Auburn's Conner Kendrick threw six shutout innings out of the bullpen as the Tigers rallied from a two-run deficit to defeat Alabama, 6-3, and claim a fifth straight Capital City Classic. The win improved Auburn's record to 9-3 while Alabama fell to 8-4.
"I thought our team responded. I thought that was one of the biggest things we did today," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. "We made some mistakes but our team, when we got down 3-1, we were very resilient, they responded, they came back and found a way to win today."
"On our side, you can't walk eight batters, commit three errors and get three hits and expect to win a ball game," Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "The difference in the game was Kendrick, he came in and stabilized the game for them, didn't allow a hit and pitched really well. It was a rough night from the start, our guys were amped up and really wanted to win the game tonight, but it just didn't go our way."
Kendrick (-0) who has not allowed a run in 16 1/3 innings this season, entered in the bottom of the fourth with none out and runners on the corners and two runs already in for Alabama in the inning. The first batter he faced, eight-hole hitter Andrew Miller, bunted a ball right back to him that he turned into an out at the plate. After a strike out, an error at third allowed Kyle Overstreet to score to put Alabama ahead, 3-1. Kendrick then closed out the inning with a strike out.
"My first priority was getting out of that inning," Kendrick said. "I never expected to do what I did tonight, but something close to it would have been nice."
"For us offensively, it's been all or nothing," Gaspard said. "We've had some good offensive games, and then we've had three or four games that we have laid an egg, kind of like tonight. When you have four young guys in the lineup who are still learning there way, that's where you expect the older guys to set up and deliver in those spots. There's no excuse, we've played the same guys every night now and we have to be better offensively than we are right now. We're a better ball club that what we showed out there tonight."
After the fourth, Alabama would reach base just twice off of Kendrick, who was named the game's MVP. He finished the night by retiring the final six hitters in order and registered a career-high eight strike outs on the night, the most by any Auburn pitcher this season.
"I felt like I had command of more than one pitch tonight," Kendrick said. "I could throw fastball, I could go change-up and I had a pretty good curveball tonight. That mix of pitches helped me out."
"I kind of lack for words the job that Conner Kendrick did. What a masterful performance," Pawlowski said. "As you progress through the season you learn more and more about your players and the things they can do and the things they can handle. I went out (to the mound) in the eighth inning and asked (Conner) where he was and asked him what he had left in the tank and he said ‘I'm good to go.' He finished it and did exactly what we hoped he would do."
On the season, Kendrick is holding opponents to a .077 batting average and has struck out 22 while allowing just four hits and walking five while not surrendering a run of any kind.
Auburn took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth as Garrett Cooper walked and scored on a Jordan Ebert sac fly.
Auburn took advantage of a pair of Alabama fielding miscues in the fifth to reclaim the lead, 4-3. Dan Glevenyak walked to start the inning and Ryan Tella singled to put runners on first and second. A sac bunt from Damek Tomscha put the two in scoring position. A Cullen Wacker RBI groundout made it 3-2 Alabama before Cooper reached on an error at short that allowed Tella to score the tying run. After Patrick Savage singled, Blake Austin reached on an error at third that brought Cooper home with what proved to be the game-winning run.
Cooper sealed the game in the ninth with a two-out, two-run single to left.
Alabama's Tucker Hawley (2-1) was charged for the loss, allowing three runs (one earned) on two hits and a walk in one inning of work, the fifth.
Ebert finished the game 1-for-3, extending his hitting streak to 10 games while Cooper's ninth-inning single extended his hitting streak to seven games.
The win was Auburn's seventh come-from-behind win of the season and its fourth in five wins at the Capital City Classic.
Alabama will continue its non-conference schedule on Friday with the first game of a three-game series at No. 5 Louisville. First pitch for the series opener is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT, from Jim Patterson Stadium. The series continues on Saturday at noon CT, and wraps up on Sunday at noon CT.
Auburn returns home for three games against Brown this weekend. Game times are 6pm on Friday, 3pm on Saturday and 1pm on Sunday.
INFORMATION SOURCE: Auburn and Alabama Athletics Departments