After surprisingly taking back-to-back series from nationally ranked Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, the Tide seemed to be in good shape heading into a week that features series with UAB and LSU. The Blazers are nothing overly special, and LSU is probably, at best, the seventh best team in the conference, so things looked to shape up nicely.
It didn't quite go as well as planned.
A late double secured victory for the Tide in game one against UAB, but the following night the Blazers soundly outplayed the Tide en route to a relatively easy victory, thus forcing a series split. On Friday, we traveled to Baton Rouge to play LSU, but the game was postponed, forcing a doubleheader on Saturday. After getting a split in the doubleheader, Alabama had the Sunday game, and therefore the series, seemingly locked up. After a big sixth inning the Tide carried a three run lead, but it all fell apart amid a myriad of poor hitting and poor pitching. We ended up losing 9-7, with the go-ahead run coming on a wild pitch, after leaving eight runners on base and having eight strikeouts, to go along with two errors. At the end of the day, we lost a game, and a series, that we should have won based solely upon a complete lack of execution of the most elementary of baseball fundamentals.
Our continued lack of competent execution of fundamental baseball remains a major concern. We do not have an in-state scholarship program, nor do we have any institutional support for baseball in general. It all combines to mean that we aren't going to beat many conference teams with superior depth and talent, so we have to play sound baseball to get the job done. Unfortunately, we seemingly cannot do that. We walk entirely too many batters, have too many wild pitches and errors, and on the offensive side of the ball we leave entirely too many runners in scoring position because of an inability to put the ball in play during key situations. None of that bodes well for the Tide.
The one positive, I suppose, you could take from the LSU series is that it was on the road, and thus far SEC teams have struggled greatly on the road in conference play. I have long argued against the traditional belief of home field advantage in football, but in baseball it's another story, and in particular it seems to be a very big advantage in SEC baseball. So far this season, the home team has won 20 of 24 conference series, and we have yet to break that trend in our own right (2-0 at home, 0-2 on the road). However, regardless of home field advantage, the point remains that at some point we will have to go on the road and win some series, and being quite frank, we won't have many easier opportunities than we had in Baton Rouge this past weekend. Arkansas and Mississippi State may be easier, but only slightly so, and after this past weekend you cannot feel good about our chances there either.
Either way, after losing the series to LSU and splitting with UAB, the Tide sits tied for third in the SEC West with the Bayou Bengals. And that's bad news for us. Only the top eight teams make the SEC Tournament, and with essentially the entire Eastern division looking superior to just about everyone in the West, we will probably need to finish second in the West to just secure ourselves a spot in Hoover.
Things won't get any easier for the Tide this week. After two relatively light games against Mississippi Valley State and Southeastern Louisiana, we will have to travel to Knoxville to face a good Tennessee team. The Vols are one of the best teams in the conference, and are fresh off taking a series from nationally ranked Florida. Sufficed to say, we've got our work cut out for us as we go on yet another road trip this weekend.