Alabama grabbed a big win in their first game of the SEC tournament on Tuesday, 6-3 over arch rival Auburn. The win set up a game on Wednesday with second ranked LSU. The game is the second game of the day and will be played 30 minutes after the conclusion of Arkansas and Ole Miss, which starts at 9:30 a.m.
Justin Kamplain started on the mound for the Tide and struggled, throwing three innings, allowing four hits ad walking two and three earned runs. The sophomore lefty struggled with his command and threw 71 pitches in his three innings. Jay Shaw continued his late season surge and saved the day for 'Bama, pitching five clutch shut out innings. Shaw allowed four hits and one walk. The redshirt sophomore from Russell County has become a vital cog out of the bull pen was credited with his second win of the season, and lowered his ERA to 1.40. Freshman closer Ray Castillo pitched the ninth inning and recorded his 11th save.
'Bama scored in the first inning without the benefit of a hit. Lead off batter Kenny Roberts walked to start the inning. Georgie Salem laid down a bunt and the Tigers tried to throw out Roberts at second, and failed, putting two on with no outs. Kyle Overstreet had a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners, and when Ben Moore grounded to short, Roberts scored. Auburn answered in the third, scoring three runs on two hits, two walks and a sacrifice fly. Cullen Wacker and Garrett Cooper drew one out walks, and Wacker scored on a double by Patrick Savage. Dan Glevenyak lifted a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Cooper. Jordan Ebert had a swinging bunt, that just eluded Kamplain for an infield single and bringing in the third run.
Shaw came on to start the fourth for 'Bama, and promptly began setting down the Tigers. 'Bama cut into the lead in the fourth, finally getting their first hit of the game on a Ben Moore single. Austen Smith singled and Moore scored on Brett Booth's RBI safety. In the sixth inning 'Bama was able to tie the game, but let a chance to take the lead slip away. Moore lead off with a single and advanced to third on Mikey White's single, putting runners on the corners. Smith lined a shot down the left field line, that landed just fair, scoring Moore and putting White on third. Auburn chose to intentionally walk Andrew Miller to load the bases, and set up force plays at all bases. Chance Vincent hit a check swing roller to the mound, and White was thrown out at the plate. 'Bama left the bases loaded.
Auburn's Hunter Kelly and Wacker had one out singles in the top of the seventh, setting up the games highlight play. Cooper hit a hard ground ball up the middle, that looked to be a go ahead single. White, at shortstop, layed out, snagged the ball, flipped it out of his glove to Overstreet, who snared the ball bare handed, and fired to Smith at first for the double play. As great as the play was, it was almost routine for this freshmen keystone combo. White's father, Mike White, said "the play he made against LSU was better than that one."
Shaw breezed through the eighth, allowing only a walk, setting up 'Bama's winning eighth inning rally. Smith had a one out infield single, and on a hit and run Booth lined a high outside pitch to right field for a double. Miller was again intentionally walked to load the bases. This time Vincent came through with an infield single up to the middle to break the tie. Roberts followed with a deep sacrifice fly to right field, and when Terrance Dedrick uncorked a wild pitch, Miller capped the scoring by coming in from third.
With a 6-3 lead in the ninth, Coach Mitch Gaspard called on Mr Automatic, Castillo, who got the Tiger's three up and three down on 17 pitches. Shaw recorded the win and his former high school teammate, Castillo grabbed the save, his 11th of the year. After having the freshmen lead the way offensively last week at Vanderbilt, the upper class men stepped up in todays game. Smith was 3-4 with a double and RBI. Booth and Moore were both 2-4 with an RBI. White and Vincent represented the under class men with one hit each, and VIncent's RBI was the game winner.
There cannot be enough said about the job that Shaw did in securing the victory. Five shut out innings was impressive, but also saving the bull pen was huge. With Shaw's performance the Tide was able to limit Castillo to only one inning, which will be big going forward this week.
The defense continued to sparkle as Booth threw out another runner trying to steal, his 35th victim of the year. Overstreet turned a double play on a ground ball near the second base bag, and was involved with White on what should be on ESPN as play of the day tonight.
The Tide improved their record to 33-24 and Auburn dropped to 33-23. The win should further secure 'Bama a spot in the NCAA tournament, and most likely knocked Auburn out of said tournament.
'Bama will start senior right hander Charley Sullivan on the mound Wednesday against LSU. The Tigers will counter with lefty Cody Glenn. Alabama won one of three games vs LSU this year, and one loss was a 16 inning epic affair.
This Tide team continues to fight, battle, scrap, and scratch their way to wins. Under estimate them at your own peril. With great defense, adequate pitching and timely hitting they can continue to surprise people and pile up wins. After last seasons 21-35 debacle of a record a 12 win improvement is a big step forward for the program, and this team can go much further.
In other games today, Ole Miss defeated Kentucky 4-1, and Texas A&M won over Florida 6-3. At press time Mississippi State and Missouri had yet to begin play. Arkansas and Ole Miss play at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Bama and LSU will have first pitch about 12:30 p.m. Vanderbilt and Texas A&M will play at 4:30 p.m. and South Carolina and the winner of MSU and Missouri will play the night cap.
'Bama Baseball Fever, It's time to Catch It !
Roll Tide Y'all Roger