TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — In a wild night in Sewell-Thomas Stadium, Alabama baseball defeated in-state rival Auburn in 10 innings with a walk-off single by sophomore outfielder Owen Diodati.
The game went back and forth through the first five innings, but the Crimson Tide ultimately prevailed in the series opener on Thursday night in Tuscaloosa.
“Man what a great college baseball game,” Alabama coach Brad Bohannon said. “Just back and forth and you know, we told our guys before the game ‘This is the best-hitting team we will have played to this point,’ and the ball was flying today. We knew it was going to take some crooked numbers and all four times that Auburn scored we responded in the bottom half of the inning."
After a scoreless first, the Tigers took a 1-0 lead with a one-out solo home run by outfielder Steven Williams. However, the Crimson Tide responded in the bottom of the inning with a two-out, two-run home run by first baseman Drew Williamson to give Alabama the early lead.
The Crimson Tide added two more runs in the bottom of the third with an RBI-single by catcher Sam Praytor and another RBI-single by Diodati, who was playing as designated hitter for the evening.
The game went back and forth, with each team trading runs through the bottom of the fifth, when the game remained locked in a 6-6 tie.
In the top of the eighth, Auburn center fielder Kason Howell rocketed a home run over the center field wall. The ball travelled an estimated 400 feet to one of the deepest parts of the park.
However, in the bottom of the eighth, Praytor hit a solo home run of his own to once again tie the game. With the teams tied at seven runs apiece, the game headed into the ninth inning.
Redshirt-sophomore right-handed pitcher Landon Green entered the game in the top of the ninth and retired the Tigers in order, giving the Crimson Tide the opportunity to take the game in the bottom of the inning. However, Auburn wasn't going to go down that easily, with Tigers southpaw Carson Skipper doing the same.
And just like that, the game proceeded into extra innings.
Green started off the 10th inning with a near-perfect three outs, striking out all three batters in succession with the help of Praytor on a remarkable play off of the backstop to make the throw to first on a swinging strikeout in the dirt.
After back-to-back singles from Zane Denton and Praytor, Diodati — who was 1-for-4 on the night — stepped into the batter's box. On the first pitch he saw, Diodati cranked the ball into the right-field corner. Denton advanced all the way home from second base, and the Crimson Tide took the game 7-6 in walk-off fashion.
After the game, Diodati recapped the walk-off hit.
"Props to my teammates," Diodati said. "Will Hamiter came up to me before the inning and just kind of said to me '[The curveball] starts at your shoulders, don't give up on it. It's going to drop down in there for a strike.' [...] That's kind of what happened with that first pitch. I was lucky enough to see it and it dropped down in there and I was lucky enough to get a good swing on it."
Along with Diodati's hit, the bullpen was the other headline. Starter Tyler Ras pitched four innings and allowed six runs and eight hits. However, reliever Will Freeman came out of the bullpen and pitched four innings as well, allowing only one run off of three hits in 15 batters faced.
Green (3-0) picked up the win for his two innings on the mound. Green retired all six batters faced in order, striking out four of them.
"He's nasty, man," Bohannon said of Green. "He's nasty. [...] He was lights-out. Just nasty stuff and he's going to be a big part of whatever success we have for the rest of the year."
Skipper (0-2) for Auburn was saddled with the loss.
With the win, Alabama moves to 21-12 overall and is 6-7 in SEC play. Auburn is now 13-17 with the win and is 1-12 in the conference. The win on Thursday marks the Crimson Tide's fifth-straight.
"I really like the mentality of this club right now," Bohannon said. "They just bringing it, man, and they just keep playing — they just keep playing — and I'm hopeful that as we're having more success that we don't try to add to it. We can't start chasing the postseason. Just go play. We've got over half [of] our league play left. Just go play, and they're doing a good job of that. We got to keep doing it."
The Crimson Tide and the Tigers will resume play on Friday night in Game 2 of the three-game series (6 p.m. CT, SEC Network+).