It was a beautiful night for baseball at Riverwalk Stadium for the 8th Annual MAX Capital City Classic.
The Auburn Tigers faced the Alabama Crimson Tide on the diamond in Montgomery, reigniting college athletics greatest inner-state rivalry with one of the SEC’s biggest sporting events of the year. More than 7,307 fans packed the home of the Biscuits – leaving standing room only.
Auburn continued its dominance in the MAX Capital City Classic series, easily defeating Alabama with an early offensive assault that produced a 10 -1 victory. Auburn's 10-run performance set a MAX Capital City Classic record and gave the Tigers a 7-1 record in the game.
A triple by LF Joshua Palacios got the offensive party started for the Tigers. Auburn’s 2B Jordan Ebert followed behind with a single that brought Palacios home, and DH Niko Buentello’s double put Tigers in scoring position. Tigers' C Blake Logan followed the great start with a three-run blast, giving Auburn a 4 – 0 lead leaving the first inning.
"I said, `Let's just try to find a good pitch to hit,'" Logan said to AuburnTigers.com. "He threw me a breaking ball, and for some reason I was thinking he might do it again. He did, and I just ended up running into it and put one out."
The Tigers' offense knocked Alabama starter Jon Keller off the mound after two innings. Keller gave up seven hits and six runs in two innings pitched for his first loss of the season. The early Tiger pounce was a sign of things to come. Auburn hit two homers and had 15 hits throughout the game, with six of them going for extra bases.
Anfernee Grier had three hits, including his SEC-leading seventh home run.
"I didn't think I really hit that ball that well," Grier told AuburnTigers.com. "I guess I put a good swing on it. It carried out for me. I'll take it. It's always fun to beat Alabama. I was always growing up an Auburn fan; never really liked Alabama growing up, so anytime I get a chance to play against them, it's fun. And it's even better when you win."
Auburn coach Butch Thompson said that his Tigers were focused and prepared for the MAX Capital City Classic, and that he enjoys the atmosphere the rivalry provides.
"Both bands and Aubie. Great venue with a full crowd,” Thompson told AuburnTigers.com. “I thought our offensive players stayed focused on their approach tonight. I think it gives all of us a feeling of what we can be, and what we can do with all three phrases working pretty good."
Alabama failed to take full advantage of the scoring opportunities they had in each of the first three innings. The Tide crossed the plate in the top of the second. With the bases loaded, UA’s OF Hunter Webb was hit by a pitch, bringing 2B Cobie Vance home. The run narrowed Auburn’s gap to three runs, but Alabama failed to see any more runs the rest of the game.
“They slapped us around early, and we could never get our footing,” Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard told RollTide.com. “When we went to the bullpen, it seemed like they greeted every guy with a hard-hit ball.”
Auburn scored in each of the first six innings, not seeing a scoreless inning until the seventh. Auburn starting pitcher Andrew Mitchell finished with five strikeouts and six hits in six innings pitched for his fourth win of the season. The Tigers' Gordon Cardenas pitched three scoreless innings for the save.
"We could never really muster any offense or find a solution to get them out," Gaspard told AL.com. "I thought they were really good on the offensive end tonight."
The Tigers are now 7-1 in MAX Capital City Classic games. Auburn improved to 12-13. Alabama dropped to 15-9. The game did not count in the SEC standings. Next year’s MAX Capital City Classic is scheduled for March 28, 2017.