AU Falters Down The Stretch To Miss SEC Tournament

Coach Tommy Slater

Auburn now must wait until May 30 to learn its fate for the NCAA Baseball Tournament after Sunday's loss to Alabama.

Auburn, Ala.–-Trailing 5-4 in the sixth inning, Alabama (37-19, 17-13) scored seven runs to put the game away and win the series over the Auburn Tigers Sunday afternoon at Plainsman Park.

The loss drops Auburn to 32-24 overall and 13-17 in SEC play. Tied for eighth in the league with Vanderbilt and Arkansas, the Tigers will miss out on going to Hoover for the eight-team SEC Tournament because of a tie-breaker that goes to the Razorbacks after all three teams lost on Sunday.

Auburn ace reliever John Madden had his worst outing of the season at the worst possible time for the Tigers as he allowed eight hits and seven runs in one and two/thirds innings to get the loss and fall to 6-2 on the season. Coach Tommy Slater said that the game was one that things just didn't go his team's way in, but he was proud of the way they never stopped fighting all the way to the end.

"Madden, what are you going to say," Slater said. "They get a couple of infield hits and then tack on a line drive that scores a couple of runs. Our kids competed their butts off today. I'm just so proud of them and the way they came out and played all weekend long. It was a really hard-fought game today again. There's no lay down in this team. They haven't done it all year. They've battled their butts off and I'm proud of them."

Auburn starter Jared Shore was solid for the Tigers, giving up six hits and four runs in five innings. Alabama starter T.J. Large allowed five runs on just four hits to earn his seventh victory while reliever Brent Carter got came on to allow three runs on four hits in three and one/third innings.

At the plate the Tigers were led by senior first baseman Karl Amonite. In his final game at Plainsman Park he had two home runs, a double, and four runs batted in. Disappointed that his team isn't going to be playing in Hoover, Amonite said he's just holding out hope that his career isn't done at Auburn.

"I think our record stands for itself," Amonite said. "We play our butts off every day. Hopefully, some people will see that. We're going to get out and practice this week and we're going to wait on them. Hopefully, you'll see us in a regional. I think considering the way we've played and our RPI that we deserve a regional."

Clete Thomas had two hits, including a home run, and scored three runs in Sunday's loss.

The key innings in Sunday's contest came in the sixth and seventh. With standout reliever Madden on the mound for the third-straight day and Auburn leading by one, the Tigers looked to be in good shape. Unfortunately for Slater and his crew things didn't turn out so good.

Morrow Thomley led off with a single through the right side to bring Zac Welch to the plate looking to continue his hot ways against the Tigers. Getting ahead 0-2, Madden left a fastball over the outside corner of the plate and Welch drove it off the wall in left field for a double. Throwing to second base instead of hitting the cut-off man, Auburn's Jeff Boutwell made a mental error and Thomley took advantage of it by scoring all the way from first base. The play tied the game and set Alabama up to take the lead moments later on a single by Cale Iorg up the middle.

Alabama broke the game open one inning later as Madden had his worst outing of the season one day after fellow bullpen ace Michael Nix did the same thing. Up first, Allen Rice singled off the leg of Madden to get things started for the Crimson Tide. Gabe Scott followed Rice with a single of his own, but Madden managed to get Evan Bush on a liner to Boutwell for the first out of the inning. Thomley followed with a long fly ball to center field that Bruce Edwards ran down for the second out of the inning, but the play allowed Rice to tag and reach third base. With Welch coming to the plate the Tigers decided to carefully pitch around him to face the right-hander Kody Valverde, but the decision backfired in a big way.

Before the inning was done Alabama had scored five runs to put an end to Auburn's regular season and chances of making the SEC Tournament. The first run scored as Valverde reached on an infield single that Josh Donaldson knocked down behind the third base bag but held onto when he didn't have a play. Iorg followed suit with an infield single of his own that scored another run. Greg Paiml put an end to the scoring with a single to right field that scored two runs. An errant Thomas throw to second base allowed the third run to score on the play and put Alabama up big 11-5.

Auburn made a game of it late with a single run in the seventh before putting a scare in the Crimson Tide in the ninth. Leading off the inning, Johnstone tripled to center field and scored on a Thomas groundout to make it 11-7 Alabama. Bell then walked to bring Amonite to the plate once again. Facing the ace reliever Robertson and working the count full, the big first baseman hit his second home run of the game deep over the left field wall to cut the lead down to two with one out in the ninth. That would be it though as Donaldson walked to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of pinch-hitter Dixon, but a strikeout put an end to the rally and Auburn's regular season.

Things started strong for the Tigers on Sunday after Alabama scored a single run in the first as they exploded in the first inning against Alabama starter T.J. Large. Leading off the game, second baseman Johnstone singled sharply into left field to bring Thomas to the plate. Very selective, Thomas walked to bring Bell to the plate. In the role of designated hitter on Sunday after bruising a foot on Saturday, Bell pulled a breaking ball over the wall in left field for a three-run shot. It was his 11th of the season and gave Auburn the early momentum. Not wasting any time, Amonite followed with a long home run over the batter's eye in center field and just like that Auburn led 4-1 after one inning.

Alabama added another single run in the second before Auburn countered with a Thomas solo home run in the third inning to take a 5-2 advantage. The Crimson Tide began the comeback in the fourth inning off Shore as Thomley doubled to left field to get things started, but he was cut down with one out in the inning trying to steal third base. With two outs and two strikes on Valverde he hit what would have been out three to Stacey at short, but the ball took a bad hop and bounced into left field for a single. It proved to be a big play as Iorg followed with a two-run shot over the wall in left to bring Alabama back to within one and on the road to a comeback. Alabama eventually held on for the 11-9 win.

Auburn now waits on the NCAA Baseball Regional to be announced Monday, May 30. In the meantime Alabama advances to the SEC Tournament in Hoover with Wednesday night game at 8 against Ole Miss. Florida is the overall number one seed with LSU at two, Tennessee at the three, Ole Miss four, Alabama five, South Carolina the sixth seed, Mississippi State seven and Arkansas eight.

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