Pitching was at the fore front in a rain shortened weekend series in Baton Rouge for Alabama and LSU. Friday's scheduled game was rained out, setting up a double header on Saturday at Noon and 7:00 p.m. The noon game went odd with out a hitch but the second game was pushed back waiting on bad weather to push through, and didn't begin until 10:00 p.m. LSU's Aaron Nola out dueled 'Bama's Spencer Turnbull in game one, and the Tide's Justin Kamplain dominated game two.
Game One, Saturday, Noon, Lost 2-0
Aaron Nola is expected to be a top 10 pick in next months MLB draft. Spencer Turnbull is projected to go later in the first round. They both showed why in Saturday's first game. Nola ran his season record to 8-1 with a complete game, four hit shut out with nine strikeouts and no walks. Turnbull also pitched a complete game, allowing six hits, walking two and allowing two earned runs.
LSU got their first run in the second inning on a fluke double and a bloop single. With one out Jake Fraley lined what appeared to be a single up the middle, which struck the second base bag and caromed into short right field for a double. After a pop up for the second out, Tyler Moore blooped a single just over short stop, and just short of left field for an RBI single.
Meanwhile Nola was mowing down the Tide in order, and had not allowed a baserunner through five innings. LSU used their only two walks of the day to put the game away in the fourth inning. Fraley walked with one out, advanced on a hit and run ground out. Moore drew a walk bringing Danny Zardon to the plate with two on and two out. Zardon rifled a double to left, scoring Fraley and sending Moore toward the plate. Casey Hughston threw the ball in to Daniel Cucjen who fired to Wade Wass at the plate for the third out.
'Bama finally got a base runner in the sixth inning when Hughston had a lead off single, but Nola buckled down and retired the next three. In the seventh Ben Moore beat out an infield single for the Tide's second base runner, but was left at first. 'Bama had their best chance to break through in the eighth inning. Austen Smith lead off with a single. After Hughston flew out deep to center, William Elliott pinch hit and singled on the first pitch he saw from Nola. Cucjen hit a hard line drive that appeared to be heading to right for hit, but second baseman Conner Hale snagged the ball and doubled Smith off of second to end the inning.
Turnbull was matching zeros with Nola after the fourth, and pitched arguably his best game in a Tide uniform, throwing 104 pitches. The loss dropped his record to 5-5, while Nola improved to 8-1. Hughston, Moore, Smith and Elliott had the only hits for the Tide, who only had one runner reach as far as second base. Overall this was as good a baseball game as you could hope to see.
Saturday, Game Two, Won 5-1
Game two of the series was scheduled for 7:00 p.m., but the game didn't start until just after 10:00 p.m. Game one was played at a brisk pace and ended by 2:30 p.m., allowing plenty of time to start the game at a reasonable time as it didn't start raining until just after 7:00 p.m. However, this being LSU, they have to have their Saturday night games, so the teams were left to sit around for eight hours. The rain and lightening kept coming, pushing the starting time back further and further. The delay meant that the game ended after 1:00 a.m.
Alabama used a pitching gem by Justin Kamplain, and two run home runs from Ben Moore and Georgie Salem to win the game comfortably 5-1. Kamplain, a junior, pitched the first complete game of his career, throwing 98 pitches, allowing four hits, with three strikeouts, and more importantly no walk or hit batters. LSU chose to hold their normal game two starter Jared Poche' for Sunday, and went with Alden Cartwright as their starter.
The Tide jumped on Cartwright early. Georgie Salem singled with one out and was followed by a long two run home run by Ben Moore, his team leading eighth of the season. Kyle Overstreet reached second base on an error by Tiger third baseman Christian Ibarra. Austen Smith singled to right to score Overstreet, giving the Tide an early 3-0 lead. 'Bama added to the lead, and in essence, put the game away in the fourth. Mikey White drilled a two out single and Salem blasted his second home run of the season deep to right for a 5-0 lead.
The Tiger's used a parade of pitchers, six in total, to stifle the Tide from their. Kamplain, mean while was just cruising along, the only hiccup being a solo home run blasted by Chris Chinea to lead off the fifth inning. The only other LSU threat was in the seventh when Conner Hale and Danny Zardon led off the inning with singles. Kamplain got a ground ball from Chinea, that 'Bama's dynamic keystone combo of White and Overstreet turned into a double play. A pop out ended the inning, and the last threat for the Tiger's. Kamplain didn't allow any further base runners and finished LSU off with three fly balls in the bottom of the ninth.
Kamplain was in command from the start and only reached three balls to two batters. When the junior lefty has all three pitches working, and starts with strike one, he is as good as anyone in college baseball. The games he has struggled in this year have been when his pitch count gets up early from lack of control, which leads to hitters counts and trouble. He never had that issue on Saturday.
The win set up the rubber game of the series, set for Sunday at 1:00 p.m. The bad weather came back on Sunday morning and the starting time kept getting pushed back, to as late as 5:05 p.m. With the time approaching another round of lightening came through, forcing officials to call the game all together.
*Mikey White was 2-4 with a walk and a run scored
*Georgie Salem was 2-5 with a home run, two RBIs, with two walks
*Ben Moore was 1-4 with a two run home run
*Wade Wass was 1-2 with two hit by pitches
*Austen Smith was 1-3 with an RBI and a walk
*Chance Vincent was 1-4
'Bama could have caught LSU in the conference standings with a victory in Sunday's game, that wasn't meant to be. Several things need to happen in the last series' of the year, mainly the Tide needs to sweep Mississippi State next weekend in Tuscaloosa. The top four finishers in the league receive first round byes in the SEC tournament.
The Tide plays Jacksonville State away on Tuesday night at 6:00 p.m., before hosting MSU on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Thursday's game is at 6:35 p.m., Friday's is at 6:00 p.m. and Saturday's is at 3:05 p.m. The SEC tournament beings the next Wednesday in Hoover.
There is still much to play for 'Bama, although hosting a regional is most likely off the board after the late season slump. A good finish and good showing in the SEC tournament will likely make the Tide a two seed somewhere in the NCAA tournament, and give them the chance to advance. As long as the pitchers continue to throw strikes, and the offense can get some big hits in clutch situations the season could be far from over.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch It
Roll Tide Y'all Roger
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