Starting pitcher Charley Sullivan allowed one run in eight innings to lead the Alabama baseball team to a 6-2 Southeastern Conference win over the Auburn Tigers on Thursday night from Plainsman Park. With the win, Alabama improves to 17-10 and 6-1 in SEC play, while the Tigers fall to 15-11 and 0-7 in conference action.
"We played solid tonight and Charley Sullivan gave us a really nice start," Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "We knew Kendrick was really good after he was dominating against us in Montgomery, so it was important for us to get off to a good start. The home run Smith hit was big, because it got us going early. We strung some hits together and had some really good at-bats in the middle of the ball game."
Sullivan allowed just one run on five hits with a walk and seven strikeouts. The lone run allowed by Sullivan came in the seventh inning when Blake Astin hit a solo home run with two outs. With Sullivan giving way to the bullpen for the ninth, Auburn got a run and loaded the bases off reliever Mitch Greer, to bring the tying run to the plate with two outs. Alabama went to freshman closer Ray Castillo, who struck out Ryan Tella to close out the game, earning his fifth save of the season and fourth in as many appearances.
"They put four runs on the board in one inning and that seemed to set the tone," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. "I think we did a good job pitching-wise except for one inning. They came up with some hits and we mishandled two balls and they put four runs up on the board just like that. We had our opportunities to score some runs, had the bases loaded a couple of times but unfortunately we weren't able to come up with anything there."
For the 12th time this season, and the eighth time in the last 10 games, Alabama reached double digits in hits, after banging out 11 against the Tigers on Thursday. Leading the way for the Tide offensively was first baseman Austen Smith, who was 3-for-5 with a home run and two RBI. Kyle Overstreet was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored for his sixth multiple hit game of the season.
Kenny Roberts was 2-for-5, Brett Booth had a double and two RBI, Ben Moore had a triple, a walk, a RBI and a run scored and Georgie Salem was 1-for-2 with three walks.
Making his first start of the season for Auburn, Connor Kendrick (2-1) allowed six runs (two earned) on nine hits with four walks and two strikeouts and took the loss. Kendrick threw six innings without allowing a hit and had eight strikeouts against Alabama in the MAX Capital City Classic back on March 5.
Alabama took a 1-0 lead when Smith launched one over the 30-foot tall left field fence at Plainsman Park, with one out in the second inning. It was Alabama's sixth home run of the season and second of the year for Smith.
The Tide broke the game open in the third inning after a costly error by Auburn resulted in four unearned runs. With runners on first and second, Roberts hit a ball to short where Dan Glevenyak couldn't handle the grounder, allowing Bama to load the bases. After Moore's sacrifice fly allowed Chance Vincent to score, Booth smashed a ball to deep center field to drive in Salem and Roberts. The final run of the inning came on a single by Smith to drive in Booth from second, making the score 5-0 Tide.
Auburn looked to answer in the bottom of the third by loading the bases against Sullivan with one out. Sullivan got the Tigers' top hitter Garrett Cooper to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play to get out of the jam. The double play turned by the Tide was the 31st of the season, which is 10th in the country and second in the SEC.
Alabama added to its lead in the fifth when Overstreet singled up the middle to plate Moore, who tripled to open the inning. The Tide had a chance to extend its lead in the sixth after loading the bases with one out against Kendrick. Reliever Reid Carter took the mound and he got Moore to pop out to second and Booth to line out to shortstop to end the inning without any damage.
After the Auburn solo home run in the seventh, the Tigers mounted a late charge in the bottom of the ninth inning. Pinch-hitter Patrick Savage singled down the right field line to score Damek Tomscha, who doubled to start the rally. After Greer walked Astin and pinch-hitter J.D. Crowe to load the bases, Castillo struck out Tella for the third time in the game to preserve the Alabama victory.
Alabama and Auburn will play game two of the series on Friday night at 6 p.m. CST from Plainsman Park. Alabama will start sophomore LHP Jon Keller (3-2, 2-78 ERA) and the Tigers will counter with junior lefty Michael O'Neal (4-2, 2.78 ERA).