The 21st ranked Alabama baseball team took a weekend series from St Louis, winning Saturday and Sunday after dropping the first game on Friday night. The Tide pitched and fielded well, and hit just enough to secure two victories. Friday's game was a 2-1 loss, Saturday's game was a 4-3 walk off thriller, and Sunday's game was a 9-3 victory for 'Bama.
On a day that the weather started off perfectly, by game time it was not. Friday afternoon it appeared that there would be a clear, although cool, night for opening night at The Joe. By late afternoon the clouds started rolling in and rain appeared to be on the way. With junior righty Spencer Turnbull taking the mound with numerous big league scouts in attendance, the game began at 6:05 p.m. Turnbull had his good stuff and cruised through three innings, allowing only one hit and striking out four, with no walks. The big red head was consistently hitting 95 on the radar gun by the third inning. 'Bama took the lead in the bottom of the third when Georgie Salem singled, stole second, and scored on a double by Ben Moore. That is when the skies opened up and a one hour and forty minute rain delay ensued. Unfortunately the rain forced Turnbull out of the game after his three inning stint. When the game finally resumed Coach Mitch Gaspard sent senior right hander Tucker Hawley to the mound. After two quick outs in the top of the fourth, Atlantic 10 player of the year from 2013, Mike Vigiarolo singled up the middle and was driven home with a long triple off the bat of Danny Murphy. The Billikens added another run in the fifth when Danny Brennan hit a long triple of his on, and scored on ground ball by Jake Henson. St Louis replaced starter Clay Smith with Nick Bates after the delay, and he handcuffed the Tide for 4 and 2/3 innings. 'Bama had their best chance of the night in the bottom of the eighth inning when Mikey White led off with a single, followed by a one out walk to Wade Wass. Kyle Overstreet lined a single to left and when White was sent to the plate, he was thrown out by several feet. Rather than having the bases loaded with one out, the Tide now had runners on first and third with two outs. Austen Smith struck out for the third out, ending the threat. 'Bama was set down in order in the ninth by Matt Eckelman. It was a well played game and the Tide just came up short, unable to get the big hit to tie the game. Freshmen Geoffrey Bramblett followed Hawley on the mound and pitched three innings of scoreless ball, striking out three and allowing three hits. Junior Taylor Guilbeau pitched one scoreless inning. Salem and Smith were both 2-4, Moore had a double and the only RBI, and White and Overstreet added one hit each. Hawley suffered the loss.
On a sunny pleasant day the Tide came out to try and even the series. The crowd was large, and the new right field section was packed out with rowdy fans, mostly students. The University estimated the crowd in the right field plaza numbered over 600, giving the team a nice home field advantage. The crowd inside was large, and loud also, and overall attendance was 4,000. Junior Justin Kamplian drew the starting assignment, and started off rocky. The lefty hit the lead off batter, and when Alec Sole sac bunted, Kamplian fumbled the ball, then threw it away, putting runners at second and third. Danny Murphy lifted a sacrifice fly to score the first run, followed by a long two run homer run by Mike Vigliarolo, putting the Tide in a quick 3-0 hole. Kamplian got in a grove after that, and pitched through the fifth inning, and didn't allow any more runs. 'Bama finally scratched in the third when sophomore Daniel Cucjen hit his first career home run, off the left field foul pole, leading off the third inning. With one out Mikey White tripled, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ben Moore, cutting the lead to 3-2. In Kamplain's five innings, he allowed three hits, three runs, two walks, and struck out five. Freshmen right hander Nick Eicholtz replace Kamplian and pitched three impressive innings, allowing two hits, with two walks, a hit batter and two walks. 'Bama tied the game in the fifth when Moore reached on an error, and was driven home on a long double off the bat of Wade Wass. Wass was catching his first game in an Alabama uniform after surviving three surgerys in the last 12 months. Wass game in last season, was hurt with a broken foot in preseason, came back, had one at bat and broke his wrist. After serving on DH on Friday, he was finally back behind the plate on Saturday. Freshmen left hander Thomas Burrows pitched a perfect top of the ninth for the Tide with a strikeout, sending the game to the bottom of the ninth still tied. After the first two batters went out easily, White kept the game alive with a single, and was followed by another single by Moore. That brought Wass to the plate, and he lined a single to left and White beat the throw to the plate on a close play, giving the Tide a 4-3 victory. The team chased Wass down and dog piled, before running to the right field area and saluting the fans. Burrows got the victory for the Tide. White was 3-5, scoring two runs. Wass was 2-3 with two RBI and two walks. Moore had a hit an RBI, Kyle Overstreet had a single as did Matthew Goodson and Hunter Webb. The hits were the first of Goodson and Webb's career. The Saturday walk off at The Joe has become a habit over the last several years, starting with Taylor Dugas's walk off home run against Auburn, continuing to Brett Booth, Austen Smith and now Wass.
After the thrilling Saturday win the rubber game of the series was played Sunday at 1:05 p.m. On a nice, warm, sunny day, with a good crowd on hand the Tide looked to gain another victory. Sophomore Ray Castillo started the game on the mound, his first career start. Castillo was a freshmen All American last year as the teams closer. 'Bama jumped out to a two to nothing lead in the second when Ben Moore and Wade Wass walked, were sacrificed forward by Kyle Overstreet, and both scored on a single by Austen Smith. Castillo started strong, but ran in to trouble in the third, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks. When Castillo walked the lead off batter in the fourth, Jonathan Keller was brought in from the pen. Keller was outstanding immediately got a double play grounder and only allowed one hit, with no walks in his four innings. 'Bama broke the game wide open, thanks to some wild pitching from St Louis. Smith and Will Haynie were hit by pitches to start the inning. Chance Vincent was set to sacrifice bunt them over when pitcher Zach Girrens threw a wild pitch advancing the runners. Vincent then lined a double in the left-center gap, scoring both runners. Hunter Webb was then hit by another pitch and Georgie Salem walked. Mikey White walked, driving in another run and Moore followed with an RBI single. Wass walked and then Overstreet singled, scoring two more runs. Smith plated the seventh run of the inning on a long sacrifice fly, giving the Tide a comfortable 9-2 lead. Jay Shaw pitched the eighth and Jake Hubbard the ninth, allowing a meaningless run in the ninth for the final tally of 9-3. Keller earned the victory with his stellar outing.
The weekend was a good test against a good team. St Louis won 42 games last year, winning their league regular season and tournament titles. There were several positives. The defense was outstanding, turning four double plays on the weekend. The pitching was also outstanding, allowing only eight runs in the three games. The hitting needs to come around, as the team only hit .234 for the three games. White was the big gun, going 4-10 for a .400 average. Moore was 3-9,.333, with three RBIs. Smith was 3-10 with three RBIs. Overstreet was 3-11 (.273) and had a pair of runs driven in. Wass had two hits, two RBIs, with the Saturday game winner, but also walked five times in the three games.
This is an exciting, talented team that has a chance to do some special things this year. The atmosphere this weekend was unlike any seen at Sewell Thomas Stadium in several years. With momentum for the new stadium building, and a good, young team things are looking up around the 'Bama baseball complex. Become a part of it, and if you are in or around Tuscaloosa come out and catch a game, you will be hooked.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch it!
Roll Tide Y'all Roger