.
With the loss Auburn falls to 32-17 on the season and 14-9 in the SEC while Alabama improves to 18-29, 5-19 in league action. The weekend strikes a huge blow to the Tigers’ chances of hosting a regional and leaves them with work to do in order to even get in the NCAA Tournament with two league series remaining at LSU and at home against Ole Miss.
In a game filled with more ups and downs than most three-game series, Auburn’s defense and lack of timely hitting again proved to be the downfall. Making three errors and leaving 22 runners on base in 15 innings, 10 in the final six innings alone, Coach Butch Thompson’s team had it’s worst possible weekend at the worst possible time with two-win SEC team Alabama sweeping the series.
“I thought there were five or six times that both teams probably thought they could win the ballgame,” Thompson said. “Over and over you kept thinking that being the home team was the advantage and you would cash in. You can’t make a living on two-out hits but we sure could have used one a few times to finish it off.
“I’ve never been more proud to be the head coach of Auburn baseball to work with these guys. I thought they did everything I asked them to do as far as coming out and competing all the way to the last pitch. I give them credit for that and told them that what I need from them now is to make sure they keep working hard.
“They’ve played so well and stayed together so good that they’ve built up for a rainy day. Now we’ve cashed that in. Every bit of the series is my responsibility and in return what I ask of my young men is that they stay connected and get together and make sure we can come right back out for UAB on Tuesday and LSU this weekend.”
In a game that saw Auburn use nine different pitchers, freshman Davis Daniel had the longest outing, allowing three earned runs on five hits in four innings on 67 pitches. Fellow freshman Ryan Watson took the loss, allowing two runs on two hits in one and one/thirds innings.
At the plate Jay Estes and Dylan Ingram both had three hits to lead the Tigers as they piled up 16 hits on the night. In addition Auburn walked 16 times and had 35 total base runners.
Following back and forth action for much of the night, the game was tied at six in the 11th inning when Auburn had a choice to make with two outs and nobody on and Taylor at the plate. Already with two home runs and killing the ball all weekend, the Tigers chose to pitch to the left-hander and he hit a Gabe Klobosits 2-2 pitch over the wall in center field for a solo home run to give Alabama a 7-6 lead.
The Tigers wouldn’t give in however as Ingram walked to start the bottom of the inning before Josh Anthony’s ground ball retired him at second. A wild pitch moved the Auburn third baseman to second before another wild pitch moved him to third on ball four of a walk to Damon Haecker.
With runners on the corners, redshirt freshman Jeremy Johnson went the other way on a pitch from Alabama reliever Deacon Medders and sliced it past the first baseman. Second baseman Cobie Vance made the play to retire Johnson, but Anthony scored on the play to tie the game and send it to the 12th.
Alabama scored a pair of runs in the top of the 13th inning on a squeeze bunt and a walk to pitcher Zac Rogers with the bases loaded by Auburn’s Corey Herndon to move back in front 9-7, but once again the Tigers would answer. Leading off the inning with a double to left, Ingram moved to third on an Anthony single and scored on an error to bring Auburn back to within one. Moving to third on the play himself, Anthony scored on a Johnson sacrifice fly to once again tie the game.
That set the stage for Alabama’s win in the 15th inning, but Auburn would again threaten as Holland walked and Jonah Todd singled to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. Instead of bunting Estes the Tigers played for the big inning but instead he popped up to the pitcher. A ground ball out by Conor Davis and a fly out by Ingram ended the last Auburn rally of the night.
Butch Thompson argues the call in the 7th inning
The game should have never gone into extra innings without several terrible calls by the umpire crew of Darrell Arnold, Ray Gregson, Marcus Patillo and David Wiley. The first of those came in the seventh inning with Auburn clinging to a 4-3 lead and runners on first and third with one out. With Andrew Mitchell on the mound and facing Vance, a ball in the dirt bounced and was swung on by the Alabama second baseman.
Bouncing off the ground before hitting the bat, the ball popped up to Ingram at first and his throw to third secured what should have been a double play. After talking things over the umpires ruled the ball was hit first into the ground before chopping to Ingram. Instead of double play Alabama had a run score and runners on first and third. Auburn compounded the missed call with an error to allow a second run to score in the inning and put Alabama in front 5-4.
“I think we both agreed the pitch hit the dirt,” Thompson said of he and the umpires. “It came up and hit the bat and the disagreement was drawn right there. I thought once the pitch hit the ground and hit the bat I thought it was a pop up to the first baseman. I was actually imploring as loud as I could to go to third base and complete a double play.
“I think multiple umpires in the field hat that the pitch hit the dirt, hit the bat, hit the ground again and then a pop up to first base. I tried to see every situation possible for that to be a reviewable play but it was not deemed that way by the umpires.”
In the bottom of the seventh the umpires again made themselves known as Auburn had runners on first and third with one out. Hitting what looked to be an inning-ending double play, Bo Decker was called safe, setting off Alabama first baseman Hunter Alexander and Coach Greg Goff. In the meantime Anthony noticed that he was forgotten about and he scored to tie the game.
That was only a sign of things to come in game that Alabama would eventually win in 15 innings.
By The Numbers
Total Game Time: 6:36
By The Numbers: Total pitches--567
Total Players Seeing Action: 44
Total Pitchers Used: 17 pitchers
At Bats: 115 official at bats and 26 walks
Errors: 3 for Auburn gives them 8 in three games vs. Alabama this weekend
Jay Estes ties Auburn record with 9 at-bats in a single game