Auburn got another solid start from Michael O'Neal (5-2) and used homers from Hunter Kelley and Garrett Cooper to overturn the Tide's early lead and win by the same score, 6-3, Friday night at Plainsman Park.
With Auburn (16-11, 1-7 SEC) dropping five games in a row since entering Baton Rouge, and losing seven straight SEC games to open the conference slate, the final two games of the home series against Alabama (17-12, 6-2) took on an even greater importance than they usually would.
Auburn hadn't started 0-8 in the SEC since 2007 (the days of Mike Bianucci, the love child of my Rangers-Auburn fandom) and was looking to keep the streak of home series wins going in the Iron Bowl of baseball. After ugly mishaps in the field and poor hitting with runners on in a 6-2 loss Thursday night, Auburn looked to be in danger of letting the season, along with any postseason hopes, slip away.
Alabama grabbed an early 1-0 lead by capitalizing on yet another Auburn error (one of three on the night ... yeah) and putting together two base hits in the first off O'Neal. In the midst of the three-plus perfect frames from O'Neal that followed that, Auburn pushed ahead, 2-1, on Kelley's two-run jack over the left field wall. In the fifth, Jordan Ebert extended the lead to 3-1 with a one-out RBI single, before Cooper blew the game open with a three-run shot to straightaway center.
O'Neal rolled, going 7 2/3 and allowing three runs, none earned, on eight hits. Terrance Dedrick finally got another shot at finishing out a close game when he got the final four outs, including working out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth.
While the pitching was fantastic, and the fielding was once again shaky, (Kelley made two errors in right, Tomscha made one at third and there was a passed ball from Blake Austin), the two home runs may have been a shot in the arm for a Tiger offense that has struggled with putting up runs against top pitchers this year.
On the day, Auburn totaled seven hits to Alabama's nine, but the combination of two errors by the Tide and the shutdown relief of Dedrick helped the Tigers win the type of game that has seemingly gone the other way in recent days. Ryan Tella hit leadoff, going 2-for-4 and adjusting to an extent to some the problem pitches he'd been swinging at recently.
Auburn plays Sunday for the series and a chance to get momentum rolling into April. Head coach John Pawlowski said after Friday's win either Daniel Koger or Will Kendall would get the start in the finale.
Highlights, via AUHD
Box score, via auburntigers.com
Alabama 3 (17-11,6-2 SEC)
|Georgie Salem cf||4||1||1||0||0||0||4||0||0||.283|
|Kenny Roberts 3b||4||1||1||0||0||2||0||1||0||.286|
|Ben Moore rf||4||1||2||0||0||0||3||0||0||.324|
|Brett Booth c||3||0||1||2||0||0||4||0||1||.311|
|Austen Smith 1b||4||0||1||1||0||0||6||0||1||.297|
|Kyle Overstreet 2b||4||0||1||0||0||0||3||4||2||.275|
|Mikey White ss||4||0||2||0||0||0||1||1||0||.250|
|Chance Vincent dh||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.125|
|Cameron Carlisle ph||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.182|
|Ryan Blanchard lf||3||0||0||0||0||1||3||0||1||.157|
|Andrew Miller ph||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||.170|
|Jon Keller p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||-|
|Keaton Haack p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||-|
Auburn 6 (16-11,1-7 SEC)
|Ryan Tella cf||4||1||2||0||0||0||5||0||0||.288|
|Jordan Ebert 2b||4||1||1||1||0||0||1||1||0||.309|
|Tanner Cimo 2b||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.100|
|Garrett Cooper 1b||4||1||1||3||0||1||10||1||3||.337|
|Cullen Wacker lf||4||0||1||0||0||1||2||0||0||.297|
|Damek Tomscha 3b||3||0||1||0||1||1||0||1||0||.269|
|Patrick Savage dh||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||.232|
|Blake Austin c||3||1||0||0||1||0||4||0||2||.287|
|Dan Glevenyak ss||2||0||0||0||1||1||1||6||0||.213|
|Hunter Kelley rf||2||2||1||2||2||0||3||0||0||.259|
|Michael O'Neal p||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||0||-|
|Terrance Dedrick p||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||-|
Score by Innings R H E ------------------------------------------- Alabama............. 100 000 020 - 3 9 2 Auburn.............. 002 040 00X - 6 7 3 -------------------------------------------
|E - Overstreet(5); White(6); Tomscha, D.(7); Kelley, H. 2(2). DP - UA 2; Auburn 1. LOB - UA 6; Auburn 6. 2B - Booth(5). 3B - Moore(2). HR - Cooper, G.(2); Kelley, H.(1). SH - Glevenyak, D(9). SF - Booth(3).|
|Jon Keller L,3-3||5.0||6||6||6||3||2||0||1||0||0||20||24||7||5||81||4.68|
|Michael O'Neal W,5-2||7.2||8||3||0||0||3||0||0||0||0||31||32||10||10||90||1.94|
|Terrance Dedrick S,2||1.1||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||4||4||0||2||19||5.40|
Win - O'Neal, M. (5-2). Loss - Keller (3-3). Save - Dedrick, T. (2). BK - Keller(1). PB - Austin, B.(2). Inherited runners/scored: Dedrick, T. 2/0. Pitches/strikes: Keller 81/50; Haack 39/21; O'Neal, M. 90/60; Dedrick, T. 19/13.
Umpires - HP: Scott Kennedy 1B: Scott Cline 2B: Richie Tallent 3B: Jacob