Late Comeback Spoils Auburn's Shot At Victory

Alabama scored five runs in its final two at-bats to steal a come-from-behind 8-6 win at Auburn Saturday afternoon.

Auburn, Ala.–-Alabama roughed up Auburn closer Michael Nix for seven hits and five runs in the last two innings as the Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers 8-6 to clinch a spot in next week's SEC Tournament in Hoover and knock Auburn out with one game remaining in the regular season. Auburn now finds itself 32-23 overall and 13-16 in SEC play, tied for one-half game behind Mississippi State for eighth place in the league along with Arkansas and Vanderbilt. Coach Tommy Slater said the game was just one of those where things didn't fall Auburn's way in the end.

"That was a great college baseball game between two teams fighting their guts out," Slater said. "What can you say? Two teams just absolutely got after it. They battle back and get a lead and we battle back and answer them. It was just two teams playing their guts out. It was a great college baseball game, it really was."

Auburn starter Josh Sullivan was solid on the mound on Saturday, allowing just three hits and three runs in six innings of work. Reliever John Madden pitched a scoreless inning in the seventh to set the stage for Nix to close things out, but it wasn't to be. Trailing 4-3 heading to the eighth, Alabama pounded out three runs off Nix to take the lead and then, after Auburn tied the game in the bottom of the eighth, scored two more off Nix in the ninth to get the victory. Slater said it was just one of those days for Nix.

"Michael has been a stud for us all year," Slater said. "Today was just a day where he didn't locate as well as he's located all year, but he's our guy. He and Madden are our guys at the end of the game. John gave us one today, which is what he had. He did a tremendous job, but he was tired after that one. It was time to go to Michael, but it was a day where he didn't have his location and I'm still proud of him."

Auburn pitcher Josh Sullivan was solid in his start on Saturday as he pitched six innings to give the Tigers' bullpen a rest.

Auburn wasted little time jumping on Belcher as the meat of the Auburn order made the sophomore pay for a few early walks. With one out in the first inning Clete Thomas walked to bring Josh Bell to the plate. Knowing that Belcher would try to get ahead early, Bell jumped on the first pitch and lined it up the middle for a single. First baseman Karl Amonite followed by earning a walk of his own to load the bases with nobody out.

That brought left fielder Jeff Boutwell to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive, Boutwell bombed a double over the head of Emeel Salem that scored both Thomas and Bell and gave the Tigers a pair of runners in scoring position with one out. Donaldson then did his job by hitting a ground ball to the right side that scored Amonite to put Auburn ahead 3-0 after just one inning of play.

Sullivan cruised through the first two innings before the Crimson Tide got on the board in the third. Leading off first baseman Zac Welch singled to right field, just Alabama's third hit of the weekend. Following a walk to Cale Iorg, Alabama executed station-to-station baseball to perfection as back-to-back fly balls by Greg Paiml and Emeel Salem scored Welch from third with Alabama's first run. Things would remain the same until the sixth inning when the long ball finally came through for the Crimson Tide.

Salem led off with a single up the middle and stretched it do a double, beating the throw from Bruce Edwards in center field. Following a Rocky Scelfo strikeout, Gabe Scott ripped a two-run shot off the bottom of the scoreboard in left-center to tie the game at three and take the momentum back from Auburn for a short time, but Donaldson took care of that in the bottom of the inning. Getting a pitch to drive with one out, Donaldson hit it over the right field wall for his fifth home run of the season. It gave Auburn the lead back for a short time, but Alabama took things back over in the eighth off Nix.

Leading off, pinch hitter Allen Rice was hit by a pitch on a controversial ruling by home plate umpire Mark Chapman. It appeared that Rice swung at the pitch and it was called that way by Chapman, but he later awarded Rice first base much to the chagrin of Slater. It would prove to be a huge play as Salem bunted him over to second and he moved to third on a Scelfo groundout to Tyler Johnstone. The missed call potentially kept the inning alive for the Crimson Tide and Gabe Scott made it pay off for Alabama with a sharp single to left field that scored Rice to tie the game.

Third baseman Evan Bush followed things up with a double off the wall in left field that put runners on second and third still with two outs. Former Auburn player Matt Grooms then beat out an infield single that scored Scott from third to give Alabama the lead. The final run of the inning scored on a Nix wild pitch as Bush trotted home to make it 6-4 Alabama heading to the bottom of the ninth.

Auburn mounted a comeback in the inning as Amonite and Boutwell walked to lead off the inning against closer David Robertson. Donaldson followed with a fly ball to deep right field that moved Amonite to third base with just one out. Next pinch hitter Russell Dixon singled through the right side to score Amonite and cut the lead to just one and put runners on the corners. With the infield in Bruce Edwards chopped a single over the head of Bush to tie the game and give Nix another shot.

It wasn't to be on this day for the hard throwing junior as Welch singled sharply to right to lead things off and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Iorg. Rice followed with a single to right field to put runners on the corners for Salem. Before he could do any damage though a high fastball got by Bell at the plate allowing pinch-runner Morrow Thomley to score the game-winning run. The final run of the game came one batter later as Scelfo singled through the left side to score Rice and make the final 8-6.

Box Score

Auburn now needs some help on Sunday to make the postseason in Hoover as the Tigers are currently one-half game behind MSU in eighth place and tied with Vanderbilt and Arkansas. If Mississippi State defeats LSU on Sunday, Auburn must win and have a Vanderbilt loss to Florida to be seeded eighth because the Tigers hold the tie-breaker over Arkansas, but not Vanderbilt. If MSU loses then either Vanderbilt or Arkansas must lose and Auburn must win to make it to the Met. If the Tigers lose they'll be out of contention no matter what happens around the league.

Sunday the Tigers will start sophomore Jared Shore against Alabama and he will square off against junior T.J. Large for the Crimson Tide. The game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. and can be seen live on Comcast Sports Southeast.

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