After being tied through seven innings, Alabama scored three crucial runs in the eighth inning and went on to defeat Auburn 6-3 in the opening round of the SEC Baseball Tournament, on Tuesday.
Justin Kamplain started on the mound for Alabama, but was quickly pulled after giving up his third earned-run of the day in the third inning. Auburn led 3-1 after three innings, but failed to score another run due to Alabama’s pitching and defense.
After Kamplain was pulled, sophomore Jay Shaw entered the game for the Tide. Shaw pitched five scoreless innings and allowed only four hits in what became the longest single outing of his Alabama career.
Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard spoke about Shaw’s performance during his postgame press conference.
“Today, obviously Jay Shaw was the story coming in after Kamplain had a rough start,” Gaspard said. “Jay was tremendous.”
While mostly used as a middle reliever, Shaw has been excellent of late. He has only allowed one run in his last 15 innings pitched.
“He’s been more of a two inning type guy for us,” Gaspard said. “Once he got through two innings I was a little concerned, but he stayed at it.”
When Alabama had their pitching back under control, it was the responsibility of the offense to retake the lead from Auburn. With a 3-3 score in the bottom of the eighth inning, Ben Smith singled to left field and advanced to third from a double by Brett Booth. Chase Vincent singled up the middle to bring Smith home and score the go-ahead run, and a sacrifice fly-ball scored Booth. Alabama scored their last run of the day, which became the final run scored in the game, as Andrew Miller came home on an Auburn wild pitch.
Vincent knew that with a runner on second and third, it was his responsibility to bring them home.
“I knew I had to get the job done,” Vincent said. “At my last at-bat I knew I had to get something done.”
Along with a standout double-play by shortstop Mikey White flipping a gloved ball to second baseman Kyle Overstreet, the defense was exactly the support that Shaw needed to continue his shutout. With Shaw only striking out one in 18 batters faced, the defense had to be sharp, and they were.
Shaw credited the team’s defense as a major part of his success after the game.
“I had guys making plays behind me,” Shaw said. “It’s easy to pitch when you’ve got guys who are making these kinds of plays.”
Auburn’s record falls to 33-23 this season and their chances at receiving a postseason berth are looking grim. Auburn was eliminated from the tournament as part of a new 12-team format that features a single-elimination opening day, followed by a double-elimination format for the remainder of the tournament.
Alabama’s record improved to 33-24 and almost certainly notched a place in this year’s regional tournament with this win.
Gaspard is confident about his team’s outlook.
“Personally, I feel like we’ve done enough to get in,” Gaspard said. “I felt like a win today would certainly solidify us getting in…We feel pretty comfortable about getting into a regional.”