Alabama boarded the bus in Tuscaloosa riding the momentum of a six game winning streak, 60 miles up the road to The Hoover Met to play the UAB Blazers on Tuesday. By the time they re- boarded the bus all the momentum plus the winning streak was gone. In a listless performance the Tide fell 1-0 to the Blazers dropping their record to 16-10.
Last year the Blazers defeated the Tide 1-0 in Birmingham and 9-1 in Tuscaloosa. With their confidence high, after sweeping SEC foe Georgia this past weekend 'Bama only managed four singles and had three runners reach base via bases on balls. The best chance for 'Bama was in the sixth inning. Georgie Salem led off with a single, and after Kenny Roberts popped out Ben Moore singled as well. Brett Booth was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up a double play. Needing a productive at bat the Tide instead received a strike out and soft line drive out, stranding the bases loaded.
Starting, and losing, pitcher Tucker Hawley pitched well enough to win, allowing only six hits and one run in five innings of work. Hawley's record fell to 4-2 on the year. Jay Shaw pitched a scoreless sixth, stranding two runners who had reached on a hit by pitch and walk. Freshman walk-on Mike Oczypok continued to impress in his limited opportunities by pitching two scoreless innings with three strikeouts. With the loss of Jake Hubbard for the rest of the season Oczypok may see his role increase as the season progresses. Hawley walked the leadoff batter in the third, and then allowed a single and sacrifice bunt before John Frost singled to drive in the game's only run. The dynamic duo of Mikey White and Kyle Overstreet then turned their first of two double plays on the night to squelch the threat. Also defensively Brett "The Eraser"(so dubbed by the Tuscaloosa New's Aaron Suttles) picked a runner off of first base, his 21st punch out on the base paths this year.
Of the four hits, Moore had two, Salem one and Austen Smith the other. Smith's hit came in the ninth inning to set up a possible tying rally. Riley Colburn came in to pinch run for Smith and he advanced to second on Overstreet's ground out. Cameron Carlisle flew out to short left field to end the game.
The Tide may want to reconsider games against in state opponents in minor league parks, as they have dropped five in a row to Auburn in Montgomery and four in a row to UAB in Hoover. This was definitely a winnable game that 'Bama needed on their resume as the season goes on. With the difficulty if the SEC schedule, the mid-week games are almost a must to pad the record. They have six more chances on this season.
Booth still leads the team with a .316 average, followed closely by Moore at .313. Smith, Roberts and Salem follow at .284, .283 and .282 respectively. The team has 223 hits on the year, with only 41 being for extra bases, 34 doubles, 2 triples and only five home runs. Hawley leads in victories with four and Castillo in saves with four as well.
One loss doesn't a season make, but this was a disappointing loss. That being said the Tide has a quick turnaround to get the bad taste out of their mouth. Thursday begins a three-game series against bitter rival Auburn in Auburn. Auburn defeated 'Bama earlier this year in the Capital City Classic in Montgomery by a score of 6-3. TheTigers have begun the SEC portion of their schedule with a record of 0-6. It is too early in the season to call a series a must win series, but this on qualifies. With Arkansas, Ole Miss and LSU the next three conference foes, 'Bama needs to win this series. Thursday and Friday's games are at 6:05 p.m. and Saturday's CSS televised game is set for 3:00 p.m. All times listed are CST.
The pitching rotation will be Charley Sullivan, Jon Keller and Spencer Turnbull, as it has been most of the season. The Tide needs to continue to get outstanding pitching and defense and have productive at bats and create some runs along the way. Speed and bat control, leading to stolen bases, sacrifice bunts and hit and run situations must be taken advantage of.
There is still a lot of baseball to be played, and this team can still make noise in the conference and make it into the NCAA tournament.
Bama baseball fever, catch it!