For the past nine years, the MAX Capital City Classic has provided an early opportunity for Auburn or Alabama to grab mid-season bragging rights. For the eighth time in nine tries, Auburn did not let the opportunity slip away. Defense and a stellar bullpen performance led No. 17 Auburn to a 4-3 victory over Alabama Tuesday night in front of a sellout crowd at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery.
Four Auburn pitchers held the Crimson Tide to five hits to lead the Tigers to its 11th win in its last 12 games. Auburn starter Christian Camacho went 3.1 innings and allowed two runs on four hits. No other Auburn pitcher would allow an earned run.
Corey Herndon relieved Camacho and immediately induced a double play in the bottom of the fourth to get Auburn out of a jam. Herndon, who earned his first career win, fired 1.2 hitless innings, giving up one unearned run while striking out one.
Freshman Ryan Watson threw 2.2 shutout innings following Herndon out of the Tigers’ bullpen. He struck out three Crimson Tide batters and allowed just one hit.
Andrew Mitchell slammed the door on Alabama with 1.1 perfect innings to pick up his first save of the season.
“[Corey] Herndon did a great job, Ryan Watson. I look at the first three guys that got in the ballgame. I’ve got a freshman. I’ve got a first-year junior – a junior college player. It was his first time to ever play in the game, then I’ve got another freshman, Ryan Watson, that gets us all the way to the point,” Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said. “I was wanting Andrew [Mitchell] to throw the ninth, but we brought him in to finish the eighth inning. Just to see those guys, and see how much they are going to grow from that is neat for us to see. You can’t put our players, especially new players on our team, in a better environment.”
Auburn jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third inning with a two-run single by Daniel Robert accounting for most of the damage. The Tigers also got a run on an error after Will Holland beat out a bunt single and an error allowed Josh Anthony to trot home.
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The Crimson Tide (12-13) got on the board in the third on a RBI single by Cobie Vance. Alabama used sac flies in both the fourth and fifth innings to tie the game at 3-3.
In the sixth, Auburn moved Robert to third with two outs. The Tigers needed a clutch hit, and Anthony provided just that. His infield single drove home Robert and provided what proved to be the winning run for the Tigers.
“We just have really good team chemistry and we really fight to the end. We really just get it done,” said Auburn second baseman Jay Estes, who was named game MVP after making two key defensive plays.
“We still had a lot of strikeouts tonight,” Thompson said. “I’m so thankful our team is finding a way to win and hanging in there when we’re not playing our best baseball.”
Sam Finnerty took the loss for Alabama, allowing one run in 2.1 relief innings. Starter Garret Rukes allowed three runs with five strikeouts in three innings.
Auburn (21-6, 5-1) returns to action this weekend as No. 6 South Carolina comes to Plainsman Park for a three-game series between the SEC East and SEC West leaders. First pitch Friday night is set for 6 p.m. CST.
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