Close but no cigar.
Alabama lost their series to Louisville this weekend, getting swept in three games. Friday's loss was a 4-3, 14 inning heart-breaker. Saturday was a 6-0 game that was much closer, being 0-0 headed to the bottom of the seventh, before giving up all six runs. Sunday was another heartbreaking extra inning defeat, this time 8-7 in 10 innings. Taking the fifth ranked team in the country to extra innings twice was great, but the Tide needs to find a way to win those games.
The Tide and Cardinals battled evenly for 30 of the 33 innings played over the weekend. However the other three innings were the Tide's undoing; the bottom of the 14th on Friday, the seventh on Saturday and the 10th on Sunday.
Friday's pitching was outstanding with starter Charley Sullivan providing a quality start, throwing seven innings, allowing eight hits and three runs, all earned. Justin Kamplain tossed 1 and 1/3 scoreless innings, followed by Ray Castillo's 2 and 1/3 scoreless frames. Mitch Greer also tossed 2 and 1/3 innings with no runs. Castillo stranded the winning run at second in the ninth inning, and got out of a bases loaded jam in the 10th. Louisville pushed the winning run across in the 14th without the benefit of a hit. Jay Shaw, in his second appearance of the season, hit two batters and walked two, bringing in the winning run.
Offensively for 'Bama Kenny Roberts had three hits in six plate trips, stole a base and scored a run. Ryan Blanchard was 2-5 with a stolen base and a RBI. Andrew Miller stroked an RBI single. Kyle Overstreet had a single and an apparent two run double that he was robbed of by the official scorer. Overstreet shot a ball past the Cardinal's first baseman that was ruled an error after much discussion. Ben Moore and Austen Smith had the other Tide hits on the night. 'Bama had the go ahead run on base in the ninth, 10th, 12th and 14th innings but could not come up with the big hit needed to grab the lead. Sixteen crimson clad hitters struck out vs. four Cardinals and drew only three walks.
On Saturday starting Jon Keller pitched six plus innings allowing only five hits, issuing two walks while striking out seven. Keller allow two runs, only one earned, and was saddled with the loss. Keaton Haack had his shortest outing of the year, and also allowed his first earned run, pitching 2/3 of an inning, giving up four runs, only one of which was earned. Jake Hubbard finished with 1 and 1/3 scoreless innings. Louisville's six runs came on four hits, two walks and an error.
Offensively 'Bama could manage only an infield single by Roberts in the second and a line drive to center by Booth in the fourth. Mikey White and Miller reached base by being hit by a pitch and Georgie Salem walked for the only other Tide base runners. Six 'Bama batters struck out.
In Sunday's game 'Bama jumped out to a three to zero lead on Booth's two run homer run and a Blanchard sacrifice fly. Smith reached on another controversial call, scorching a ball that the Card shortstop tried to backhand, but could not come up with. The official scorer called it an error. After Moore singled Overstreet was hit by a pitch, and both advanced a base on Miller's perfect sacrifice bunt. Blanchard scored Moore with his long fly out to left.
Louisville answered back with a run in the third. Moore extended the lead with his second home run, a massive drive to left, in the top of the fourth. The Cardinal's tied the game with three runs in the fourth on four hits. In the fifth Louisville took the lead, chasing Turnbull and bringing on Kamplain. Turnbull lasted 4 and 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and five runs, all earned. Kamplain allowed two solo home runs in the seventh to stretch the deficit to 7 to 4, which brought Castillo into the game.
'Bama bounced back with three in the eighth to tie the game. White walked. Roberts singled, Smith reached as White was forced at third, Booth then walked to load the bases. Moore brought two in with a double down the right field line. Overstreet then hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Moore finished 3-3 with a walk on the day. In the ninth Louisville had the winning run on second with no outs but the runner was picked off by Booth. Greer then escaped with no further damage. 'Bama went down in order in the top of the 10th leading to Louisville's winning bottom of the 10th.
Greer came out to pitch and lasted only two pitches before being taken out with blisters on his pitching hand. Tucker Hawley came in and inherited a two ball no strike count, and proceeded to walk the leadoff man. (Walk was charged to Greer.) The Cardinal's attempted to sacrifice bunt but the batter beat it out for a single. The following batter executed the sacrifice perfectly putting runners on second and third with one out. The Tide intentionally walked the next batter to load the bases. With a left handed batter up, Coach Mitch Gaspard called on lefty Taylor Wolfe for the first time this season, as a matter of fact for the first time in over a year, as he is one year removed from Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm. On his second pitch Ty Young drilled a single in the right center gap to win the game. Greer was the hard luck loser.
Offensively for the Tide Roberts was 5-13 for the weekend and Moore was 4-9. Booth had his home run and threw out two more base runners. No other player had more than two hits for the weekend. Suspect score keeping by the Louisville Sports Information Director took several hits away from Tide hitters and artificially protected the Louisville pitchers earned run averages, to the detriment of the team fielding average.
Getting swept in a series is never a good thing, and there is no such thing as a moral victory. However there were several positives for the weekend. Starting pitching was better, providing two quality starts. Overall the relief pitching was good. Obviously the hitting needs to pick up. Roberts and Moore coming alive is a positive going forward. Booth has continued to be solid and Smith has shown signs of life. The freshmen Salem, White and Overstreet have had their moments but are struggling some right now, which is typical of most first year players. Salem's streak of reaching base in every game ended Sunday at 14 games.
As a team 'Bama is hitting just .226 and the pitching staff has an ERA of 3.40. Booth leads the team at .298, followed by Salem at .267, Roberts at .264, Smith at .261 and Moore at .255. Booth and Moore both have two home runs. Moore leads with 11 RBI's and Booth and Overstreet have 10 each.
'Bama has five home games this week, hosting Memphis University Tuesday and Wednesday. Both games begin at 6:05 p.m. The first S.E.C. series of the year is this weekend against Tennessee. Friday's first pitch is at 6:35 p.m., Saturday's at 6:05 p.m. and Sunday's is at 1:05 p.m. Memphis come in with a record of 9-5 with three wins against Missouri and one over Ole Miss (in Oxford) so they will be a formidable foe. Tennessee sports a record of 7-7 and truly is an S.E.C. team that we could sweep.
After a promising 6-0 start to be at 8-7 is disappointing. However this is a scrappy team that will battle to the end and good days should be just down the road.
Roll Tide Y'all