Tide Rallies Again To Top Tigers In Tuscaloosa

For a second straight game, the Auburn Tigers couldn't protect a good lead against archrival Alabama.

Auburn, Ala.--The look on Steve Renfroe's face said volumes Saturday evening at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

For a second straight day, his baseball Tigers let Alabama rally late for a kick in the groin victory. The Friday night blow was a tough one to absorb. The one just before sunset on Saturday was even tougher to take after a 6-5 Alabama victory.

"We needed a couple of more runs, but we need to stop somebody when the game is on the line, that is all there is to it," Renfroe noted, as the sweat flowed off his brow in steady streams and Alabama fans celebrated a walk-on home run victory in the background.

Moments earlier, Tide senior first baseman Brent Boyd launched a one-out, two-run homer over the left field wall to finish the game in dramatic fashion. It was the sixth time this season Bama had won the game in its last at-bat and the 17th comeback win for the Tide this season.

Colby Paxton left the game with the lead on Saturday, but the bullpen did not come through for the Tigers.

"Again, we battled to hold a lead and we can't hold a lead," said a disgusted Renfroe, who watched Cory Dueitt blow a save opportunity in relief of Colby Paxton, who had a solid outing after being bombed a week earlier by Mississippi State.

The previous night, Auburn's current No. 1 closer, Steven Register, could not get the job done and he was unavailable to pitch on Saturday. "He said he couldn't go today," Renfroe noted. "Cory got out of a jam (in the previous inning) and then he got their best hitter (catcher Jeremy Brown) and strikes him out and then he makes one bad pitch and Boyd, a guy who has been around, hits it out. It is a hard one to swallow, but you have got to tip your hat to Alabama. They hung in there. There is not a whole lot you can say."

One thing to add to the analysis of the situation is that the Tigers dug a hole for themselves to climb out of in their quest for an NCAA bid. The Tigers dropped to 9-11 in the SEC and 27-17 overall. Alabama improved to 15-5 in the conference and 37-7 overall.

"We have got to find probably six more wins," Renfroe said, when asked what it is going to take to get to postseason play. "Tomorrow is one shot at it. Everytime you let one go that is one less opportunity that you don't have. We will show up tomorrow and play hard and hopefully get something to go our way."

The Tigers got two hits from Chuck Jeroloman, Jonathan Schuerholz and Javon Moran. "This game is a heartbreaker, but we have got to come back tomorrow ready to play and get one from them. We need to make one better pitch and do a better job of bringing in runners with men in scoring position and two outs."

Jeroloman has not been swinging the bat like a number nine hitter this weekend. "I feel good at the plate and I am seeing it well," he said. "The ball looks pretty big coming up there. I am just trying to hit it where it is pitched. I am just trying to stay down on the ball. I had been rolling over on it too much. I have been working on going the other way."

After getting out of potential trouble in the bottom of the first with a 5-4-3 double play, Auburn struck for four runs in the top of the second inning.

Trent Pratt led off the inning and started the rally with a line drive to right center. Scott Schade After Doug Vines struck out, a bunt single on the first base side of lefty pitcher Jeffrey Norris gave the Tigers the first run of the game. Shortstop Jeroloman hit a line drive single to center field to score the second run.

Leadoff hitter Schuerholz grounded out to short, but drove home a run after a pitch in the dirt put runners on second and third. Sean Gamble then hit a liner right past the pitcher for an RBI that put the Tigers on top 4-0 before Moran grounded out to end the inning.

The Tigers used another twin killing in the bottom of the second to get out of trouble. This one was started by pitcher Paxton, who had botched a similar play in the first inning. The double play left a runner stranded on third.

A double play was big again for the Tigers in the third inning, but not before the Tide got a run. This one had the natives on edge when Brown was called for interference on a relay throw from second to first made by Hulett. That negated a potential second run for Bama.

In the fifth inning, the Tigers added a run although they missed a chance for a big inning. Schuerholz singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and error on the pitcher that allowed Gamble to reach first. Moran then hit a line drive single to right that loaded the bases and chased Tide starter Norris.

Right-handed relief pitcher Jared Woodward got Huddleston to pop up to shortstop after falling behind 3-0. Pratt then walked on a 3-1 pitch to make the score 5-1 and that brought out the hook, too, as Tide coach Jim Wells went to the bullpen for right-hander Brian Reed. He was able to stop the threat by striking out Schade and forcing Vines to ground out to first base with the pitcher covering the bag.

In the sixth inning, a leadoff walk to Brown was followed by two fly ball outs to left field. A seeing-eye single up the middle by Chad White put runners on the corner and another seeing-eye single, just past shortstop Jeroloman by Carlos Sosa, cut the Auburn lead to 5-2 and left runners on first and second. Travis Garner then hit a ground ball just inside the third base bag for a double that scored another run and led to a pitching change for the Tigers.

Steve Renfroe signals to the bullpen for a pitching change as Colby Paxton (center) and Trent Pratt wait on Cory Dueitt to arrive.

Sophomore right-hander Cory Dueitt inherited runners on second and third with leadoff hitter McClanahan at the plate. A base on balls loaded the bases. Dueitt then dueled with shortstop Adam Pavkovich on the next at-bat that included six foul balls with two strikes before first baseman Schade caught a line drive to end the inning.

The Tide cut the Auburn lead to one run in the eighth inning as White singled past the pitcher to start the rally and moved to second on a walk to Sosa. Travis Garner moved the runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt and White scored on a groundout to shortstop. Dueitt prevented more damage by getting Adam Pavkovich to hit into a groundout to Hulett at second, who made the play exciting by slipping before the ball arrived. However, he recovered nicely to throw out the runner at first.

Peter Stonard doubled to left field to start the ninth inning for the Tide. Brown struck out swinging for the first out in what was also the first strikeout of the game by Auburn pitching. Boyd then promptly homered deep to left field to end the game as the Tide won 6-5.

The Tigers and Tide will wrap up the series with a 2 p.m. Sunday contest. There will be no TV coverage of the game.

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