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Tigers Drop Game Three to Alabama in 15-Inning Affair

Jay Estes had three hits and two RBI in Auburn's loss to Alabama on Sunday (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Dakota Sumpter)

#4 Auburn Baseball (32-17, 14-10 SEC) arrived to Plainsman Park on Sunday needing a win to avoid being swept for the first time all season. The Tigers scratched and clawed, but ran out of gas after playing with rival Alabama (18-29, 5-19)for 15 innings, which lasted six hours and thirty-six minutes, and fell to the Crimson Tide, 11-9 on Sunday.

While scoring was a plenty, the game began to take a turn in the seventh inning, when two questionable calls by the umpiring crew allowed three runs to score. Two for Alabama, one for Auburn.

The Tigers led Alabama 4-3 heading into the bizarre inning. The Crimson Tide had two runners in scoring position with one down when Cobie Vance stepped to the plate. Vance swung at the first pitch of the at-bat, and it sailed high into the glove of Auburn first baseman Dylan Ingram, who then threw to third base, performing what appeared to be a double play to end the inning. However, after all four umpires met, it was determined that Vance put the ball in play, and reached base safely. The runner on third base, Walker McCleney, scored, tying the game at 4.

After watching video replay of the swing, the pitch from Auburn’s Andrew Mitchell bounced prior to Vance making contact, which propelled the baseball upwards. Ingram fielded the ball cleanly.

Coach Butch Thompson shared the explanation he received from the umpires in his postgame press conference.

“I think we (Thompson and umpires) agreed that the pitch hit the dirt, came up, and hit the bat,” said Thompson. “Multiple umpires in the field had: pitch hit the dirt, ball came up to hit the bat, and hit the ground again, then a popup to first base.”

The inning continued with Auburn recording zero outs. Mitchell struck out Chandler Taylor in the next at-bat, then Calvin Coker entered the game to finish out the inning. Alabama took the lead on the next at-bat, as Hunter Alexander reached on an error by Jay Estes at 2nd base, allowing Chandler Avant to score, moving Alabama ahead 5-4.

That was not the only time officiating was questioned in the inning. In Auburn’s half of the inning, Bo Decker stepped up to the plate with one down and two on. Josh Anthony had reached third base, while Jeremy Johnson was standing on first. Decker hit a grounder to shortstop, who was primed to turn a double-play. Avant’s toss to Vance at 2nd removed Johnson from the basepaths, but his throw to first base was not fast enough to get Decker out at first. Alabama skipper Greg Goff stormed out of the dugout, wanting an explanation from first base umpire Ray Gregson. But while no Crimson Tide player was paying attention, Anthony trotted home, tying the game, 5-5.

The controversy, was that it appeared that Decker did not beat the throw to first base.

Neither team was able to score again in regulation, forcing the game to head to extras.

Auburn matched Alabama in every inning up until the fifteenth and final inning. Each team scored one run a piece in the 10th and 11th innings, no runs were scored in the 12th, two more runs were scored by both teams in the 13th inning, and neither team scored in the 14th inning.

The top of the 15th inning arrived, and Alabama quickly got runners on. Chandler Taylor reached on a line-drive double to center field to open the inning. After that, Hunter Alexander reached on an error by Will Holland at shortstop, with Taylor being allowed to move to 3rd. A Sam Finnerty single was deep enough to score Taylor, extending the lead to 10-9 Alabama. The final run was scored by Connor Short, who sacrificed himself to allow Alexander to score, moving the score to 11-9 Alabama.

Auburn again threatened by putting two runners on to open the bottom half of the inning on a walk to Holland, and a single by Jonah Todd. Jay Estes could not follow suit, as he popped out to the pitcher. Conor Davis eliminated Todd from the base paths on a fielder’s choice, putting runners on the corners for Dylan Ingram.

Ingram entered the at-bat with three hits and an RBI in the game, and wanted to at least send the runner at third base home. However, he flew out to McCleney in center field, ending the game.

Auburn used nine pitchers in the game, with Ryan Watson picking up his first loss of the season. Jay Estes and Dylan Ingram each picked up three hits, Estes and Jeremy Johnson led the team in RBI with three.

Auburn plays their final non-conference mid-week game on Tuesday at UAB. First pitch at Regions Field in Birmingham is scheduled for 6:30 P.M.

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