"I thought it was another typical Auburn-Alabama baseball game," Auburn coach John Pawlowski said. "It was one heck of a ballgame and a great environment. Both clubs had tremendous support. I know our kids enjoyed playing in this type of environment. We were very fortunate to come out with the win tonight. I thought Michael Hurst came on in middle relief and did an outstanding job for us. Austin Hubbard, when you have to step up and make big pitches I thought these guys did a really good job for us."
Entering the game with Auburn nursing a one-run lead in the fourth inning, Hurst was outstanding as he earned MVP honors by allowing just one run on one hit in three and one/thirds innings. Getting his second win of the season, the senior said doing it against Alabama in that kind of environment made it even more special.
"With the atmosphere and all the fans coming out to support us, this means a lot," Hurst said. "It's a great atmosphere to play in. I was just trying to come out and throw strikes in the zone and let my defense work behind me. They did a great job tonight. Offensively they played a great game too, getting hits and scoring runs for us. It was a big day for us."
Auburn took its first lead in the bottom of the second inning thanks to one swing of the bat from right fielder Tony Caldwell. The SEC's leading home run hitting team, Auburn got its first of the night on a solo shot deep over the tracks in left field. It was just the sixth homer of the season allowed by Alabama pitching and put Auburn up 1-0.
After escaping some early trouble, Smith wasn't as fortunate in the top of the third inning against Alabama (16-3) as Brock Bennett doubled to left field to start things off and Taylor Dugas followed with a triple to right to tie the game. A ground ball to third base from Josh Rutledge easily scored Dugas to put Alabama in front 2-1.
Once again the long ball would be friendly to the Tigers in the bottom of the third as a one-out double by Creede Simpson and a Hunter Morris triple tied the score at two with the heart of the Auburn order coming to the plate. With a lefty on the mound Alabama wanted no part of Brian Fletcher and walked him on four pitches to bring Casey McElroy to the plate. Getting a hanging breaking ball, McElroy lined it into the patio area in right field for his second homer of the season. The three-run shot put Auburn up 5-2, but Alabama would answer right back to chase Smith from the game.
Simpson came up huge for the Tigers in the 8-6 win.
A leadoff walk to John David Smelser put the freshman in a bind as Jon Kelton followed with a bunt that popped into the air and in no-man's land to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Following a sacrifice bunt, Smith came back to strike out Bennett, but a walk to Dugas loaded the bases for Rutledge. Deciding to stick with Smith, Auburn paid the price as a single to left field scored two runs and brought Alabama back to within one before Hurst would get the final out of the fourth to keep the Tigers in front.
Auburn manufactured a run in the bottom of the fourth to pull back in front by two. Leading off, second baseman Justin Bryant struck out, but the ball got by the catcher allowing him to reach first. Following a strikeout, Justin Fradejas hit a high chopper that allowed Bryant to reach second base. Moving to third on a wild pitch, the junior college transfer scored on a Simpson single to left field. That gave the Tigers a 6-4 lead with Hurst in command on the mound.
That's how things would stay until the bottom of the seventh when the Tigers added to their lead. Morris would reach on a leadoff walk, but was erased when Fletcher's pop up on the infield was dropped and thrown to second to cut down the lead runner. A McElroy single moved the slow-moving Fletcher to second where Pawlowski replaced him with pinch-runner Mitchell Self. The move was a good one for the Tigers as Caldwell got his second RBI of the night on a single into center field.
Now ahead by three, Auburn would be forced to hold on as the Crimson Tide made some noise in the top of the eighth thanks to some shaky defense from the Tigers. A walk to Kelton brought Hurst's day to an end as Hubbard came on in relief and proceeded to walk pinch hitter Chris Smelley. Hubbard recovered to strike out pinch hitter Andrew Miller, but Dugas would again be a thorn in Auburn's side as his single scored Kelton. It was the eighth-straight time Dugas has reached base and it kept the pressure on the Tigers.
A Rutledge strikeout got out number two for Hubbard, but an error by McElroy on a bad hop off the bat of Ross Wilson allowed Dugas to score and cut the Auburn lead down to just 7-6. McElroy made up for his error with a great play in the hole to cut down Clay Jones at first base and keep Auburn in front by one heading to the bottom of the eighth.
Auburn added an insurance run in the bottom half of the inning as Wes Gilmer walked and moved to third on a double by Fradejas with one out. That set up Simpson to pick up his second big RBI of the night as his sacrifice fly to left field easily scored Gilmer to put Auburn back in front by two. Hubbard allowed just a two-out walk in the ninth before striking out his final batter to earn his third save of the season.
"It's awesome to come out and get a win in front of all these people," Hubbard said. "We love playing Alabama and I'm sure they love playing us. It's turned into our favorite game of the year. We pitched really well today and came up with some big hits. It was really good to come out on top in front of all our fans. It was a lot of fun."
The Tigers will return to action this weekend at Plainsman Park as the Tigers take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in a three-game series at Plainsman Park. Game times for the series against the 14th-ranked Gamecocks are 6: 30 p.m. on Friday, noon on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.