Courtesy of UA Athletics
The Alabama Crimson Tide is on the outside looking in for the NCAA Tournament. Friday night’s 3-2 loss to the No. 20 Auburn Tigers (34-16, 14-11) is the 18th one-run contest that Alabama has played in this season.
The Crimson Tide (27-23, 10-15) is 6-12 in those games.
If a few of those results go the other way, there would be a very different outlook on this season.
Friday night was also the fifth of the last six meetings between Alabama and Auburn to be decided by one run.
For the most part, Friday was a pitchers’ duel between Garrett McMillan and Mason Barnett. Through the first 4.2 innings, the game was scoreless.
The Tigers struck first in the bottom of the fifth, picking up back-to-back two-out hits from infielders Cole Foster and Blake Rambusch to grab a 2-0 lead. Rambusch was the only Auburn batter to record a multi-hit game.
McMillan finished the game going 5.2 innings, surrendering three runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out six.
The Crimson Tide wouldn’t go down easy, immediately responding in the sixth.
After a single by right fielder Andrew Pinckney, first baseman Drew Williamson launched a home run to right center to even the score. Pinckney and Williamson accounted for five of Alabama’s seven total hits.
The Tigers are fighting to host a regional and possibly a super regional in the NCAA Tournament. In order to get there, it takes big hits down the stretch of big games.
And that’s exactly what Auburn got.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, designated hitter Brooks Carlson doubled down the right field line to score right fielder Bobby Peirce from second.
Rather than answering again, the Crimson Tide was unable to pick up any more crucial hits. The Tigers’ bullpen was exquisite, allowing just two hits over the next 3.2 innings. John Armstrong and Blake Burkhalter struck out a combined five Alabama batters to slam the door on Game 1 of the series.
Brock Guffey held his own out of the Crimson Tide bullpen, punching out five in 2.1 innings.
Similar to many times this season, opposing teams pick up the game-winning hits that the Crimson Tide don’t. Auburn hit 6-for-13 with runners on, while Alabama went 1-for-12.
“This was a great college baseball game,” Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon said. “We had the same number of hits – we may have even barreled more balls than they did. Garrett McMillan and Brock Guffey were both outstanding. This is kind of the story of our season – this is our 12th loss by one run, and it seems like the other team has a knack for getting the big hit when it matters. We have a quick turnaround with the day game tomorrow, and tomorrow’s got to be the day that we get a big hit with a runner in scoring position while pitching as well as ‘G-Mac’ and Brock [Guffey] did tonight.”
Game 2 of the weekend set is on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT on SEC Network+. Jacob McNairy (4.61 ERA) will go head to head with the Tigers’ Trace Bright (4.26 ERA) at Plainsman Park in Auburn.