Starting pitcher Arnold Hughey allowed just one hit and one run in five and two/thirds innings to earn his seventh win of the season and move Auburn (32-22, 13-15) into a seventh-place tie with Vanderbilt and Arkansas in the SEC standings with two games remaining in the regular season. Coach Tommy Slater said that his team played solid in every aspect, but it started with the man on the mound.
"His experience is huge," Slater said. "It seems like every Friday night at home he gets delayed by rain. Arnold typically follows a rough outing with a good one. Even though last weekend at Georgia he got a win and we won the game, it wasn't his best outing. It was an outing he battled through for us. Tonight he goes out there and does a great job. That's him, he usually follows a bad one with a good one."
Following Hughey was reliever John Madden and he was just as good, giving up just one hit in three and one/thirds innings to earn his seventh save of the season. At the plate the Tigers did plenty of damage as well, roughing up Alabama starter Wade LeBlanc for four runs on 10 hits in seven innings of work. First baseman Karl Amonite and catcher Josh Bell both had three hits for the Tigers in a game that Amonite said was as good as Auburn has played all season.
Arnold Hughey allowed just one hit in the victory Friday night.
"This is definitely one of the best offensive, defensive, and from a pitching point of view," Amonite said. "Alabama is a great, great club and that shows with their record. We struggled a little bit offensively to start with and didn't do a few things right, but Arnie did a great job of keeping us in it and we pulled out the win."
The Crimson Tide got off to a good start in the first inning as center fielder Emeel Salem singled to left center and moved to second base as Auburn's Ben Sprague misplayed the ball on the wet turf. Second baseman Rocky Scelfo followed with a sacrifice bunt that moved Salem to third for big hitter Gabe Scott. While he didn't get a hit, Scott hit a ground ball to the right side that easily scored Salem with the game's first run.
Auburn missed a golden opportunity to tie the game or take the lead in the third inning as Bruce Edwards led off with a double to left-center field and Adam Stacey followed by reaching on an error by Alabama's Evan Bush at third base. Edwards quickly stole third base, but it didn't matter as the top of the Auburn order went down without any problem for LeBlanc as Alabama held onto the one-run lead.
The Tigers finally evened things up in the fourth inning thanks to the punch and speed of left fielder Jeff Boutwell. With one out Boutwell took an offering from LeBlanc and sent it deep into left-center for a triple. That set up Josh Donaldson with the RBI opportunity and he delivered as he hit a ground ball to Scelfo that easily scored Boutwell to tie the game at one.
With Hughey cruising on the mound, not allowing a baserunner since the first inning, the Tigers came back for more in the fifth. Following an Edwards out, Stacey reached on an infield single and then quickly stole second to give Auburn some life. After Johnstone grounded out for the second out junior Clete Thomas came to the plate looking for something to drive. Getting just that he ripped one into the gap in left-center for a triple to score Stacey and give the Tigers the lead for the first time.
It was just the beginning of things for the Tigers in this inning though as Bell immediately doubled down the left field line to score Thomas and make it 3-1 Tigers with Amonite coming to the plate. Keeping things rolling, Amonite pushed one into left-center for a double of his own that scored Bell and made it 4-1 Tigers.
Auburn wasn't done though as the Tigers exploded for four runs in the eighth inning to put the game away. Leading off the inning Donaldson earned a walk from reliever Jordan Davis, but was retired on a fielder's choice off the bat of Sprague. Edwards followed with a single to right field that put runners on the corners for Stacey, who walked to load the bases for the top of the order.
First Johnstone hit a high hopper to Cale Iorg at short who flipped to Scelfo for the force to score Donaldson from third with the fifth Auburn run of the game. After Thomas was hit by a pitch, Bell singled to right to score two runners and make it 7-1 Tigers. The final run scored two batters later as Boutwell reached on a Bush error at third and Thomas scored to make the final 8-1 Tigers and drop Alabama's record to 35-19 overall and 15-13 in SEC play.
Elsewhere around the league the Tigers got some help as both Florida and LSU won to move Auburn up a game on Vanderbilt and Mississippi State respectively. The Tigers are now tied with the Commodores at 13-15 in the league and one half-game ahead of the Bulldogs in the race for Hoover. In Nashville Florida defeated Vanderbilt 5-4 while LSU won at Mississippi State 7-5. Ole Miss rounded out the tri-fecta with a 5-3 victory at Arkansas.
Auburn goes for the series victory Saturday afternoon at 4 as Josh Sullivan takes on Brandon Belcher in one of the best pitching match-ups of the day in the league.