There was plenty of time to think about what a sweep of Auburn would mean for the University of Alabama baseball team.
There was Friday’s rain delay that pushed the series start to Saturday. There was the doubleheader on Saturday. Then there was the six-and-a-half hour marathon on Sunday that lasted 15 innings before Alabama finally buried Auburn 11-9. That was followed by an exuberant bus ride back across the state before head coach Greg Goff and the Crimson Tide arrived in Tuscaloosa early on Monday morning.
“Hopefully we can build off of this and hopefully people will see that we have a lot going on here,” Goff said on Monday. “We have a lot of great things at Alabama. Hopefully we’ll continue to improve and develop this program and something very, very special. I think this weekend, as you look back hopefully three or four years from now, you look back at this weekend as that defining moment in that first year that really changed the way that we do things.”
Alabama’s win over No. 4 Auburn was its sixth straight SEC series win against the Tigers. The last time UA swept Auburn in back-to-back visits there was 1956-57. But it took a Herculean effort from the Crimson Tide to finish the series on Sunday.
Goff used eight different pitchers and 15 position players. The game was tied 5-5 after nine innings and the lead had changed hands four times already. Alabama would take the lead four more times while batting in the top of the frame in extras, but Auburn tied the game again in the 10th, 11th and 13th.
“It’s just so surreal,” Goff said. “It’s like ‘Is this really going on?’ We get a lead, and then we can’t hold it.”
It was the longest game in Alabama baseball history. That broke a record set earlier this year, when Alabama lost 13-12 in a 13-inning, 5:43 battle at Mississippi State. Alabama was swept in that series by one run in all three games. Two weeks later, fortune smiled on UA against its archrival.
Auburn entered the series in first place in the SEC West and tumbled to fifth with the sweep. The series also keeps Alabama’s hopes of making the SEC tournament alive. Alabama is two games back of Georgia and Tennessee in the win column with six games to play. The top 12 teams in the league make the conference tournament.
“The things that we’ve had to go through this year and the players, I just can’t say enough about the character (of the players) and what they’ve done,” Goff said. “There were a lot of expectations coming into this year. The injuries, all those things, people don’t understand all those things. For 18-22-year-olds to deal with some things that they’ve never had before in their life, to overcome those and to be successful, to beat your arch rivals and sweep a series on the road in this league. I can’t say enough how much I respect what they’ve done.”