May 14, 2011
AUBURN, Ala. - Alabama could not overcome an Auburn five-run seventh inning as the Tigers held on for an 8-7 win in the second game of a Southeastern Conference doubleheader from Plainsman Park on Saturday afternoon. Following the Auburn sweep of the doubleheader, Alabama falls to 30-22 overall and drops into fourth place in the SEC West with a 12-14 record. Auburn improved to 28-23 overall and 13-13 in SEC play, moving into third place in the division.
Alabama got a ninth inning, leadoff home run by Jared Reaves to cut the deficit to 8-7, but with runners on first and second, Auburn reliever Dillon Ortman got Brett Booth to ground into a game-ending 1-6-3 double play to record his fourth save of the season. Ortman preserved the win for Ethan Wallen (5-5), who pitched 0.2 innings in relief of starter Derek Varnadore.
Charley Sullivan (2-2) did not record an out and allowed two runs in the pivotal seventh inning to get the loss for the Crimson Tide. UA starting pitcher Adam Morgan did not factor into the decision, and left the game after six innings, allowing three runs on four hits with seven strikeouts. Morgan retired 17 of the final 20 batters he faced.
"Both games came down to the seventh inning," UA head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "I thought both of our starters did a nice just getting to the seventh, then we broke down in the bullpen. For the majority of the year we've done a good job from the bullpen, but today we didn't throw enough strikes."
Josh Sanders recorded three of the 12 hits for the Tide in the second game of the day, notching his third multi-hit game of the season with a career-high three knocks. Jared Reaves was 2-for-4 with his 17th double and fourth home run of the season, and increased his team-leading RBI total to 42 with three runs batted in.
Taylor Dugas was 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run score and Brock Bennett was 2-for-4 notching his ninth straight game with at least two hits. Bennett now has 24 multi-hit games this season to lead the club.
Alabama fell behind early as Auburn scored three times in the first inning off Morgan. The Tigers used three hits, including a two-RBI double off the bat of Wes Gilmore to take a 3-0 lead after one. Gilmore was 2-for-3 with three RBI in the game. After the double to Gilmore, Morgan retired 13 straight hitters before allowing a single with two outs in the fifth.
The Tide got on the board with a pair of runs in the fifth inning. With runners on the corners, a one-out single by Dugas scored Hunter Gregory, who walked to start the rally. Bennett followed with a bunt single up the first base line, and after he beat Varnadore to first, Sanders scored from second on the play.
The Tide opened the seventh inning with back-to-back singles by Sanders and Dugas, and after a SEC-leading 17th sacrifice bunt of the season by Bennett, Jared Reaves belted his 17th double of the season to drive in two, giving Alabama a 4-3 lead.
Following the Reaves double, the day for Auburn starter Varnadore came to a close with the junior throwing 6.1 innings, allowing four earned runs on 10 hits with three walks and no strikeouts.
"I thought our team competed and battled all day long," Gaspard added. "We got down a couple times and fought to get back in it. After a tough day, you have to find a way to get one tomorrow. Everyone is fighting for the same thing right now."
Auburn scored five times in the bottom of the seventh inning to regain the lead for good. With runners on the corners, Tony Caldwell singled to right field off Josh Rosecrans to push across the go-ahead run, making the score 5-4. A passed ball allowed the third run to score, a double plated the fourth run of the inning, and an RBI single made the score 8-4.
Alabama answered with two unearned runs in the eighth, scoring twice without recording a hit in the inning. The ninth-inning home run by Reaves cut the deficit to 8-7, but the Tide couldn't get the big hit it needed to complete the comeback.
The Crimson Tide and Tigers will complete the SEC series with game three on Sunday, with first pitch slated for 1 p.m. from Plainsman Park. Starters for the series finale have not been announced for either team. Alabama will start senior lefty Jonathan Smart (4-1, 1.83) and Auburn will counter with sophomore right-hander Slade Smith (2-0, 6.42).