Alabama and Kentucky locked up in the opening SEC series this weekend at The Joe in Tuscaloosa.The series was played with a Friday night game, and a Saturday afternoon double header, because of the threat of bad weather on Sunday. The Tide won the opener on Friday, then lost the first game Saturday before bouncing back with a dramatic extra inning win in game two. The Wildcats came into the weekend leading the nation in batting average,doubles, runs scored and one base percentage. In addition the 'Cats were third in slugging percentage. 'Bama's strong suit has been their pitching, with a team ERA of 1.62. The Tide is now 12-6, 2-1 in the SEC and Kentucky fell to 14-6, 1-2 in conference play.
Friday Night, Game One, Won 3-0
With Tide ace Spencer Turnbull matched against Wildcat ace A.J. Reed on Friday night runs were going to be at a premium. It is much like when an irresistible force meets an immovable object, something has to give. Not only is Reed the Kentucky ace pitcher, he also leads the NCAA in home runs and RBIs while hitting near .400. Turnbull got two quick outs in the first, before walking the bases loaded. The big righty struck out Matt Reida to end the inning. 'Bama got the only run it would need in the second inning. Wade Wass led off the inning with a long drive into the right center gap for a double that just missed leaving the park. After two outs, freshmen Will Haynie poked a single to score Wass, and give the Tide a 1-0 lead.
Turnbull cruised through the second and third and got a home run saving catch from Ben Moore in right field in the fourth. Reed hit a long drive to right that Moore tracked, braced himself at the wall, leaped and caught the ball with his glove over the wall, and held on for the high light reel catch. Reed was mowing the Tide down in the middle innings, setting the stage for the key sixth inning. Kyle Barrett led off the sixth with a single, and the nations leading hitter, Austin Counsino, had an infield single. Turnbull walked three hole hitter Max Kuhn to load the bases with no outs, and to bring Reed to the plate in a 1-0 game. With one strike Reed hit a low, sinking line drive toward Mikey White at shortstop. White snagged the drive just inches off the ground, flipped to Kyle Overstreet at second base for the second out.
Overstreet than threw to Chance Vincent at third to record the third out. The triple play was a huge momentum changer. In the eighth inning Turnbull allowed a lead off single to Storm Wilson. Connor Heady laid down a sacrifice bunt and when Haynie pounced on it and threw to first, the throw bounced of off Heady's helmet. Heady was ruled out for running out of the base line, and Wilson had to return to first. Freshman Thomas Burrows replaced Turnbull and got two easy outs to end the inning. Haynie slapped a line drive home run in the bottom of the eighth for his second round tripper in the last two games. Vincent walked, and was sacrificed to second by Georgie Salem. A balk moved Vincent to third, and a wild pitch allowed him to score, stretching the lead to 3-0. Burrows came out firing in the ninth and struck out the first two batters and got a soft line drive to Overstreet at second to end the game. Turnbull got the victory to run his recored to 2-1, and Burrows was credited with the first save of his career. Both teams only got four hits each. Wade Wass and Casey Hughston each had a double, and Haynie had a single and a home run for all of the Tide's hits. 'Bama played a clean defensive game and turned two double plays, in addition to the triple play.
Second Game, Saturday, Lost 7-2
Justin Kamplain, fresh off his seven hitless innings in last Saturday's no hitter, got the start in Saturday's first game. The suspense of a second no hitter went out the window quickly, as lead off batter Kyle Barrett singled on the second pitch of the game. Austin Cousiino made sure the 'Cats wouldn't be shut out again by lining the first pitch he saw for a home run into the right field plaza for a 2-0 'Cat lead after only two batters. The next batter reached on an error, and with one out Kentucky catcher Michael Thomas drove a two run home run of his own to give the 'Cats a 4-0 first inning lead. Alabama pushed one run across in the third, as Mikey White and Ben Moore singled and Wade Wass drilled an RBI single. After his rocky first inning Kamplain settled down only allowing one walk and one single in the second through the fifth innings. Two soft singles and an error chased Kamplain with no outs in the sixth, and he was replaced by Jay Shaw. After a wild pitch and a single scored two runs for the 'Cats, 'Bama entered the bottom of the sixth behind 6-1. In the sixth Austen Smith singled and Casey Hughston reached on an error with two outs. Will Haynie hit a deep fly ball to right to end the inning. Shaw allowed the last Kentucky run in the seventh on a double and a single. Tucker Hawley pitched a perfect eighth and ninth inning for the Tide. 'Bama missed a golden chance to close the gap in the eighth inning.
Kyle Overstreet singled with one out, followed by a Wass double. Smith hit a long line drive to left, that Storm Wilson grabbed on the run, and Overstreet scored. Hughston reached on an infield single and Haynie walked to load the bases with two outs. William Elliott pinch-hit for Vincent and grounded out to end the threat with only one run scoring, despite three hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly in the inning. Georgie Salem led off the ninth with a line drive double, but was stranded at third and the Wildcats had a 7-2 win. 'Bama out hit the Wildcats 10-9, but the two home runs were too much to overcome. Several times the Tide could have cut into the lead, but was not able to get any big two out hits. Overstreet and Wass had two hits each, and Salem, White, Moore,Smith, Hughston and Haynie had one hit each. Kamplain suffered the loss, evening his record at 2-2.
Saturday's Second Game, Game Three, Win 5-3, 10 innings
Junior left hander Jonathan Keller matched up with Kentucky junior right hander Andrew Nelson in the rubber game of the series in Saturday's second game. Keller entered the game with a 4-0 record and a 0.83 ERA. Keller made it through the first four innings with out any damage, despite giving up four hits and a walk. 'Bama took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Georgie Salem singled, was sacrificed to second by Mikey White, and scored on a fielders choice ground out by Kyle Overstreet. In the top of the fifth Kentucky finally broke through and scored three times,after two were out. Keller got the first two batters on easy ground balls before allowing singles to Austin Couisino and Max Kuhn. Big hitter A.J. Reed, leading the NCAA in home runs and RBIs, finally got a hold of one and deposited it in the right field plaza for a 3-1 Wildcat lead. Keller gathered himself and struck out Storm Wilson to end the inning. In the sixth Keller struck out the side on 14 pitches. Ray Castillo took the mound in the seventh inning and pitched through the ninth, allowing three hits, a walk, a hit batter and struck out two.
The Tide came to the bottom of the ninth having been handcuffed by Wilson all game long. With one out Overstreet lined a single to center, bringing the tying run to the plate. Wade Wass popped out, bringing Austen Smith to the plate as 'Bama's last chance. On the first pitch he saw Smith roped a long drive over the oak trees in left to tie the game. Smith said " I was sitting dead red(fast ball), I had been hitting everything on the barrel all day and when I got in the box I was just thinking, take it right back at his forehead." The Florida native did a lot more than that, making his first home run of the season a big one. Pinch hitter Matthew Goodson was retired to end regulation with the game tied at three.Thomas Burrows pitched the 10th for 'Bama and had a hit batter and a strikeout, bringing the Tide to the plate with a chance for the extra inning victory. With one out Chance Vincent legged out an infield single. Salem popped out, bringing White to the plate with two outs.
The Wildcats brought in Spencer Jack to face White, and he was only able to throw one pitch. White took that one pitch, a fastball, over the left field wall for an improbable 5-3 walk off win. The blast was White's first home run of the season. White said " I was just trying to get a fast ball I could put in the gap so Cucj (pinch runner Daniel Cucjen) could score. I said a little prayer, and told the Lord this at bat was for him since I had kinda got caught up in my own satisfaction. I got the fast ball, and I was able to hit it out." On the game the Tide collected nine hits, with Salem leading the way with three. Vincent had two hits and Overstreet,Hughston,Smith and White had one each, although Smith's and White's were the most important. Keller battled through six tough innings, allowing eight hits with four strikeouts, allowing three runs. Castillo allowed three hits in three innings with two strikeouts. Burrows got the win, to run his record to 3-0, pitching one inning with one strikeout. Burrows has pitched in a team high seven games, pitching 11 innings, allowing only one hit and no runs. Hitters are only 1-34 off the freshmen left-hander from Florence, Alabama.
Winning the opening series in SEC play is a great step. 'Bama will need to get used to playing ranked teams, as nine of the 10 SEC teams they play are ranked in the top 25. The only one that isn't is Auburn. With the pitching and defense this team has if they can find a way to score five runs a game, they should win most of their games. The team improved to 12-0 in game that they have scored at least three runs. Smith continues to lead the team with a .333 average and with 14 RBIs. Salem is hitting .316, and Haynie is at .298. Wass leads the team with seven doubles and Hughston and Haynie lead with two home runs each.The team is hitting .262 on the season. Keller has four wins and Burrows has three to lead the pitching staff. Burrows has a 0.00 ERA, and Turnbull has a 0.31 mark. The staff ERA is 1.91, and they have struck out 143 batters against 59 walks.
The team plays a two game set with Alcorn State next week on Tuesday and Wednesday at The Joe. Tuesday's game is set for 6:05 p.m. and Wednesday's first pitch is at 5:05 p.m. Nick Eicholtz and either Tucker Hawley, Taylor Guilbeau or Geoffrey Bramblett will most likely start those two games. 'Bama travels to Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks next weekend with a 6:35 p.m. Friday start, a 2:05 p.m. Saturday game and a 1:05 p.m. Sunday game, that will be televised on CSS. All times listed are CST.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch It.
Roll Tide Y'all