TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Auburn came back from an early three-run deficit to take a lead on two occasions but ultimately dropped an 8-7 game in 10 innings at Alabama Thursday night.
Auburn (13-17, 1-12 SEC) scored in five innings Thursday night, but Alabama (21-12, 6-7 SEC) responded with at least one run each time the Tigers crossed home plate.
“Both teams, when one scored the other responded immediately,” head coach Butch Thompson said. “You want to win a game like that when they’re laying it out there because it means a lot more. It gets swallowed up in a loss. When you’re playing your rival, you have to find a way to win it right there at the end.”
The two teams traded solo home runs in the eighth inning before ultimately going to extras. The Tigers went down in order and the Crimson Tide had three straight singles to win the game in walk-off fashion.
The game marked Auburn’s seventh one-run loss in the first 13 league contests.
Kason Howell and Steven Williams went a combined 5-for-10 with four runs, a double, triple, three home runs and five RBI. The game marked the first multi-home run effort of Howell’s career.
Richard Fitts pitched 4.1 innings in relief and struck out a season high seven batters. Fitts allowed just two hits, but both were game-tying home runs in the fifth and eighth innings.
“Williams and Howell were special. I thought that was Fitts’ best outing of the year,” Thompson added. “Hopefully we can build off that.”
Auburn threatened to score right out of the gates as the Tigers put runners on the corners with one out in the first, but a strikeout and groundout ended the threat. However, the Tigers got on the scoreboard in its next at-bat on a solo home run from Williams, his sixth home run of the season and the second in as many games.
Alabama answered with a two-out single followed by a two-run home run in the home half to take the lead. The Crimson Tide extended the advantage to 4-1 on a pair of two-out base hits in the third.
Auburn responded with a two-out rally in the fourth. Williams tripled into right-center field and Howell followed his an inside the park home run that hit off the top of the wall in right center and ricocheted into open space. Howell was waved around and dove headfirst into home plate just ahead of the tag.
The Crimson Tide scored its fifth two-out run of the contest on a walk, passed ball and single to right field in the bottom of the fourth to make it a 5-3 ballgame.
Auburn took the lead with three runs in the fifth. Judd Ward tied the game at five as he fought off a two-strike pitch and snuck it inside the left field line for a two-out double. The Auburn left fielder took third on a wild pitch and came in to score on a RBI groundout from Williams to take the lead. The RBI was Williams’ sixth in his last five at-bats.
Again, Alabama answered on a one-out solo homer in the fifth. From there, the two teams went scoreless in the sixth and seventh innings before Howell hit his second homer of the contest in the eighth. The Crimson Tide answered with a solo homer to start the home half.
Cody Greenhill, Fitts and Carson Skipper combined to strike out 13 batters in the game, the Tigers most since also striking out 13 vs. Little Rock on Mar. 13.
The game was Auburn’s straight game with a home run, including its sixth in the last seven games with two or more home runs.
The two teams are set to square off in game two Friday at 6 p.m. CT at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
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