Taking over for starter Grant Dayton when the game started back in the fourth inning, Ray silenced the Alabama bats as he gave up just two hits the rest of the way to pick up his second win of the week. He has now pitched 19 consecutive scoreless innings and allowed just five hits during that stretch to become a big part of things for the Tigers down the stretch run.
The highlight came Saturday though as he helped the Tigers clinch the series victory over the Crimson Tide. Auburn improves to 31-24 overall and 11-18 in SEC play and puts itself in serious consideration for an at-large berth in the NCAA Regionals next week. Ray said that's not a concern right now though because Auburn's focus is all about beating Alabama.
"It was a lot of fun," Ray said. "It was a big adrenaline rush with it being Alabama. We needed a win today to get the series. Hopefully we can come out the next game and finish the deal."
With a two-run lead, Ray went back out in the ninth inning instead of Auburn closer Austin Hubbard. Getting the first two hitters, Ray gave up a liner off the bat of Alex Kubal that banged off the monster in left field. Coming up with the ball quickly, Brian Fletcher threw a strike to second to cut down Kubal and end the game with Ray still on the mound. He said it was big for him to get to finish, but he just wanted the win in any fashion.
"I expected to come back out there," Ray said. "I figured if someone got on then we were going to Austin. It feels good (to finish it) whether it was me or Austin. Either one of us."
Dayton faced some trouble in the first inning on Friday evening, giving up two hits, before striking out Jake Smith to end the threat. His offense took advantage of an early opportunity to get on the board first. Leading off, Trent Mummey was hit by a pitch and stole second to move into scoring position for Ben Jones. Continuing his strong play as a senior, Jones laced a double to left field to give Auburn a 1-0 lead.
Alabama would again threaten in the top of the second as Clay Jones and Wes Henderson singled to start the inning. Back to back pop ups by the Crimson Tide, the first on a bunt attempt, gave Dayton a little breathing room. That quickly evaporated as Taylor Dugas singled off Dayton to load the bases for Josh Rutledge. Bearing down, Dayton struck out Rutledge to keep the Crimson Tide off the scoreboard.
It wouldn't last long though as they finally got to Dayton in the third. A two-out walk to Smith was all Alabama needed to get going as Jones followed with his second hit of the game, this time a double, to tie the game at one.
Just like the Crimson Tide in the top of the inning, Auburn used a two-out and nobody on situation to start a rally in the bottom of the third. Fletcher started things with a single to left and Hunter Morris followed with a single of his own to right field to bring Tony Caldwell to the plate. With a pair of two-out singles that scored runs on Thursday, Caldwell again came though with a bloop single to right to score Fletcher and put Auburn ahead 2-1. Casey McElroy followed with an infield single and just like that the lead was 3-1 Tigers.
With two outs and nobody on, Dugas singled just as lightning crashed across the sky. The rains soon followed forcing a postponement until Saturday morning. When the game resumed Ray was on the mound for the Tigers and quickly got a ground ball to get out of the inning.
The bottom of the fourth saw the Tigers miss a golden opportunity to add to their lead against reliever Jimmy Nelson. Leading things off, Wes Gilmer doubled into the gap in left field and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Chezz McCann. A walk to Mummey seemed like the perfect thing for the Tigers with Alabama's lack of success slowing down the running game to this point.
However, Mummey didn't go on the first pitch and Jones swung at his next two attempts as the count raced to full. Taking off on what he thought was the pitch, Mummey fell victim to the fake to third and was picked off. Jones ground out to end the scoring chance for Auburn.
From that point forward it was all pitching as Ray cruised to the victory. At the plate both Fletcher and McElroy had two hits for the Tigers while Dugas and Jones had two each for the Crimson Tide.
Auburn will for for the sweep beginning at 3 p.m. in the final game of the regular season on Saturday. It is seven-inning contest and will be shown on Fox Sports Net South. Freshman Dexter Price gets the ball for Auburn against Adam Morgan for Alabama.