The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers have been playing an annual game at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery since 2009, and the Tigers have won every year, until tonight. The Tide pushed across the winning run on an error in the top of the ninth inning to win 4-3.
Nick Eicholtz started on the mound for 'Bama and lasted five innings, allowing two runs. The runs were the first earned runs allowed by the freshman in four appearances, two starts, and 15 innings pitched this season. A two run home run by Dan Glevanyk staked the Tigers to a 2-0 lead after three innings.
'Bama tied the game in the top of the fourth by recording four singles and a walk. Wade Wass and Kyle Overstreet lined one out singles to set the table. Austen Smith hit into a force out for the second out. This was followed by freshmen Casey Hughston and Will Haynie each stroking RBI singles to tie the game 2-2.
Eicholtz settled down and pitched through five innings, allowing two hits, two runs with two walks and a hit batter. Junior left hander Taylor Guilbeau came into pitch the sixth inning for the Tide. With one out, Auburn's Glevanyk reached base on a catcher's interference call. Guilbeau tried to pick him off at first and threw the ball into right field, advancing Glevanyk to third base. Blake Austin singled him in to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
'Bama bounced back in the top of the 7th to tie the game, and missed a golden opportunity to take the lead on a strange play at third base. Haynie opened the inning by lining a shot past the third base bag. The ballpark has a strange little wall jutting out that the ball hit and caromed directly to the left fielder, which held Haynie to a single. Georgie Salem followed with a single, bringing Mikey White to the plate. White hit a sharp single to right scoring Haynie, and when the right fielder misplayed the ball Salem looked to score easily. However Tiger third baseman Conner Short, son of former 'Bama All-American Ben Short, made a fake catch and tag, causing Salem to pull up and hit the bag awarkardly, and go down in pain, clutching his ankle. Although technically not illegal, the play is considered bush league by baseball purists. When Ben Moore hit a ground ball in the infield, White was tagged out and a Wass ground out ended the threat.
Guilbeau began the seventh inning and walked the lead off batter, and had a 2-0 count on the next man. Coach Mitch Gaspard then called on freshman left-handed Thomas Burrows. Burrows retired the next three batters, getting the third out with a swinging strikeout of leading Tiger hitter Ryan Tella.
Both teams were able to get a baserunner on in the eighth, but were unable to score, setting up the ninth inning heroics. The Tide's Chance Vincent drew a one out walk and was forced at second on a Salem ground ball. White advanced Salem to third with a two strike single. Auburn then brought in closer Terrance Dedrick, a Tuscaloosa Hillcrest graduate. Moore hit a slow roller to Short at third base and hustled down the line, diving into the bag and the ball was thrown wildly. Salem scored what turned out to be the winning run.
Burrows struck out the first batter in the bottom of the ninth, but walked the next man. The tying run advanced to second on a slow ground ball to first. Auburn's Anfrenee Grier hit a ground ball to Vincent at third who looked up and saw pinchrunner J.J. Shaffer coming toward him. Instead of tossing the ball to first for the out, Vincent chased Shaffer down, dove and just clipped him on the back of the ankle for the third out, ending the game.
The Tide rapped out 11 hits, to just three for Auburn. 'Bama committed three errors: the catcher's interference, the bad pick off throw, and a dropped ball at first. Auburn only had the single error that cost them the game. Salem, White, Overstreet and Haynie all had two hits for 'Bama. Moore, Wass and Hughston had one hit apiece. Burrows was the winning pitcher, and was voted the games Most Valuable Player. Burrows pitched three innings, allowing no hits, walking one, hitting one and striking out three.
After the game right fielder Moore said, "there are very few things in the world that feel better than beating Auburn." You might remember Moore caused some hurt feelings among the Barn last year with his comments about hating them. Center fielder Salem added "today was one of the most ugly, but fun games I've ever played in. It feels so good to beat Auburn in anything, baseball, football, checkers or Go Fish, it doesn't matter."
Alabama played sloppy, but played hard and with purpose. That purpose being to end the losing streak in the Capital City Classic, and they did. They should have scored more runs with 11 hits. They should have played a cleaner defensive game, but they did what they had to to win the game.
'Bama improved to 6-5 on the year, while Auburn fell to 6-6.The teams will play a three game series in Tuscaloosa later in the season.
The Tide will be back in action this weekend with a three game series with Mississippi Valley State:
- Friday 6:05 pm
- Saturday 2:05 pm
- Sunday 1:05 pm
The pitching rotation will be Spencer Turnbull on Friday, Justin Kamplain on Saturday, and Jonathan Keller on Sunday.
On another note outfielder Ryan Blanchard was lost for the season after suffering a leg injury crashing into the wall this past weekend.
And also I painted the corner with heat in my first pitching duties! Bama baseball fever! Catch it.
Roll Tide Y'all. Roger. Remember to follow me on twitter @rogerpatmyers for live in game inning by inning updates