Everything set up perfectly for 'Bama on Sunday in their elimination game with Troy at the Tallahassee Regional. Starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull quality start? Check. Mitch Gaspard's new shuffled line up productive throughout? Check. Three run lead with stud closer Ray Castillo on the hill? Check. The Tide looked ready to go on and play host Florida State in a 4.00 o'clock game.
However baseball being baseball, you cannot run out the clock, and you must play all 27 outs, and Troy rallied with four runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 9 to 8.
'Bama jumped out to an early lead in the third inning when Chance Vincent singled, advanced on Mikey White's double, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Georgie Salem. The Tide allowed the Trojans to tie the game on two singles in the fourth. Alabama added a run in the fifth when Andrew Miller and Vincent singled, and Miller scored on a ground out by White. In the sixth inning 'Bama stretched the lead when Kenny Roberts singled and advanced to second on Brett Booth's ground out. Austen Smith hit a grounder and reached when Roberts beat the throw to third. Kyle Overstreet hit an RBI single, as did Ben Moore, giving the Tide a 4 to 1 lead.
Troy fought back and tied the game in the bottom of the sixth. Leadoff man Tyler Vaughn hit a ground ball to short that took a bad hop and bounced off White's chest. Logan Pierce followed with a single. Turnbull struck out Danny Collins for the first out. Trae Santos walked before Josh McDorman drilled a two run double deep to center field. Matthew Howard's sacrifice fly scored the teams' fourth run.
'Bama seemed to put the game away in the seventh by scoring three runs. White, in the leadoff spot for the first time, singled. Salem sacrificed him to second. Troy chose to walk Roberts intentionally, bringing Booth to the plate. Booth pulled a ball into the left field corner for a two run double. Smith followed with a deep double of his own, scoring Booth. Overstreet singled to left, and in what would later be a key play, Smith was thrown out at the plate for the second out. Moore then drove a deep fly ball to the wall in right center field, which was caught against the fence.
Jay Shaw relieved Turnbull in the seventh and recorded two strikeouts. Shaw ran into trouble in the eighth when he hit a batter and walked two to load the bases. Peyton Fuller singled in one run before Justin Hancock struck out to end the inning.
The Tide went down in order in the ninth to set the stage for Castillo. Castillo has had recent shoulder trouble, and clearly was not at his norm. The freshman closer hit the first batter he faced, and struck out the second, which was the only out he would record. A walk to Collins followed and then Brandon Brown ripped a double down the left field line, a line the Tide was not guarding. The double scored two, and put the winning run at second base. Matthew Howard singled to tie the game and then Castillo hit the next batter to load the bases, and walked the next batter to drive in the winning run.
Every batter in the new batting order contributed as the Tide collected 15 hits in scoring eight runs. White had a double and single. Salem had two sacrifice flys, a sacrifice bunt and two RBI's. Roberts had a single and a walk and scored twice. Booth added a single and double and two runs driven in. Smith had a double, single and RBI. Overstreet contributed two hits and a RBI. Moore had a single and RBI. Miller had two hits and scored twice. Vincent had a career high three hits and scored once.
'Bama finished the season with a 35-28 record, a 14 game improvement over last season's win total. Although this was a disappointing end to the season, there are several good things that came out of the year. Several freshmen played pivotal roles in the season. White and Overstreet formed one of the best double play combo's seen in recent years. Salem displayed vast potential in center field. Vincent showed signs at the end of the year of developing into a solid hitter. Castillo showed all-season that when healthy, he is one of the nation's top closers. Moore will be back, and after hitting .342 last year, should bounce back closer to that mark next year. Booth will be sorely missed, behind the plate, at the plate, and in the clubhouse, as he was the leader of this young team. Roberts played a solid third base all year, and ended the year as one of the team's hottest hitters. Miller was a good veteran presence in left field, playing great defense. Charley Sullivan will be missed in the pitching rotation.
With the MLB draft coming soon, look for Booth and Roberts to be taken, although possibly in the later rounds. Sullivan could be a late round pick up. Juniors Austen Smith and Tucker Hawley are possibilities to be chosen. The injured Wade Wass, who only had one at bat all year, may also be taken.
The only thing 'Bama can do is look to the future, continue to recruit, and allow the players to improve during summer ball. Several players are going to Summer College Leagues, from The Cape Cod League, to The Northwoods League, to the Texas League.