The Alabama baseball team, for the second weekend in a row, came out on Friday and lost a 2-1 game. This week the opponent was Stephen F Austin and last week was to Saint Louis University. Friday's game went 13 long innings before 'Bama succumbed to the Lumberjacks. The Tide bounced back with an 8-0 shut out win on Saturday and a thrilling walk off 3-2 win in 10 innings on Sunday. Once again the pitching and defense were outstanding all series, but the hitting is a work in progress. 'Bama now has a 4-2 record, as SFA fell to 3-4 on the young season.
Game One. Lost 2-1, 13 innings
In Friday's opener big right hander Spencer Turnbull took the mound for his second start of the season. Turnbull's first start was cut short (to three innings) by a one hour and forty minute rain delay. Despite not having his best command Turnbull battled through five innings, allowing three hits and one run, striking out six, but walking five. The run was scored in the third innings on four walks.The Tide came out in the first and looked as if they would jump all over starter Cameron Gann. Georgie Salem singled, stole second, and scored on a Mikey White single. Ben Moore walked, putting runners on first and second, but the next two 'Bama hitters struck out, ending the threat with the only run the team would score on the night.
Freshmen Geoffrey Bramblett replaced Turnbull and had another strong outing. Bramblett went 2 1/3 innings, allowing no hits, but walking three and striking out one. Another freshmen, lefty Thomas Burrows, followed and continued his impressive pitching, lasting three innings, with one hit, two walks and two strikeouts.
Losing pitcher Jay Shaw was next up and he went two innings allowing four hits and one walk. The run scored was by the ultimate small ball play book. The leadoff man had a bunt single, was sacrificed to second, continued to third on a single, and scored on a sacrifice fly to right. Tucker Hawley recored the final two outs on the mound for 'Bama. The Tide had a few opportunities to win the game in regulation but could not come up with the big timely hit to do so. In the sixth Salem hit a lead off double, but was then picked off second.
In the ninth 'Bama had their best chance of the night, but squandered it. Salem lead off with a bunt single. White was trying to sac bunt Salem to second, but beat out the bunt for a single, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Moore was allowed to swing away and popped out to the second baseman, and then Kyle Overstreet wrapped into an inning ending double play.
The Tide also had two base runners on in the 11th and 12th innings but could not bring them home. In the bottom of the 13th, needing a run to continue the game, Salem led off with his fifth hit of the night but was stranded, ending the game. 'Bama only had nine hits in the game, and Salem (with five) and White (with three) had eight of those. Freshmen catcher Will Haynie had the other, his first hit in a Crimson Tide uniform.
This was a game that was winnable, however walking 13 and hitting two batters usually will get you beat, sooner rather than later.
Saturday's Game. Won 8-0
Junior lefty Justin Kamplain took the mound for 'Bama in Saturday's second game, needing to eat some innings to help save the bull pen after Friday nights extra inning affair. Kamplain was very sharp and pitched six outstanding innings, allowing only three hits with no walks, and striking out seven. Freshmen Nick Eicholtz pitched two good innings, allowing only one walk, with no hits and two strikeouts. Sophomore right-hander Mitch Greer cleaned up, pitching a perfect ninth inning, in the Tides 8-0 victory.
Freshmen out fielder Casey Hughston got his first start and made the most of it, launching two long home runs, as well as an RBI single. Hughston's first big fly led off the second inning, giving the Tide the only run they would need. The shot into the right field plaza area sent the overflow crowd into a frenzy. 'Bama added to the lead in the third when Daniel Cucjen singled and scored.
The Tide broke the game open in the fifth inning with a three spot. Georgie Salem was hit by a pitch, and scored on Mikey White's double. Ben Moore followed with a double of his own, scoring White. Moore scored on Hughston's line drive RBI single to center. Hughston led off the seventh with a mammoth shot to right, that almost cleared the whole Sara Patterson Championship Plaza. The Tide added one more in the eighth to finish out the scoring.
Hughston led the way with his 3-5, two home run, three RBI day. Salem continued his hot hitting with two hits. Moore and White added two of their own. The victory set the stage for Sunday's rubber game.
Sunday's Game. Won 3-2 in 10 innings.
Sophomore Ray Castillo started the second game of his career on the mound Sunday. After struggling with his command last week, Castillo was on point today. Castillo pitched five plus innings, allowing five hits with no walks and four strikeouts. The Lumberjacks struck first, scoring an un earned run in the fourth. A dropped fly ball, a sac bunt, and a double brought the run home. 'Bama answered in the fifth when freshmen speedster Hunter Webb beat out a bunt, stole second, continued to third on the overthrow and scored on Georgie Salem's single.
Castillo started the sixth and loaded the bases on a bunt single, and infield single and a line drive single. With no outs and the bases juiced Coach Mitch Gaspard called on junior lefty Jonathan Keller to put out the fire. Keller limited the damage, but did walk one batter forcing in the 'Jacks second run. Keller pitched the final five innings and only allowed two hits, with the one walk and struck out six.
With their backs to the wall the Tide finally responded, tying the game in the bottom of the eighth with two out as Kyle Overstreet blasted his first career home run, just over the reach of the left fielder. 'Bama had the winning run on second in the ninth inning but could not get him home. That set the stage for the heroics in the bottom of the tenth.
Ben Moore led off and was robbed of extra bases on an outstanding play be SFA's center fielder Matthew Dickey. Overstreet then lined a single up the middle, followed by a Ryan Blanchard single to right. Wade Wass then was called on to pinch hit and with two strikes delivered. Wass riffled a shot into left and a hustling Overstreet beat the throw home with the winning run. The hit was Wass's second walk off game winning hit of the young season.
Overstreet was the offensive MVP with his home run and single, Webb added a double and single, and Austen Smith had two singles. Salem, White, Moore and Wass all added one hit. After Wass's game winner the team ran to the right field plaza to salute the fans and slap high fives all around. Keller was credited with his second victory of the year with his outstanding five inning stint.
Salem was the big stick for the weekend, going an impressive 8-14. White went 5-14 on the weekend and they lead the team. White is at .400 for the season and Salem is hitting .385. Moore and White are the team leaders with four RBIs. As a team the Tide is hitting .244. The pitching staff has an impressive 1.53 ERA.
The crowds for the weekend were phenomenal, as the right field plaza continues to be a huge hit. Friday and Saturday over 1,500 fans (on each day) were packed into the area. Sunday their were about 1,200. That is in addition to the 3500 in the stadium. For the first time in recent memory the team actually has a home field advantage, and students have a reason to want to come to the games. Admission to the plaza is free, and coolers, dogs and chairs are allowed. Derek Henry and O J Howard have been regulars at the games, along with several various teammates. Sunday Trevor Releford came out, so the University's other athletes are enjoying coming out and supporting their school mates.
'Bama's pitching and defense are playing at a winning level, but the offense is going to have to come around for the team to reach their goals. To have lost twice by a 2-1 score this early in the season is not ideal, but there are a lot of positives going forward.
The Tide takes to the road next week, playing at Southern Miss on Wednesday and continuing on to Lafayette Louisiana to play the 11th ranked Rajun Cajuns in a three game weekend series. The Cajuns play in a little 3,500 seat stadium and have already sold out the series. On top of that the city's Mardi Gras will be going on and the parades will end up at the ball park. The atmosphere will be crazy and the competition will be a step up. If the pitching and defense continue the team will always be in the game, however the bats will need to pick up. Hopefully with the weather warming up, so will the bats.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch it!
Roll Tide Y'all