Even with the loss Auburn won the series over the 10th-ranked Crimson Tide (37-17, 18-11) and counting an early victory took three of four from its arch rival this season. Combined with an RPI of 32 at the moment and a strength of schedule in the Top 12, the Tigers will have a chance at an at-large selection when the NCAA Regionals are announced on May 25 at 11:30 a.m.
"Coming down the home stretch our goal was to finish strong," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "We won four of our last five games against very good competition. That's a tough question. Maybe they'll consider us. At least maybe we helped ourselves. I don't think we hurt ourselves here down the stretch. What they decide to do, who knows. There is a lot of baseball to be played. A lot of things are going to have to fall our way and there can't be any upsets."
In Saturday's third game the Tigers celebrated Senior Day with Ben Jones, Paul Burnside and Kris West honored before the game. Winning the first two games of the series, game three wasn't as much fun for the home team as Alabama jumped on top early by building an 8-0 lead and cruising to the victory with three home runs and 16 total hits. Freshman pitcher Adam Morgan allowed just five hits, three of them solo home runs, as he pitched a complete game seven-inning victory for the win.
"That's what we thought coming into this weekend, a lot of home runs," Pawlowski said. "We hit some, they obviously hit some home runs, we pitched very well, but in this last game we didn't pitch well. They put some good swings on it and I thought that was the difference."
Held to just three runs in the first two games of the series, Alabama equaled that total in one inning early in game three. After a scoreless first, Auburn starter Dexter Price ran into problems to lead off the second as Kent Matthes led off the inning with a solo home run off the flagpole in right field. It was his 27th of the season to tie Doug Duke's team record set in 1986. Brandon May followed with a single to center field to bring Jake Smith to the plate. Supplying some power of his own, Smith golfed a Price breaking ball over the monster in left field for his 18th of the season. That gave Alabama a commanding 3-0 lead.
With Morgan cruising on the mound, Alabama came back for more in the third inning and chased two Auburn pitchers in the process. Alex Kubal led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Another single, this one by Josh Rutledge, put runners on first and third with one out.
That would be all for Price as Bradley Hendrix came on in relief and failed to get an out as Matthes singled home a run, a walk to May, and a two-run single by Smith made for a quick day for the sophomore. Ty Kelley came on to get the final two outs of the inning, but not before Alabama had built a 6-0 advantage.
The lead grew in the fourth as the Crimson Tide added two runs off Kelley before Michael Hurst came on to close the door. Auburn finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth thanks to the long ball. Homerless on the weekend, Brian Fletcher put an end to that as his solo shot to right field cut the Alabama lead to 8-1 heading to the fifth.
Auburn would add two more to the tally in the fifth as catcher Tony Caldwell sent one over the right field wall to start the inning and make it a six-run lead for Alabama. It was Caldwell's ninth of the season. One out later designated hitter Joseph Sanders launched one deep to center field for his 19th of the season. That made it 8-3 Alabama with just two innings remaining.
The home run was a bright spot on an otherwise tough game for the Tigers. Out with a broken jaw since April 21, the junior came back this weekend and was the only Auburn player with two hits in the game. He said for him it just felt great to get back on the field and contribute.
"It felt really good to get that home run," Sanders said. "I would have taken a bleeder over the second baseman to get a hit and get back, but the home run made it nice. It was special to me."
Down 8-3 heading into the last inning, Pawlowski put senior Paul Burnside on the mound to start the inning and he allowed three runs on two hits. Scott Shuman finished things off, allowing two runs on three hits as Alabama scored five to put the game away. Still, Sanders said it didn't take away from what the team accomplished this weekend in winning the series.
"It's big," Sanders said. "It's huge. It's a cross town rival. To go out there and win three out of four on them, it would have been nice to sweep them. We did a good by winning three of four and hopefully it put us with a shot to get in the tournament."