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March 29, 2013- -
AUBURN | Just as coach John Pawlowski had been predicting, it took just one swing to get Auburn turned around Friday night.
Garrett Cooper blasted a three-run homer during the fifth inning that gave Auburn a monopoly on momentum and helped the home team earn a 6-3 win.
It was Auburn's first Southeastern Conference victory of the season.
"Last night I came up with the bases loaded and ended it with a double play. Tonight was a different story," Cooper said. "I turned this game whole game around and hopefully I turned the whole series around."
Auburn (16-11, 1-7) allowed its opponent to score first for the 24th time this season, but that wasn't a deal-breaker this time around. Hunter Kelley gave the Tigers their first lead in an SEC game this season with a two-run shot during the third inning. Cooper's homer came in the bottom of the fifth and built a 6-1 advantage.
It was Auburn's first multi-homer game of the season.
Strong outings from starter Michael O'Neal and closer Terrance Dedrick on the mound also played a crucial role in equalizing the series.
Despite a first inning stumble from O'Neal, one that allowed Alabama to score its only run of the game, the left-handed pitcher scattered eight hits over seven innings of work. He didn't issue a single walk.
"It felt a lot better. Especially after that first inning where they got that run and I'm thinking here we go again, but it's your mentality to keep throwing strikes just let the defense do what they can do," O'Neal said.
Dedrick, a native of Tuscaloosa, came into the game for the Tigers in the eighth after Alabama added a pair of runs -- and still had two men on base. Needing only one out to end the inning, Dedrick averted a potential catastrophe by coaxing a groundout.
The Tide (17-11, 6-2) created additional drama in the ninth inning when Mikey White led off with a single. Dedrick continued to pound the strike zone and eventually forced Cameron Carlisle to ground into a game-ending double play to secure the save.
"I've been doing that role for a little while. I just have to get up there and throw strikes and make sure I keep the ball low," Dedrick said. "It was a very exciting moment for me, but the only thing that was on my mind was not to let them get a good swing on the ball and not to get the runner in."
The series concludes Saturday at 3 p.m. with each team hoping to claim the series. Alabama beat Auburn on Thursday night.
"It's Alabama. You want to win especially since we lost seven straight (conference games)," O'Neal said. "That's like wow. I mean, we have not been doing very well lately. Everything that could happen bad has been happening for us."
Left-handed pitcher Will Kendall will make his first SEC start since the 2012 season after gaining medical clearance three weeks ago. He underwent ligament replacement surgery last April.