Leading 3-2 following a three-run sixth, Auburn couldn't hold on as two mistakes on bunts and two hit batters were the difference as the Tigers fell to 24-20, 8-12 in SEC play while Alabama improves to 23-21, 9-11 in the conference.
"I'm just disappointed in the fact that we've been such a good defensive club all year," Slater said. "We've been really good on defense and the one thing we haven't done is beat ourselves a whole lot. We might make a bad pitch and have it hit out of the park or we might not have a great day at the plate for some reason, but one thing we haven't done is beat ourselves.
"Certainly that seventh inning, two hit batters and two bad, bad plays on bunts... We don't typically beat ourselves and today in the seventh we did."
That one inning ruined a very good pitching day for the Tigers as starter Cory Luckie gave up two runs in the first before leaving after two innings with a strained forearm. Taylor Thompson came on in relief and was spectacular, pitching four scoreless innings in his best outing of the season, allowing just two hits. Unfortunately for the Tigers, reliever Michael Hurst struggled, not recording an out and giving up three runs in the seventh. Evan Crawford came on and had another good outing, but it was too little too late for Auburn.
"It's real tough," Thompson said. "We battled all day long. We got the lead in the sixth and kept battling. It's tough that Hurst came in and gave up that inning. He had been real good for us all year.
"I felt pretty good," he added. "It was a little tough commanding my fastball today, but my secondary pitches really helped me out so I felt pretty good."
Normally pinpoint in his control, Luckie struggled in the first inning and it came back to haunt him. He walked Josh Rutledge to lead off the game, but quickly recovered to get the next two outs before Alex Avila followed with a single to right field to set the table for Kent Matthes. Driving a pitch to the opposite side, Matthes' double to the gap in right center scored both runners to put Alabama up 2-0.
Auburn couldn't avoid the bad luck on Saturday as Luckie came up lame before the third inning as pain in his throwing elbow sent him to the bench and brought Thompson into the game. The hard throwing sophomore immediately went to work as he pitched scoreless innings in the third and fourth to set up Auburn's offense in the fifth.
Taylor Thompson was very good on Saturday.
It wasn't what you would call an outburst, but one swing of the bat was worth a run in the fifth for the Tigers. With two outs and nobody on shortstop Matt Hall drilled a 3-2 pitch off the top of the wall in left field for his third home run of the season. The blast cut Alabama's lead in half and it took a good defensive play to keep it that way in the bottom of the inning.
Auburn had retired a combined 12 Alabama hitters before Alex Kubal's two-out single to center field brought that to an end. It got the Crimson Tide going as Rutledge singled to extend his hitting streak to 21 games and move Kubal to third for Ross Wilson. Perhaps the defensive play of the game came then as Tony Caldwell threw out a stealing Rutledge at second to end the inning with Auburn still in front.
That lasted until the bottom of the seventh as questionable defense by the Tigers and good fortune by the Crimson Tide cost Auburn dearly. Hurst came on and immediately hit pinch-hitter Matt Bentley to put himself in trouble. Jake Smith then popped a bunt up that Joseph Sanders couldn't field cleanly at first base for a hit to put runners on first and second. Another bunt, this one by Kyle Moore right back to Hurst, proved to be the big play as Hurst threw it away at third for the error. Bentley scored on the play and runners moved to second and third with nobody out.
It was only the beginning of Auburn's problems as pinch-hitter Tyler Odle's bloop single to right field scored Smith to put Alabama back in front. A second hit batter of the inning, this time on Rutledge, loaded the bases and was the end of the day for Hurst as Crawford came in to replace him. Crawford struck out Wilson, but a single to right by Brandon May scored Moore to make it 5-3. On the play Rutledge overran second and was thrown out for the second out. A groundout by Avila brought the inning to a close, but the damage was done as Alabama scored three to take command of the game.
Auburn got a run back in the top of the eighth as Mike Bianucci drove an Austin Graham pitch deep over the right field wall and into the tree for a solo home run. It was his eighth homer of the season and made it 5-4 Alabama, but that would be as close as the Tigers would come. In the ninth with two outs pinch hitter Ben Jones singled to right field, but was caught off first base and tagged out for the final out of the game.
Auburn will try to win the series on Sunday afternoon as freshman Bradley Hendrix will get the call against Robert Phares for Alabama. The game time is scheduled for 2 p.m.