TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After taking the first game of the series in extra innings on Thursday and falling just short on Friday, Alabama baseball walked off once again against Auburn on Saturday, winning both the game and the series 10-9 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
“What a heck of a ballgame," Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon said. "Just both teams just trading blows, just going back and forth and all three of these games this weekend either team could have won. It could have been 3-0 or 0-3, either way. Huge credit to Auburn. Just kept their foot on the pedal. They scored first in all three games and just kinda kept us on our heels and really proud of our kids.
"They just kinda kept coming and kept responding and so many guys played a big part today and it’s pretty rare that you say that in a game with that score."
When Bohannon revealed last week that sophomore starting pitcher Connor Prielipp would be making his long-awaited return to the mound after struggling with a nagging injury since the Crimson Tide's season opener, some excitement built up in the fanbase. However, Prielipp's return was more of a whimper than a roar.
He did start, but took a quiet exit after the first inning, allowing a run, a hit and a walk in the first five batters faced. Sophomore southpaw Antoine Jean came in to relieve at the top of the second, but was removed up four runs off of two hits and three walks while registering just one out.
"Obviously we had to go to the bullpen earlier than we wanted to — not just after Prielipp," Bohannon said. "We knew he was gonna go about 30 pitches today, but he felt good which is really positive. Antoine had a tough day and McNairy battled there for a little bit."
After falling behind 5-2, Alabama began to chip its way back. A two-out, two-RBI home run in the bottom of the third by sophomore designated hitter Owen Diodati tied the game at five heading into the fourth.
Auburn re-took the lead in the top of the inning, scoring three more runs, 7-4.
In the bottom of the seventh, a two-run home run by sophomore right fielder Will Hamiter followed by a solo home run by Praytor tied the game again, this time at 8-8.
And again the Tigers had a quick answer.
In the top of the eighth, junior first baseman Tyler Miller doubled to right-center field to bring in the go-ahead run at 9-8.
However, in the bottom of the eighth sophomore shortstop Jim Jarvis led off with a single to left. A sacrifice bunt by freshman center fielder Caden Rose advanced him to second and an RBI-double by sophomore second baseman Peyton Wilson tied the game at 9-9.
After striking out Will Hamiter, Auburn opted to intentionally walk Zane Denton, putting Praytor at the plate with two outs and runners on first and second.
Praytor was walked with a full count, loading the bases with two outs for Diodati. Down 0-2, he hit a ball to the right-field warning track, where Auburn right fielder made a spectacular catch to prevent Alabama from taking its first lead of the game.
Auburn was put away by Alabama junior closer Chase Lee in the top of the ninth, giving the Crimson Tide another walk-off opportunity.
Junior first baseman Drew Williamson led off with a single to right, putting senior left fielder Jackson Tate at the plate with nobody out. Tate laid down a sac-bunt to advance Williamson and bring up Jarvis.
With a 1-0 count, he drove the ball off the left-field wall, bringing Williamson home for the winning run.
“Obviously Jim Jarvis got a huge hit which was the game-winner but I would like to recognize Drew Williamson and Jackson Tate," Bohannon said. "Drew led us off by getting on base which started it and everybody in the stands thinks bunting is easy but when you got a dude throwing 95 miles an hour it’s really, really hard and I thought Jackson did a good job of taking a couple of pitches out of the zone and really putting his nose on it and getting him over."
Lee (5-0) was credited with the win. He pitched two and two-thirds innings and allowed one run off of three hits, with three strikeouts and one walk.
"I can’t say enough about Landon Green or Chase Lee," Bohannon said. "We went to Landon earlier than we wanted to but at that point we were chasing three and I told J.J. that ‘We can’t keep our two bullets in the bullpen, we can’t worry about the ninth right now. We’ve gotta use those guys and give us time to scratch and claw and close the gap.'
"You can lose a game in the ninth, sometimes in the second or the fourth so we went to Landon and Chase earlier than we would’ve liked but those guys deserve huge credit for what they did."
Auburn's Mason Barnett (2-2) was saddled with the loss.
Having won six of its last seven games, Alabama improved to 22-13 overall and back to within one game of .500 in SEC play at 7-8. The Crimson Tide will host North Alabama on Tuesday (6 p.m. CT, SEC Network+).
Auburn dropped to 14-18 (2-13 SEC).
"Just a great, great weekend and really proud of our team," Bohannon added.