Alabama stumbled to the finish line in the last part of the SEC season, going 3-7 in their last 10 conference games. After being in first place for a good portion of the season, the late season swoon dropped the team to eighth overall in the conference. 'Bama lost 9-4 on Thursday and 1-0 on Friday before winning 2-1 on Saturday. The win on Saturday will take 'Bama to a first round game versus Kentucky on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. The top four finishers have a bye into double elimination play starting Wednesday. The Tuesday games are win or go home.
Game One-Thursday-Lost 9-4
Mississippi State started their ace Trevor Fitts on Thursday, while 'Bama went with freshman Geoffrey Bramblett in his first SEC start. The Tide normally would have started Jonathan Keller, but Keller is bothered by a sore elbow and is limited in the amount of pitches he can throw. Bramblett allowed a run in the third inning when the Bulldogs started a two out rally. C.T. Bradford singled with two outs and advanced on a wild pitch, before scoring on a single by Alex Detz. 'Bama tied the game in the fourth after Mikey White singled, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Georgie Salem and scored on a single by Kyle Overstreet.
Bramblett ran into trouble in the fifth and gave up three runs on five hits, with all the runs scoring after two were out. Ray Castillo relieved and got the third out of the inning, leaving the deficit at 4-1. 'Bama cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fifth. Casey Hughston led off with a single, and advanced on an error, and scored on White ground out, making the score 4-2. MSU touched Castillo for three runs in the sixth on four hits, a sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly. Taylor Guilbeau relieved and got the third out on a strikeout. The 'Dogs got to Guilbeau in the seventh scoring their final two runs on three hits and two walks. The Tide showed a little life in the bottom of the eighth.loading the bases with no outs. Ben Moore singled and Will Haynie walked to open the inning. Overstreet reached on an error to but a Tider on each base. A double play scored one run and Hughston doubled in the other. Jake Hubbard pitched the final two innings for the Tide and only allowed a walk, with a strikeout, with his best performance of the year.
The Bulldogs used 14 singles and six walks to peck the Tide to death in this one. It was ultimate small ball with bunting, hit and run, and keeping pressure on the defense. Bradford was 3-4 with two walks, and Detz had two hits, a sacrifice fly and five RBIs. 'Bama only could manage seven hits and two walks. Hughston and White had two hits each and Moore, Overstreet and Chance Vincent had one hit apiece. White and Hughstons doubles were the only extra base hits in the game.
Game Two-Friday-Lost 1-0
After small balling the Tide to death in Thursday's first game, the Bulldogs used an unlikely weapon, and an unlikely culprit to win the game 1-0. In a pitching duel for the ages MSU used a seventh inning solo home run by ninth place hitter Matthew Britton off of ace Spencer Turnbull for the only run of the game. Britton , a junior from Cullman, and the best friend of Tide right fielder Ben Moore, sliced his first home run of his career to the opposite field, just out of reach of left fielder Hunter Webb. The long ball was only the Bulldogs 14th home run of the season, as a team. Turnbull and soft tossing lefty Ross Mitchell matched zeros through six innings before Brittons fatal blow.
Mitchell kept the Tide off stride all night with his slow,slower and slowest pitches. In contrast Turnbull was blowing bats up with his 95-98 mph fast ball. The Tide had an early opportunity in the second when Austen Smith reached on an error and advanced to second on a ground out. Will Haynie drilled a single to left and Smith came sprinting home, but was called out at the plate by home plate umpire Tony Manners. Replays later showed Smith was clearly safe, this being the first of three blatantly missed calls by the crew.
The next missed call was by first base umpire John Whitaker who called Ben Moore out on a ground ball to third base. Once again replays showed Moore was safe by almost a full step. Not to be out done second base ump Richie Tallent blew a call of his own. Kyle Overstreet had singled, and was advancing to second on a ground ball by Chance Vincent. Overstreet avoided the tag, and then the second baseman dropped the ball. Tallent initially signaled safe, then changed his call to "runners interference", which did not occur, since Overstreet did not touch the fielder.
Jonathan Keller relieved Turnbull to start the eighth and allowed a single before getting a strikeout and double play to end the inning. Turnbull lost his third straight decision despite another quality start. The big junior pitched seven innings, allowing five hits, with four walks and three strikeouts. Keller came back out to pitch in the ninth, but after a walk and hit batter, was replaced by Jay Shaw. Shaw got three outs to end the threat, setting up 'Bama for a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. Overstreet led off the inning with a single and was replaced by pinch runner Daniel Cucjen. MSU closer Jonathan Holder buckled down from there and recored two strikeouts and a fly out to secure the 1-0 win.
The Tide only managed six singles in the game, and walked twice. Overstreet had two hits, and White, Salem, Vincent and Haynie had one each. The pitching was outstanding, the defense was outstanding, but 'Bama could just not put together any offense.
Saturday-Game Three- Won 2-1
In the last game of the regular season, and the last in the current configuration of Sewell-Thomas Field, the Tide called on junior left hander Justin Kamplain to try and salvage game three of the series. Kamplain was up to the task, with the help out of the bull pen from Jay Shaw and Thomas Burrows, and 'Bama was victorious 2-1 in another well played, low scoring game. Kamplain got his team leading sixth victory of the season, and Burrows recorded his 10th save of the year.
Preston Brown drew the starting nod for the Bulldogs and only lasted four batters. Mikey White led off the bottom of the first and slammed the first pitch he saw over the left field wall for his sixth home run of the season. Ben Moore and Wade Wass drew one out walks, leading MSU coach John Cohen to call on his bull pen. Ben Bracewell replaced Brown and coaxed a double play to end the first inning threat. Bracewell kept the Tide off the board until the bottom of the fifth when Ben Moore hit a long home run over the trees in left field for a 2-0 lead. The long ball was Moore's team leading ninth of the year, and the most since Taylor Dugas hit eight in 2011. The blast also gives 'Bama 40 round trippers on the year, by far the most since the bat change in 2011. The previous high was 28.
Kamplain started the sixth with a walk, got a fly ball out, then allowed a single. With one out and two on Jay Shaw relieved and got two ground ball outs to preserve the 2-0 lead. In the seventh the Bulldogs got a run with out benefit of a hit. Shaw walked the leadoff man,Derrick Armstrong, and wild pitched him to second. two ground balls scored him, cutting the lead to one. Coach Mitch Gaspard then called on his freshman phenom Thomas Burrows to protect the lead. Burrows got a ground ball for the third out of the seventh. In the eighth Burrows allowed a lead off single to Brett Pirtle. Pritle was sacrificed to second. Following a fly ball for the second out, Burrows walked pinch hitter Reid Humphreys. With two on, Burrows induced a fly ball from Wes Rea to end the inning.
Burrows came to the ninth needing three outs for a 2 1/3 inning save. After a quick ground out and strikeout Seth Heck singled to keep the 'Dogs hopes alive. Burrows then retired Alex Detz for the final out on a fine sliding catch by left fielder Casey Hughston. Kamplain pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing three hits with three walks and four strikeouts. Shaw went 1 and 1/3 inning allowing one run on no hits with one walk. Burrows pitched 2 1/3 innings allowing two hits with one walk and one strikeout.
*Mikey White was 1-3 with a solo home run
*Ben Moore was 1-2 with a solo home run and a walk
Wade Wass was 2-3 with a walk
*Casey Hughston was 2-4
*Daniel Cucjen was 1-3 with a walk
Overall for the weekend the pitching was a bright spot, at least on Friday and Saturday. Offensively the Tide only scored six runs in the three games, and had 18 hits, and only eight walks. Turnbull, Kamplain and Burrows were all outstanding. Keller pitched on guts and did his job. Shaw did a good job and Hubbard pitching two scoreless innings is a positive sign, as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery.
The victory gave 'Bama a Sewell-Thomas Stadium record of 1194-50-2 all time. Construction on the new Sewell-Thomas is scheduled to begin this summer, and be completed by August of 2015. The school is in negations with Hoover city officials to possibly play the 2015 season at the Hoover Met, not an ideal situation but maybe the best option. If that comes to fruition the team, will in essence, play 56 road games next season, not an easy task for the players that are after all student-athletes.
The Tide looks to start freshman right hander Nick Eicholtz on the mound Tuesday in the contest with Kentucky. 'Bama beat the Wildcats in their first SEC series of the year on March 14th, 15th, and 16th in Tuscaloosa, taking two of the three games. The 'Cats finished 32-22 overall and 14-16 in the conference. Kentucky is led by first baseman-pitcher A.J. Reed. Reed is hitting .359 with 23 home runs and 70 RBIs. In addition Reed is 10-2 with a 2.11 ERA on the mound. The Wildcats are hitting .304 as a team and have an ERA of 4.04. 'Bama is hitting .279 as a team with a 3.22 ERA. The game is set to start at 4:30 p.m from the Hoover Met.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch it!
Roll Tide Y'all Roger
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