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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn mounts comeback win on Senior Day to seal series over Alabama

No. 20 Auburn (35-16, 15-11 SEC) chipped away at an early deficit to get its 18th comeback victory of the season to clinch the series win over Alabama (27-24, 10-16 SEC) on Senior Day on the Plains.

Alabama got out to an early advantage, but the Auburn offense slowly chipped away at the lead as its bullpen held the Tide bats silent after starting pitcher Trace Bright's early exit. 

“Today was a good day to win a series,” said head coach Butch Thompson. “We had a tough start but maintained good composure. It took a long time for us to get back in the ballgame, but those fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh innings we linked up to score a run every inning."

With a fast start to the game, Alabama rallied for four hits and two free passes off of Bright, including a no-doubt three-run home run by lefty William Hamiter to cap off a four-run top of the first. 

After the taxing 36-pitch frame where he allowed six base runners, Bright's day ended, and he handed the ball to lefty Tommy Sheehan. 

Sheehan, who began the season in a starting role, was able to give the Tigers some much-needed length out of the bullpen. He pitched four scoreless innings and gave Auburn's bats some time to come to life.

After being held scoreless in the first three innings, Auburn's offense got on the board in three straight innings starting in the fourth, eventually taking back the lead.

Bobby Pierce, who made an impressive leaping catch earlier in the game while retreating back to the fence, continued to make his presence felt in the fourth, lining a 411-foot shot over the wall in left-center for his sixth home run of the year. His solo shot acted as the spark for Auburn's comeback effort.

"[The early deficit] is tough, but we knew we were going to rally," Pierce said. "Just chip away, chip away, chip away... Really that's just kind of our mindset. We're never out of a game."

In the ensuing fifth inning, Auburn took advantage of an Alabama defensive miscue and tacked on two more. With one out and runners on first and second, Sonny DiChiara hit a soft grounder to first base. Trying to get the force at second, the first baseman slung it to second and sailed it high over the shortstop's head. Advancing to score was Garrett Farquhar and everyone was safe.

Keeping the movement going, Blake Rambusch lined a blooper into right-center for an RBI single, scoring Brody Moore to make it a 4-3 Alabama lead.

As Sheehan finished his day after the fifth inning, Auburn began to pass the torch, and all of its relievers had an impressive showing. Carson Swilling took the ball in the sixth and seventh and allowed no runs while only letting one batter reach on a hit by pitch. 

While the bullpen cruised, the offense kept tacking on, and the Tigers evened the score in the sixth. After Brooks Carlson singled and advanced to second on a Kason Howell groundout, Nate LaRue singled into left-center to knock him in. At 4-4, it was now a brand new ballgame.

The seventh is where the Tigers took their one and only lead. After two quick outs by Moore and DiChiara, they compiled a two-out rally. 

Once again coming through with a two-out knock was Rambusch, the team leader in hits. Following his single, he stole second. With him in scoring position, Pierce once again came up big with a single that scored the go-ahead run.

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Keeping the rally going, Brooks Carlson singled to put runners on the corners when Pierce made a risky decision with two away. When a passed ball rolled a few feet away from the catcher, Pierce immediately bolted for the plate, and although the catcher seemed to be in position to make the out, Pierce slipped his hand across the plate on a head-first slide for an insurance run.

With a 6-4 lead, freshman Chase Allsup took the mound in the eighth hoping to prolong the bullpen's impressive work. After a leadoff single, he induced a double play and sat a batter down on strikes to end the eighth.

In a save situation, Auburn opted not to go to closer Blake Burkhalter, who threw 18 pitches in his save in game one, but instead sent Allsup back to the mound looking for his second save of the season. 

He did just that. Retiring the first batter on a groundout, he went on to fan the next two to seal the win for game two, and continue the streak of 14.1 straight scoreless innings by Auburn relievers. It also sealed the series win in the team's last regular-season series of the season.

Swilling accumulated his third win of the season while Allsup picked up his second save, but Sheehan taking over for Bright and recording four innings of no-run ball while getting four Ks was as clutch as it comes. He saved the Auburn bullpen from exhaustion in game two of the series and took up half of the bullpen's eight IP for the day.

“I was just trying to stay within myself and do what I can,” Sheehan said. “We knew they were a good fastball hitting team, so we were trying to get a good mix of pitches in there today which worked well for me and the guys that followed me."

At the plate, the Tigers had plenty going for them. They compiled 12 hits, opposed to the Crimson Tide's six. 

Auburn had four players with multi-hit performances: Rambusch, Pierce, Carlson and LaRue. Rambusch led the club with three knocks and he added an RBI and a run scored. Pierce also had a big day, going 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored.


Next, Auburn hosts Alabama once again for game three tomorrow at 3. p.m. CST on the SEC Network, and they will have several key arms who will be well-rested, including : Burkhalter, Carson Skipper, John Armstrong and more.

“Only four baserunners reached the last eight innings,” Thompson said. “Our pitching staff just grinded through trying to get us back in this ballgame. Swilling came in and really mixed his pitches before turning it over to Allsup. This was Allsup’s moment. We had Burkhalter ready to go, but we ended up not needing him.”

Noah Griffith | Assistant Sports Editor

Noah is a senior in journalism from Salem, Alabama. He joined the Plainsman in August of 2021 after transferring in from Southern Union Community College.

Twitter: @NoahGG01

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