April 29, 2006
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
Auburn scored five runs in a wild sixth inning that featured two errors on the same play by the Alabama defense as the Tigers rallied from a five-run deficit to beat #6 Alabama, 7-6, to even the SEC series at a game apiece on Saturday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
"We talk constantly to our players that in college baseball, walks and errors generally lead to big innings and we were opportunistic in taking advantage of an error (in the sixth) tonight," AU Head Coach Tom Slater said.
The top of the sixth started with a single by Josh Donaldson (2-for-4, R) and ended with a routine groundout by Andy Bennett (1-for-5) but in between was a wild ride as AU scored five runs on five hits and a pair of throwing errors by the Alabama defense.
After Donaldson's leadoff single, Jeff Boutwell (1-for-3, R) hit a one-out single back up the middle to put runners on first and second. Justin Bristow (2-for-4, R) then hit a high-chopper to third that allowed everyone to move up a base safely, bringing Philip Stringer to the plate.
Stringer (1-for-4, R, RBI) hit what appeared to be an inning-ending double-play ball to Alabama third baseman Matt Downs, but in trying to get Bristow at second, he threw the ball into centerfield, allowing Donaldson and Boutwell to score and Bristow to get to third and Stringer to second. However, in trying to get Bristow advancing to third, UA right fielder Ryan Rhoden sent the ball wide of the bag, allowing Bristow to scamper home with the third run of the inning and Stringer to get to third base.
Bruce Edwards (1-for-4, 2 R, RBI) then took UA starter Bernard Robert's first pitch of the at-bat and laced a RBI triple to the wall in right, tying the score at 5-5, and then came home with the go-ahead run a pitch later as Tyler Johnstone (2-for-4, RBI) laced an RBI single back up the middle.
Auburn tacked on an insurance run in the eighth as Edwards reached on a fielder's choice and scored when Rhoden again made an error, misplaying a line-drive by Johnstone into right that allowed Edwards to score from first.
AU starter Evan Crawford (5-5) picked up the win for the Tigers, allowing five runs on nine hits in 5.0 innings of work.
"I think you have to give a lot of credit to Evan Crawford," Slater said. "A lot of true freshman would cave (after the first two innings) but he went back out there and put up three zeros in a row for us, and that was huge. If he can't pitch into the fifth for us, we have no chance of winning that game."
Luke Greinke earned his sixth save of the season with a two-inning outing to nail down the victory as the Tigers moved to 22-24, 9-11 SEC and the Crimson Tide fell to 33-13, 14-6 SEC.
Andy Masten also threw two very important innings for the Tigers, relieving Crawford to start the sixth and allowing just a one-out hit and walk before retiring the next five batters he faced.
Robert (6-3) took the loss as he allowed all seven of Auburn's runs on 10 hits in 7.0 innings.
Auburn allowed Alabama to score three runs in the first for the second straight game on RBI hits by Alex Avila, Kody Valverde and Ryan Rhoden and then surrendered two unearned runs in the second to fall behind 5-0 after two complete.
The Crimson Tide got the score to within a run in the eighth but left men on second and third with just one out in the eighth before going down one-two-three with three fly outs to center in the ninth.
The two teams will play the rubber game at 2 p.m. CT on Sunday in a game that will be televised live on CSS. The Tigers will send junior Chris Dennis (3-3) to the mound while Alabama sends Tommy Hunter (6-2) as AU tries to win its third consecutive SEC series.