TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - A grounder at the second baseman from Georgie Salem allowed Ryan Blanchard to score, giving Alabama baseball the 11th-inning, walkoff win, 4-3, over Auburn in front of a sold-out crowd at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Saturday night. The victory clinched the series for the Crimson Tide and improved its overall record to 27-20 and 12-11 in SEC play.
"We kept responding, despite missing some opportunities," said Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard. "The leadoff guy kept doing a good job getting on, and (Daniel) Cucjen did a good job bunting (Ryan Blanchard) over in the ninth. You take it any way you can get it and at the end of the day it's a win."
Alabama began its 11th inning rally with a leadoff single from Blanchard. Daniel Cucjen then sacrificed himself to move Blanchard into scoring position. A four-pitch walk put runners on first and second for the Crimson Tide and brought Salem to the plate. The senior sent a grounder at the Auburn second baseman that had the potential for a double play, but an error allowed Blanchard to keep running and come across for the 4-3 victory.
The Tide made it to extras thanks to a ninth-inning solo home run from Will Haynie. The junior catcher was the first man to the plate for UA and sent the first pitch he saw deep to left to even things at 3-3. Alabama then called on reliever Thomas Burrows (1-0), who worked the final 2.0 innings to collect his first win of the season.
Starter Jake Walters tossed 5.0 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits and three walks with five strikeouts before turning it over to the bullpen. Dylan Duarte, Sam Finnerty and Burrows combined to work the final 5.0 innings and afford the Tide the time for the win. Finnerty tossed a season-high 2.2 innings and struck out three in the process before handing it over to Burrows.
Auburn scored first in Saturday's contest, plating a pair in the third inning. A leadoff walk followed by a double put two in scoring position before an error allowed the batter to reach and a man to score for the game's first run. Two batters later, a fielder's choice groundout brought in the second run of the inning for the Tigers and made it a 2-0 game.
The Tide narrowed the gap in the fourth, using a two-out double from Chandler Taylor to make it a 2-1 game. Auburn added one more in the sixth, singling home a runner from third to push the score to 3-1.
Alabama answered with one in the seventh. Chance Vincent led off with a single and then moved into scoring position on a Keith Holcombe walk. Haynie followed with a single to score the leadoff man and make it a 3-2 game after seven frames.
In the ninth, Haynie answered the call again with his team-high tying sixth homer of the season to send the game into extras. Alabama claimed the victory in the 11th thanks to Salem's knock and Blanchard's alert baserunning.
"It's a big win, as it wins the series for you and puts you in the position to sweep tomorrow," added Gaspard. "You just build on it. We're not going to look at the negatives at this point. A win is always a positive and there was a lot of good things that went on. There were some things that we want to clean up and get better in, but anytime you're up 2-0 after Saturday, you're going to like where you're at."
Alabama goes for the sweep on Sunday, sending junior right-hander Nick Eicholtz to the mound. Auburn counters with junior lefty Ben Braymer for Sunday's series finale. First pitch on getaway day is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.