Tigers Take Walk Off Win In 10th Vs. Tide

Auburn scored runs in the ninth and 10th innings to defeat 10th-ranked Alabama 3-2 in the SEC baseball series opener.

Auburn, Ala.--Trailing by a run heading to the ninth inning, the Auburn Tigers (30-24, 10-18) got a two-out single from Tony Caldwell to tie the game and a bases loaded walk by Brian Fletcher in the 10th to secure a win over 10th-ranked Alabama 3-2 on Thursday night at Plainsman Park.

Auburn pitchers Jon Luke Jacobs and Austin Hubbard combined to allow just five hits and strike out 14 in the victory.

"The kids just kept battling back," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "You look at the numbers coming into this game...that's why college baseball is such an exciting game. You look at all the home runs by both teams and you look at what transpired.

"Both pitchers went out there and were dominating. We couldn't get much going, but fortunately for us we battled back. Jon Luke Jacobs did a great job and we were able to come up with some big hits."

Alabama (36-16, 17-10) starter Austin Hyatt had a great outing, too, allowing just one run on four hits in 8 1/3 innings, but the story was the job done by Jacobs and Hubbard. In his first start against Alabama, Jacobs allowed two runs on three hits in seven innings and struck out nine. Hubbard followed it up by allowing just two hits and striking out five in three innings to earn his third win of the season.

"It's awesome," Hubbard said. "That's a huge win. We have played with half of the guys on that team so we've got a little high school rivalry going on. This is a huge win. It's a lot of fun to win like that."

For Jacobs it was a tale of domination as he kept the Crimson Tide off balance the entire night. Coming into the game hitting .337 as a team, Alabama had just five hits on the night. Particularly important was the job Auburn did on Kent Matthes. The leading home run hitter in the SEC, Matthes was 0-3 with three K's in the loss. Jacobs said that it was the outing of his career to this point.

"It was a really good night," Jacobs said. "The fastball was going well tonight. That's a big key for me. If I can get that going then my other stuff will come around. That was the big key for me tonight.

"It was definitely a career night for me," he added. "You just try to come out in a big series like this with your best stuff. It showed up tonight and I felt good on the mound. Things went well."

Jon Luke Jacobs held Alabama to three hits in seven innings of work.

Trailing 2-1 heading to the bottom of the ninth inning, Auburn was looking for some offense against Hyatt. With just four hits against the right-hander, the Tigers needed some help and they got it from Alabama head coach Jim Wells. Following a ground ball out to start the inning, Wells went to the bullpen and reliever Nathan Kilcrease. With Hyatt at 128 pitches it may have been the right move, but it was just what Auburn needed.

A single by Fletcher started a rally for the Tigers as shortstop Casey McElroy followed with a single of his own to right field. However, the freshman rounded first too far, lost his balance and slipped as he tried to get back to the base. He was thrown behind for the second out of the inning.

That left it all up to catcher Tony Caldwell. Already with one two-out single in the game that scored a run, Caldwell took a Kilcrease pitch to right field to score Fletcher and tie the game at two.

"On the scouting report it showed he threw off-speed a ton," Caldwell said. "I was sitting curveball the whole time. I swung at the first one and just missed it, but I was on top of it. He threw me a fastball outside and I just reacted and went to right with it."

With the game tied at two, Hubbard shut down the Crimson Tide in the 10th to bring the Auburn offense back in with a chance to win it. Leading off, sophomore Wes Gilmer drilled a single to get things going. Following a sacrifice bunt by Justin Hargett, Trent Mummey and Ben Jones were both hit by pitches to load the bases with just one out.

Facing hard throwing reliever Tyler White, first baseman Hunter Morris popped up to the infield for the second out of the 10th inning to bring Fletcher to the plate. After taking the first two pitches, one ball and one strike, Fletcher swung at what would have been ball three. Now behind in the count, the sophomore watched as White's next three pitches sailed high to walk him and force home pinch runner Bradley Ray with the winning run.

Locked in a pitcher's duel to start the game, the Tigers and Crimson Tide made it to the fourth before Alabama would break out on top. With one out shortstop Josh Rutledge hit a blooper into shallow right field that fell in for a double. Following a Wilson flyout, a walk to Matthes brought Brandon May to the plate. An Auburn killer during his career, May singled through the hole at third base to score Rutledge and put Alabama up 1-0.

With Hyatt shutting down the Tigers, Alabama threatened again in the fifth as a one-out walk to Vin DiFazio and a hit-by-pitch to Alex Kubal to a runner in scoring position with the top of Crimson Tide order coming to the plate. Settling down, Jacobs got both Taylor Dugas and Rutledge on fly balls to Trent Mummey in center field to keep the Tigers' deficit at just one.

Reaching second base just twice in the first six innings and not scoring a run, Auburn finally broke though in the bottom of the seventh after a leadoff single from first baseman Hunter Morris. With a runner on first, Fletcher struck out to bring McElroy to the plate. Working a full count, the freshman shortstop struck out but Morris was running on the pitch and stole second to move into scoring position. It proved to be a huge play as catcher Caldwell's single up the middle scored the sophomore to tie the game at one.

Just like they've done many times this season, the Tigers gave the run back in the eighth as Kubal led off the inning with a single to bring Jacobs' day to a close. Hubbard came on and got Dugas on a popup before a Rutledge groundout moved Kubal to third with two outs. Hubbard did his job, getting Wilson to hit a ground ball, but the second baseman beat the Gamache throw to first for an infield hit on the high chooper that was just barely fair. That allowed the go-ahead run to score making it 2-1 Alabama.

Auburn threatened in the bottom of the inning though as Gamache walked, only the 10th of the season issued by Hyatt. A perfect bunt by Justin Hargett moved the runner to second and after a flyout by Mummey, Ben Jones hit a liner to first base that Clay Jones made a diving grab of to save a run and keep Alabama in the lead. Auburn would come back to earn the victory, number two on the season against the Crimson Tide.

Auburn and Alabama will play game two of the three-game series Friday at 6 p.m. with sophomore Grant Dayton on the mound against Del Howell for Alabama.

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