'Bama's bats stayed hot in two mid-week victories, Tuesday over Samford 15-7, and Wednesday over Jacksonville State 6-5. With 14 hits Tuesday and 11 on Wednesday the Tide now has double digit hits in five straight games. The team's record now sits at 13-9.
In Tuesday's game the Tide set the tone early by jumping on Bulldog lefty Patrick Mcgavin (a former 'Bama player) for five runs on five hits in the first inning. Kenny Roberts was hit by a pitch and was quickly doubled in by Ben Moore. Austen Smith had an RBI single; Mikey White an RBI double and Andrew Miller was hit by a pitch in the inning.
Starting pitcher Tucker Hawley was on a low pitch count to ensure he would be available to throw in this weekend's series at Georgia. Hawley allowed a C.K. Irby solo home run in the bottom of the first, but that was all. Hawley pitched three innings and struck out three batters.
'Bama salted the game away in the third by plating eight runs. Smith lead off with a double, Kyle Overstreet walked, as did Cameron Carlisle, before Miller was hit by a pitch again, this time driving in a run. Roberts was hit again and Moore was walked with the bases loaded to drive in a run. Brett Booth then lined a double in the right center gap clearing the bases and Smith got his second hit of the inning, and third of the game, a towering blast over the left field wall for his first home run of the season. Miller was hit by a pitch three times, and Roberts twice in the game.
With a 13-1 lead after three innings, 'Bama coasted home to the 15-7 victory. Keaton Haack relieved Hawley and pitched two innings allowing three runs, two of which were earned. Senior Trey Pilkington pitched two innings, allowing three runs. Freshman Mike Oczypok pitched two scoreless innings to wrap the game up.
Samford used nine pitchers in the game. Smith led the way with his 3-5 night with three RBIs. Overstreet had a 3-3 night with two walks and a RBI. Moore was 2-3 with two walks and 2 RBIs. Booth was 1-5 with four runs batted in. Mikey White was 2-5 with an RBI and a double. Salem had one hit and one RBI. Carlisle had one hit and reached on a walk. Hawley was awarded the victory, running his record to 4-1 on the season.
Wednesday the Tide defeated Jacksonville State 6-5 to give the team a three game winning streak. 'Bama used five pitchers in the tightly contested game. Starter Taylor Guilbeau could only last two plus innings, leaving with no outs in the third after the first two batters reached base. Jake Hubbard, who was credited with the victory, relieved. Guilbeau allowed four runs, three earned, with two walks in his 49 pitch outing. Hubbard pitched 2 and 1/3 innings before being lifted after experiencing pain in his right forearm area. Jay Shaw replaced Hubbard and pitched 1 and 2/3 clutch innings with two strikeouts. Justin Kamplain pitched the seventh and eighth innings with two strike outs and did not allow a base runner. Freshman sensation Ray Castillo pitched the ninth to secure his second save of the season.
After allowing a first inning run to the Gamecock's, 'Bama answered with one of their own in the first. Moore scored on a wild pitch, after reaching on a fielder's choice. Roberts and Booth singled in the inning. Jax State bounced back with one in the second to retake the lead, but 'Bama answered once again. Miller started the two out rally with a walk, followed by a Salem single and a Robert's RBI single. Once again Jacksonville took the lead in the third, chasing Guilbeau, with two runs. Alabama answered with three runs on five hits to take the lead that they never relinquished.
Booth singled, stole second, and was driven in by Smith's double. Overstreet followed with a blast in the right field corner that scored Smith, but was thrown out trying to stretch his double into a triple. Carlisle walked, Miller singled, and Salem drilled a single to score the go ahead run. 'Bama scored their last run of the game in the fourth after Moore reached on a two base error; he was driven in by Smith's single.
Jacksonville scored once in the fifth before Shaw came in and stopped the rally. After that Alabama and Jacksonville only had one hit each. Both teams had one reach via walk, and 'Bama two more on Gamecock errors. Kamplain pitched a six up six down seventh and eighth inning, before giving way to Castillo. Castillo allowed only an infield single and struck out one.
Smith lead the way with his 3-3 night and a walk, and two RBIs the second game in a row with three hits for the slugger. Salem, Booth and Roberts all contributed two hits. Overstreet and Miller had one hit each.
Two victories are a great way to start the week, but the good news is tempered by a double dose of bad news. Junior catcher Wade Wass, who was being counted on to provide much needed power for the Tide is scheduled to undergo surgery on his broken wrist in the morning, (Thursday) and Hubbard very likely has a serious injury. The area that is injured is usually indicative of a ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), which typically requires Tommy John surgery. Wass said "I'll be back next year." Hubbard dejectedly lamented that " it hurt's pretty bad, we will see Dr. Laubenthal (team doctor Jeff) in the morning, and if needed on to Dr.Cain (noted surgeon Lyle). We can hope for the best for Hubbard, that hopefully he doesn't have a serious problem. Unfortunately the Tide has experienced season ending arm surgery several times over the last few seasons. Taylor Wolfe, Tucker Hawley, Jay Shaw and Cary Baxter have all missed seasons over the past few years.
Booth continues to lead Tide hitters with a .342 average, followed by Smith at .306, Salem at .297, Moore at .295 and Roberts at .269. The recent hot streak has the team average up to .258, up from .220 just a week ago. Overstreet is still leading in RBIs with 19, followed by Moore and Booth with 17 each, Salem with 15 and Smith with 13. Hawley is the leader in victories with four, and Hubbard in saves with three. Castillo has a 2-0 record with two saves.
The Tide will take to the road for their next seven games, a key stretch for this young, improving team. This weekend the team travels to Athens Georgia to take on the underachieving Bulldogs. Georgia's record sits at 8-13 and 0-3 in the SEC. Friday's first pitch is at 6:00 p.m., Saturday's is at 3:00 p.m. and Sunday's is at 1:00 p.m. All time listed are CST. Saturday's game will be televised by CSS. Following that is a March 26th date with UAB at The Hoover Met and a road trip to Auburn for a three-game SEC series.
This team continues to get good defense and clutch pitching, and the bats are starting to come around. Hopefully they can continue finding ways to play winning baseball. This weekend's series in Athens is a very winnable one and a sweep is definitely a possibility.
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Roll Tide Ya'll