The Alabama Crimson Tide baseball team left Tuscaloosa on Wednesday sporting a 4-2 record and a #21 national ranking. They will return late on Sunday night with a 5-5 record, and most likely without the burden of a National Ranking. After playing, and losing, Wednesday night in Hattiesburg against Southern Miss (2-1) the Tide continued on to Lafayette Louisiana for a three game weekend series with the Lafayette Ragin Cajuns. '
The series in Louisiana looked to be a match up of the Tide's superior pitching against the Cajun's big bats. The Tide lost the opener 2-0, despite a great outing on the mound from Spencer Turnbull, and were shut out again on Saturday, losing 6-0. The Tide bounced back with vengeance on Sunday and blasted ULL by a score of 12-6, collecting 21 hits in an unusual offensive explosion by the team.
Game One, Lost 2-0.
On Friday night 'Bama sent out their big right hander Spencer Turnbull to the mound. ULL countered with the coaches son, Austin Robichaux, a six foot six, 170 pound string bean. The righties locked into a pitching dual, matching zeros through six innings. Alabama's best chance to score was in the first inning when they loaded the bases on three straight one out singles. Georgie Salem, Ben Moore and Wade Wass all had safeties, but were stranded when Robichaux got a strike out and induced a ground ball to end the threat. That was pretty much the only legitimate scoring threat for the Tide.
Turnbull was strong all night and didn't allow a hit until the third inning to Ryan Leonards. Leonards, who had the only two hits on the night for ULL,was thrown out trying to steal by freshmen catcher Will Haynie. Turnbull ran into trouble in the seventh when he allowed a lead off walk, followed by a sacrifice bunt. Turnbull fumbled the bunt, and turned and threw widely to first, allowing the runners to advance to second and third, with no outs. Michael Strentz lined a shot to second, where Gold Glove second baseman Kyle Overstreet made a diving stop, held the runners, and got the out at first. The next batter, Chase Compton, layed down a suicide squeeze bunt between the mound and first, and by the time Turnbull could field and record the out at first, both runners scored, not even drawing a throw to the plate. Thomas Burrows replaced Turnbull and struck out Nick Thurmond for the third out of the inning, however the 2-0 lead turned out to be more than the Tide could overcome.
'Bama's only other opportunity for a run was in the sixth when Moore and Wass both singled with one out, but a strikeout and ground out ended the threat. From their Robichaux only allowed a seventh inning single to Chance Vincent. Robichaux pitched a complete game, throwing 124 pitches, allowing seven singles and striking out 11, while walking two. Turnbull absorbed the loss, pitching 6 2/3 innings, allowing two hits, striking out six and walking four, allowing only the two un earned runs. Burrows pitched 1/3 of an inning and Jay Shaw threw one perfect inning with a strikeout. Moore was 3-4, Wass was 2-4 and Salem and Vincent each had one hit for the Tide's total of seven. The 2-0 loss followed two 2-1 Friday night losses to open the season, and on top of a 2-1 loss on Wednesday to Southern Mississippi.
Game Two, - Loss 6-0
Junior left hander Justin Kamplain, coming off a stand out performance last Saturday, drew Saturdays starting assignment. When Kamplain has his control, and starts batters off with strike one, he is tough to beat. However today was not one of those days. The Cajuns scored one run in the first on one hit, four walks, and a sacrifice bunt. Catcher Wade Wass threw out one runner trying to steal to help keep the deficit to one run.ULL added a run in the second when Kamplian hit Jace Conrad with one out. Greg Davis doubled, putting runners at second and third. One run scored on a ground out and another on a sacrifice fly to right.
Kamplain seemed to settle down and pitched a sharp third and fourth inning,getting the Cajun's in order. When Kamplain walked the leadoff batter in the fifth, Coach Mitch Gaspard called on freshmen right hander Geoffrey Bramblett. Bramblett allowed two singles to load the bases, but didn't allow any runs by recording two strikeouts and a pop up to end the fifth. Bramblett finally allowed his first run of the year in the sixth on one single, two walks, a hit batter and a sacrifice fly. Mitch Greer pitched the seventh and allowed two runs on a single, two errors, a sacrifice fly and a long solo home run. Tucker Hawley pitched the eighth and allowed a walk and a single, but no runs.
Offensively Georgie Salem singled in the first, Chance Vincent singled in the second, and Hunter Webb had an infield single in the sixth. Those three hits, along with three walks were all the offense the Tide could muster on the day. Carson Baranik pitched brilliantly for the Cajun's lasting 7 1/3 inning before being relieved. The Tide never really had a chance in this one.
Game Three,- Win 12-6
The Tide came out Sunday with their backs against the wall, scuffling offensively after scoring only one run in the last 27 innings and on a three game losing streak. It didn't take long for the Tide to bust out, scoring three times in the first inning, and never looking back. Mikey White lifted a one out fly ball to right center field, that was dropped for a two base error. Ben Moore than singled to score White and get the scoring monkey off the teams back.Kyle Overstreet than doubled to right to score Moore, and Moore was chased home by a single by Austen Smith. Ray Castillo started for 'Bama and came out sharp, striking out three in the first two innings before running into third inning trouble.
'Bama batted around in the third and scored four runs. Wade Wass was hit by a pitch, and scored on Smith's double. Ryan Blanchard then singled home Smith. Will Haynie singled as did Chance Vincent. Georgie Salem then singled to score another run. A Mikey White ground out scored the fourth run of the inning. In the bottom of the third the Cajun's cut into the lead by scoring four runs off of Castillo. Two singles, a double, two walks and a hit batter drove Castillo for the game in favor of lefty Jonathan Keller. For the third Sunday in a row Keller relieved Castillo and ended the inning on one batter by forcing a double play ground ball. Keller pitched the final 6 2/3 innings, and secured his third win of the young season. ULL cut into the lead in the fifth, scoring on a walk, a wild pitch and an RBI single.
'Bama answered in the fifth when Moore reached second on another dropped fly ball. Wass lined a single and Smith hit a long shot to left that the left fielder made a great play on for a sacrifice fly for the Tides eighth run.ULL scored one more in the sixth on a single and double, but Keller avoided further damage. One again the Tide answered by scoring in the top of the seventh. Will Haynie lined his third hit of the game, was sacrificed to second by Chance Vincent, and scored on Salem's line drive single to center.The Tide continued to pour it on, getting an insurance run in the eighth as Kyle Overstreet singled, Smith singled, and Vincent lined an RBI single.
'Bama scored two more in the ninth to stretch the lead to 12-6 when White singled and was sacrificed to second by Moore. Wass drilled a double to score White,Overstreet singled and Smith continued his huge day with another RBI single to end the scoring. Keller cruised through the final three innings, running his record to 3-0. The Tide turned three double plays and did not commit an error in the game.
The 21 hits and 12 runs were season highs for 'Bama and were led by Smith. Smith was 4-4 with four RBIs, a sacrifice fly and a walk. Haynie broke out of his early season funk by goins 3-6. Haynie was 1-18 on the season before today. Salem was 2-5 with a walk and an RBI. Moore was 2-5 with two runs scored and one RBI.Wass was 2-5 with a double, RBI and reached by hit by pitch. Overstreet was 2-5 with a double, sac bunt, and an RBI. Ryan Blanchard was 2-3 with an RBI before leaving with an injury. Blanchard crashed hard into the wall down the left field line trying to field a fly ball in the fourth inning. The sophomore stayed down for several minutes and was carted off the field, in obvious pain. It appeared to be a leg injury of some sort, possibly a knee. Vincent was 2-5 with an RBI and a sac bunt. White added a single and scored two runs. Every player in the staring lineup had at least one hit, and eight of them recorded two or more. Hunter Webb replaced Blanchard and reached base via the walk.
The offensive performance by the Tide was hopefully the thing they needed to get the team going. CF Salem said after the game "We were just more aggressive and got a big wave of confidence when things finally started falling our way," Salem added, "That's a damn good way to go into the Auburn game Tuesday night." Reserve infielder Steven Cole, a leader on the team, said that " we played with attitude today. This is a good group, we are going to get things rolling." The big day at the plate raised the team batting average to .254 on the young season.The team ERA is 2.25.
Next week the team will travel to Montgomery on Tuesday to take on in state rival Auburn in the seventh Capital City Classic. It is time to turn this around, as Auburn has won every one of the games so far. Alabama enters the game with a 5-5 record and Auburn comes in with a mark of 6-5. Auburn has a .270 team batting average and a 2.73 ERA. Ryan Tella is the leading hitter at .433 and Damek Tomscha is hitting .370. Austen Smith leads the Tide with a .333 mark, followed by Georgie Salem at .318.
On another note, yours truly will be throwing out the first pitch for the 7 p.m game at the Montgomery Biscuits ball park. I promise to warm up and throw a strike, so as not to embarrass the RBR crew.
Roll Tide Y'all Bama Baseball Fever, catch it!
Remember to follow me on twitter @rogerpatmyers for live, in game, inning by inning updates. RTR