Big Inning Haunts Tigers In Sweep

The baseball Tigers struggled again on their road trip to Tuscaloosa in the series finale.

Tuscaloosa, Ala.--Alabama hit two home runs in the seventh inning to break open a pitcher's duel on the way to a 7-0 win Sunday afternoon and a series sweep over the Auburn Tigers.

The loss drops Auburn to 27-18 overall and 9-12 in league baseball play while Alabama improves to 38-7 overall and 16-5 in SEC play.

Trailing 2-0 heading to the seventh inning, the Tigers were looking for anything off Alabama starter Shane Sanders to get some life. With just two hits through six innings Auburn's bats were silent to say the least. That looked like it would change as Sean Gamble led off the inning with a single to right field. Center fielder Javon Moran followed with a single of his own and all of the sudden the Tigers were in business for the first time on the day. Things got even better with Bobby Huddleston at the plate as Sanders, attempting a pick-off move to first, threw the ball away allowing Gamble and Moran to advance into scoring position with nobody out.

In what has become a common occurrence for the Tigers lately, something bad was just around the corner. Huddleston did his job by lifting a fly ball to Scott McClanahan in right field that sent Gamble racing home from third towards catcher Jeremy Brown. The throw from the outfield beat Gamble to the plate but a late tag from Brown allowed Gamble to sneak in safely, or so it appeared. Not seeing it the same way, the home plate umpire called Gamble out for the second out of the inning. Trent Pratt then ripped a drive deep into right-center field only to see McClanahan make a diving catch to end the inning, sending the overflow crowd into an uproar.

Sean Gamble had one of Auburn's five hits on the day.

Alabama would ride the momentum of the defensive stand in the bottom half of the inning as Brent Boyd led off with a solo home run off Auburn starter Levale Speigner that signaled the beginning of the end for the Tigers. Cruising since the first inning, the junior from Thomasville, Ga. had retired 13-straight Tide hitters to keep Auburn in the game but things would get bad in a hurry. Working inside to the next batter Travis Garner, Speigner hit him in the back causing Alabama to rush out of the dugout. Auburn's players in the field came to Speigner's side but cooler heads prevailed and play resumed, unfortunately for Auburn. One out later Carlos Sosa executed a hit-and-run to perfection, hitting the ball through the right side to put runners on first and third with one out. Gabe Scott plated Garner on a deep fly ball bringing the defensive hero of the game McClanahan to the plate. Getting the pitch he wanted, the senior drove one deep over the left field wall to give Alabama the commanding 6-0 lead. They would add another run in the eighth to make the final 7-0, returning the favor on Auburn's sweep from one season ago.

Mental mistakes put Auburn in the early hole. With only a Moran single to show for the top of the first inning, Auburn sent Speigner to the mound hoping to get off to a good start but it wasn't to be. McClanahan led off with a single and Adam Pavkovich followed with a single as well to put runners on first and second. Peter Stonard then sacrificed himself with a bunt back to Speigner but nobody was covering first base for the Tigers, leaving the bases loaded with still nobody out. After a Brown pop-up for the first out, Boyd hit a fly ball to score McClanahan with the first run of the game and move Pavkovich to third. That would be important as Stonard took off from first drawing a throw from Pratt. Unable to nail Stonard at second, the throw allowed Pavkovich to walk home from third with the second run of the first.

With two runs under his belt Sanders would cruise until the seventh. Getting Auburn out 1-2-3 in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings, he had the Tigers completely baffled for much of the game. Things started getting better for the Tigers in the sixth as Jonathan Schuerholz singled with two outs to break up a string of 15 consecutive batters retired by Sanders. But it wouldn't matter as the junior strayed from first a little too far and was picked-off to end the inning with Gamble at the plate, setting the stage for the dramatic and crucial seventh inning.

Moran led the Tigers with two of Auburn's five hits while Schuerholz, Gamble and Doug Vines rounded out a day when Auburn could manage just singles. McClanahan led Alabama with two hits and two runs batted in while Boyd also had two RBI.

Auburn returns to action Tuesday night at 6:30 when they travel to Montgomery's Paterson Field to face the Troy State Trojans in a make-up game from an earlier rainout. The Tigers finally return home next weekend when they host the Vanderbilt Commodores for a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times are set for 6:30 on Friday night, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1:30 Sunday afternoon.

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