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Auburn 6, Alabama 3: All hail Conner Kendrick

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A game against Alabama marred early by poor defense and a biting wind turned into a masterpiece for Auburn reliever Conner Kendrick.

Auburn's Cullen Wacker catches a flyball in the 2nd for the 2nd out of the inning. Alabama vs Auburn baseball on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 in Montgomery, Ala.
Auburn's Cullen Wacker catches a flyball in the 2nd for the 2nd out of the inning. Alabama vs Auburn baseball on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 in Montgomery, Ala.
Todd Van Emst photo

Conner Kendrick's numbers before Tuesday night's game against Alabama were impressive enough. His line now is just gaudy. Kendrick allowed zero runs, zero hits, one walk and had eight stikeouts in the final six innings against 'Bama, leading the Tigers to a 6-3 win over the Tide.Auburn (9-3) is now 5-0 all time against Alabama (8-4) in the Capital City Classic, held annually at Montgomery's Riverwalk Stadium.

Kendrick's numbers are outstanding. He's thrown 16 1/3 innings this season, while allowing four hits and five walks and striking out 22. And on a staff plagued by unearned runs, he hasn't allowed one of his own base runners to score. Opposing hitters are batting just .077 against the JUCO transfer.

Auburn's offense grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth through a Jordan Ebert sacrifice fly, but during a shaky bottom of the fourth, starter Dillon Ortman was pulled for Kendrick. The inning yielded three runs for the Crimson Tide on just one hit. Walks and errors frustratingly struck Auburn again, with two free passes and booted balls from both Dan Glevenyak (his sixth of the year -- and he'd make his seventh the next inning) and Damek Tomscha.

However, after the fourth, Kendrick got in a groove unseen this year from an Auburn pitcher. His curveball was fooling Tide hitters on their second and third at-bats, and he rode that pitch to a dominant performance. Four Alabama hitters reached base on Kendrick: one when he gave up the fielder's choice to throw home and stop Tide first baseman Austen Smith from scoring, two on errors and one on a walk in the eighth.

The Tiger offense scored three runs in the fifth thanks to errors from the other side, along with a few hits. Glevenyak walked to lead off and Ryan Tella singled, before the two were sacrificed over by a Tomscha bunt. Yak scored on a Cullen Wacker groundout, Tella on an error by shortstop Mikey White and Garrett Cooper on a throwing error by third baseman Kenny Roberts, giving Auburn the lead that Kendrick never lost.

Two more Tiger runners scored in the ninth, when Cooper hit a two-out single into left that drove in Yak and Tomscha. Kendrick never faced more than four batters in an inning and finished the game with a two-strikeout ninth to pick up the win.

Auburn was hurt by the errors, as well as the flurry of walks issued by Ortman (five), but the Tigers capitalized when Alabama made errors of its own. The top of the order struggled, as the first five hitters (Burgreen, Glevenyak, Tella, Tomscha, Wacker) combined to go just 1-for-18 with four Ks. On the plus side, those hitters did draw five walks, and Wacker drew a pitch to the top of the helmet.

Next up is a weekend series with Brown at home, beginning Friday night at 6.