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Pitching propels No. 20 Auburn to opening win against Alabama

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AUBURN, Ala. † No. 20 Auburn used a timely at bat and solid pitching and defense to beat Alabama 3-2 Friday night at Plainsman Park.

Brooks Carlson hit the go-ahead double in the bottom of the sixth and Auburn’s relief duo of John Armstrong and Blake Burkhalter held Alabama scoreless in the final 3.2 frames to secure the opening win in the series in front of a sold-out crowd.

“It’s always good to win the first game of the series,” head coach Butch Thompson said. “We’re so engaged. I wish we could go on and start a tenth inning or game two of the series.”

Tie 2-2 with one out and two strikeouts in the sixth, Carlson doubled across the line from first base to score Bobby Peircea, who had stolen second base earlier in the at bat, giving Auburn a 3-2 lead. The go-ahead hit was Carlson’s third game-tying or go-ahead hit in the sixth inning or later this season.

“I know it was pretty ugly, but it did the job,” Carlson said. “With two shots right there I tried to hit a ball to the right side. Just a little short and sweet. I saw the ball deep, but it worked and did its job. I was just happy to help my team.” †

After entering embossed from Mason Barnett and by recording the last two outs in the sixth, Armstrong (1-0, 1.59) finally set a season high with 2.2 innings pitched in his first career win. The rightman got the minimum in his outing, struckout three and got three groundouts, including the Tigers’ third double play in the game to end the eighth inning.

“It feels good to get my team in a place to win,” Armstrong said. “Tossing two outs is huge, but the win is even better. If we keep winning, the rest won’t matter.”

“For Armstrong to make that pitch and put our confidence behind him to get that doubles is amazing,” said Moore.

Burkhalter came in for the final frame and earned his SEC-best 12th save of the season with two strikeouts before popping up to second in shallow right field to end the game.

“This is good for our pitching and defense to win a game for us,” said Thompson. “We scored a few runs, but this was good for our three pitchers to throw great.”

Tied 0-0 in the bottom of the fifth, the Tigers (34-16, 14-11 SEC) came on the board with a pair of two outs. Cole Foster won a nine-pitch at bat with a single with two outs to left-center to bring in Brody Moore from second. Immediately following, Blake Rambusch hit a first-pitch double to bring in Foster from first base and double the lead.

Alabama (27-23, 10-15 SEC) answered in the top of the sixth and tied the game, 2-2 with a single and a homerun to center right. However, that was the last thing the Tigers would surrender in the game.

Barnett earned the start and gave up two runs on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts in a season-high 5.1 innings. The junior-righty had to go only three over the minimum in 5.1 innings before running into problems in the sixth. Armstrong, however, picked up the pieces.

Rambusch led the way from the plate, going 2-for-4 with an RBI to mark his 24th multi-hit game of the season.

Game two between Auburn and Alabama is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.

Sources

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