Tigers Drop Second-Straight At Alabama

Auburn missed several opportunities to score as the Tigers fell to Alabama 6-5 on Saturday.

Tuscaloosa, Ala.--In almost a carbon copy of one week ago, missed opportunities proved to be costly for the Auburn Tigers as Alabama scored three runs in the seventh inning and held on for a 6-5 win to take the series. Auburn falls to 17-10 and 4-4 in SEC play on a day when coach John Pawlowski said his team just didn't make any plays.

"We did some good things offensively early in the ballgame and then it seemed like after we were up 4-0 they found their way back into it," Pawlowski said. "They got one big swing and it was a 4-3 ballgame. We couldn't muster up anything after that offensively. I thought Cole did a good job. He did exactly what we needed him to do, get us deep in the game. It just wasn't meant to be and a frustrating loss for the kids, no doubt."

The loss ruined another fantastic outing by Auburn starter Cole Nelson as he allowed four runs (three earned) in six and one/third innings. With just one mistake pitch on the game that turned into a three-run home run by Ross Wilson, for the second weekend in a row the big junior is left without a win after a terrific outing.

"It was just a fastball that he wanted in," Pawlowski said of the mistake. "He just left it out over the plate a little bit. That was the difference, a three-run home run. Our kids fought back. They are tough and resilient. It just makes tomorrow's game that much more important."

Despite a two home run day by junior designated hitter Kevin Patterson at the plate, Auburn failed time and time again to score with runners in scoring position and it was the difference in the game. Alabama walked seven hitters in the game and the Tigers failed to score any runs off those walks.

Auburn jumped on top early thanks to Patterson's bat as his solo shot in the top of the second gave the Tigers the quick lead, but they were just getting started. Following a Caldwell flyout, Justin Fradejas singled to center field and stole second to move into scoring position. A wild pitch moved the speedy runner to third and with Justin Hargett at the plate that set up the bunt. Putting one down perfectly, the junior second baseman beat the throw to first as Fradejas scored easily from third. Moving to second on a groundout, Hargett scored moments later on a Casey McElroy single to make it 3-0 Tigers.

That's how things would stay until the top of the third inning when Patterson would against strike for Auburn. Getting a pitch away, the junior drove it over the wall in left field for his sixth home run of the season. It was the first multi-homer game of his career and staked Nelson to a four-run lead.

Alabama would answer back in the bottom of the third thanks in part to some shaky defense from the Tigers once again. Number nine hitter Brock Bennett led off the inning with a ground ball to the shortstop, but an error by McElroy put things in motion for the Crimson Tide. A walk to Taylor Dugas followed, but Nelson recovered to strike out Josh Rutledge. That brought second baseman Ross Wilson to the plate and he came through as Nelson left one over the plate that he drove out of the park for a three-run shot to cut Auburn's lead down to one.

The Tigers had a chance to increase the lead in the fifth as walks to McElroy and Brian Fletcher gave Auburn a pair of runners on base with the middle of the order coming to the plate. However it proved to be false hope as Hunter Morris skied a fly ball to right field for the first out to bring Dan Gamache to the plate. He worked the count to 3-2 before hitting a liner right at Wilson at second base. He stepped on the bag for a double play to end the inning.

That would be Auburn's problems the rest of the way as Auburn left runners on in the sixth and again loaded the bases in the seventh inning with Patterson at the plate. In the sixth Patterson was hit by a pitch and Alabama pitcher David Head was thrown out of the game along with Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard. Auburn failed to do anything in the inning though. It would happen again in the seventh. Falling behind 0-2 quickly with the bases full, the junior went down on strikes to give the Crimson Tide a ton of momentum coming to the plate in the bottom of the seventh.

They used it to break open the game as a one-out single to right field by Dugas started the merry-go-round for the Crimson Tide against Hubbard. On the first pitch he faced Rutledge singled to left field before a Wilson strikeout brought the middle of the order to the plate for Alabama. Unable to find the strike zone, Hubbard walked both Jones and Smith to force home a run and tie the game. Jon Kelton then put the dagger in Auburn with a bloop single to center field that scored two more runs. Now leading 6-4, Alabama turned to Smith to close the door against the Tigers.

A Caldwell walk started off the eighth and one out later a bloop single by Hargett to center field gave the Tigers a pair of runners on board with Creede Simpson coming to the plate. Driving a pitch into the gap, Simpson looked for a second like he may tie the game, but Dugas ran the ball down in center field for the second out. On the play Caldwell was running and was doubled off to end the inning.

Again the Tigers made some noise in the ninth as a two-out single from Morris brought Gamache to the plate with a chance to tie the game. Getting a pitch away from closer Nathan Kilcrease, the sophomore drove a pitch deep to left field that just missed leaving the ballpark. Instead the double scored Morris to cut the lead back to 6-5. A walk to Patterson meant it was up to pinch-hitter Wes Gilmer, but Kilcrease recovered to strike out Gilmer and save the win for Alabama.

At the plate Patterson and Hargett each had two of the nine total hits for the Tigers on the day. On the mound Hubbard allowed two runs on three hits in just one and two/thirds innings. Alabama was led by Jones and Kelton with three hits apiece.

Auburn will try to salvage the Sunday game for the second consecutive weekend as the Tigers will send junior Grant Dayton to the mound looking for a win against the Crimson Tide. The first pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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