Alabama came home to The Joe this week following the disappointment of being swept by Mississippi State in three games. The Tide started the five game home stand off with victories over Mississippi Valley State, 8-3, on Tuesday and a pounding of 25th ranked Troy 11-2 on Wednesday. The two wins pushed the teams record to 29-21 with a big series against Missouri on the horizon this weekend.
In Tuesday game with the Delta Devils Mike Oczypok got the win, pitching five innings, allowing seven hits and three runs. Oczypok struck out a career high six and allowed three runs in running his record to 4-1 on the year. Taylor Wolfe was called on in the sixth for only his second appearance of the year. Wolfe last pitched on March 8th against Louisville, and only threw four pitches in that outing. Wolfe, who graduated last week and already accepted a job in Birmingham, pitched a very impressive four innings, allowing only two infield singles with no walks, and struck out four batters in not allowing a run.
Austen Smith continued his torrid hitting with a solo home run in the second inning to stake the Tide to an early lead. 'Bama added to the lead in the third when Andrew Miller lifted a wind blown double to left and scored on Georgie Salem's single. In the fourth inning the Tide scored another single run when Ben Moore singled, stole second, and scored on Mikey White's double.
The Devils, who came into the game with a 5-41 record, battled back in the fifth and tied the score by scoring three runs on four hits. MSVS carried a .211 team batting average and a 7.92 team ERA. Alabama answered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the fifth. Ryan Blanchard singled and scored on Kenny Roberts double. Moore then singled Roberts in to stretch the lead to 5-3.
Wolfe came on in the sixth and quickly allowed an infield single and a bunt single, but settled down to get a strikeout and a double play to end the inning. 'Bama put the game away in the bottom half when Brett Booth and Miller singled bringing Blanchard to the plate. Blanchard deposited his first career home run in the oak trees in left field, giving the Tide their 8-3 margin of victory. Wolfe cruised the rest of the way, retiring nine in a row, with three strikeouts.
Five Tide players had two hits each, Blanchard, Miller, White, Moore and Roberts. Salem, Overstreet, Smith and Booth all added one each, as every player in the lineup recored at least one hit. Smith's home run was his team leading sixth of the year. Blanchard had a career high three RBI's. Moore swiped three bases.
Wednesday saw the 25th ranked Trojans of Troy come to town, sporting their highly ranked RPI (34th.) Facing a must win situation the Tide responded by pounding Troy 11-2, a big win for the squad in its quest to reach post season play.
Taylor Guilbeau drew the starting assignment and pitched five impressive innings, allowing seven hits but only one run. Guilbeau struck out five and did not walk a batter, a huge factor in his success. Troy scored in the first as leadoff man Tyler Vaughn lead off with a single, one of his three hits on the night .Trae Santos then rocketed a double over Salem's head in center, to the very deepest part of the ball park. 'Bama answered in the bottom of the first. Salem singled, Overstreet walked and Moore singled to load the bases. Smith drew a walk, forcing Salem in with the Tides first run. Roberts lead off the third with his third home run of the year. Salem walked, stole second, and scored on Overstreet's double, giving the Tide a 3-1 lead. 'Bama added to the lead in the fourth when Blanchard reached first after being hit by a pitch, after two were out. With Roberts at the plate Blanchard took off on a hit and run, and scored all the way from first on Roberts single.
Shaw relieved in the sixth, and continued his impressive pitching of late, throwing three scoreless innings. Shaw has now pitched nine scoreless innings in a row, allowed two hits and striking out one. Shaw lowered his ERA to 1.62. 'Bama broke the game wide open in the eighth by scoring six runs. Roberts singled, Salem and Overstreet walked and Moore cleared the bases with a long double. Smith scored Moore with a double of his own before Booth launched his fifth home run over the trees in left field. Booth's home run took some of the sting out of his having hit into three double plays. Closer Ray Castillo pitched the ninth and allowed a solo home run to Matthew Howard, to close out the scoring.
Roberts and Moore lead the way with three hits each. Salem added two hits, two walks, three runs scored and a stolen base. Overstreet had a double, single, two walks, a run scored and a RBI. Smith had a double and RBI. Booth had a home run, and two RBI's. Miller added a single with an RBI.
'Bama recorded the two wins when they needed them the most. Mississippi Valley State came to town with a RPI of 297 (out of 298) teams, and the Tide was obviously suppose to win. The Tide's RPI actually went down even with winning the game. Troy is highly thought of and the win was definitely considered a "good" win, and boosted the Tide in the eyes of any committee members that may by choosing the NCAA field. The next step is to sweep Missouri this weekend to establish better seeding in the SEC tournament.
Moore now leads the team in hitting with a .288 average, he also leads in stolen bases with 16, RBI's with 34, doubles with 11, triples with four and slugging percentage with a .435 mark. Salem is second in average at .282 and leads in hits with 59. Smith is third in average with his .273 and leads the team with six home runs, and is second in RBI's with 32. Booth is next in average at .271 and is second in home runs with five. Oczypok, Guilbeau, Tucker Hawley, Charley Sullivan and Spencer Turnbull all have four wins each to lead the pitching staff. Castillo has eight saves to lead the team.
The Missouri Tigers come to Tuscaloosa for the first time as a member of the SEC for a three-game series, Friday at 6:35 p.m., Saturday at 1:05 p.m. and Sunday at 1:05 p.m. Saturdays game is set for TV on FSN.
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Roll Tide Y'all Roger