The Alabama baseball team took the long, hard road to reach the final game of the Tallahassee regional before falling to Kennesaw State on Monday, ending their season. The second seeded Tide lost to KSU on Friday by a score of 1-0 before battling back to win three games in two days to reach the final game. 'Bama came up short by a score of 4-2, sending the Owls to Super Regional play against Louisville. On Saturday the Tide got a big 6-5 win over host Florida State, eliminating the Seminoles. On Sunday 'Bama took a 6-0 win over Georgia Southern and a 4-1 win over Kennesaw.
Game One , Friday, lost 1-0
Once again Spencer Turnbull started and once again he got no run support. Turnbull pitched 6 1/3 innings and allowed only three hits and one run. Over Turnbull's last four starts, covering 33 innings, he received exactly zero runs from his offense, while only allowing four of his own. KSU use a fifth inning lead off single, followed by a sac bunt, two walks, and a sacrifice fly for the only run of the game.Jay Shaw pitched the final 2 2/3 innings, allowing only one hit.
KSU's Travis Bergen, the MVP of the regional, pitched 8 2/3 brilliant innings, allowing only five hits and one walk on the day. Austen Smith had two doubles and a walk, Chance Vincent had two singles and Kyle Overstreet had one, for the only Tide base runners on the night.
Smith's first double was with one out in the second, and he reached third but could not score.In the fifth after Smith's walk, Overstreet sacrificed him to second, but once again he was stranded. 'Bama's last chance in the ninth was after Smith's two out double,but once again he couldn't make it home, ending the game on the wrong end of a 1-0 score. The loss, followed by top seeded, and number five national seed,Florida State getting man handled by Georgia Southern set up a loser bracket game with the top two teams.
Second Game, vs Florida State, Saturday, Won 6-5.
Everyone expected the number one seed, FSU and the number two seed, Alabama, to play, just not in an elimination game on the second day of the tournament. However the little guys, Kennesaw State and Georgia Southern had a different idea. Alabama called on Justin Kamplain, who had become a stopper for the team, and FSU countered with their ace, Luke Weaver.
Kamplain was dominate through eight innings and 124 pitches, before being relieved after allowing a lead off single to start the ninth. the bullpen made the game interesting, but held on for the 6-5 win. Kamplain allowed five hits, walked three and struck out four.
After being shut out in Friday's game, 'Bama came out with more fire and intensity than they have played with in a while. Mikey White got things started by hitting the first pitch of the third inning for a solo home run. White kept things going in the fifth, leading off the inning by being hit by a pitch. Georgie Salem sacrificed him to second. With two outs Wade Wass reached on an error! putting runners on second and third with two outs. Austen Smith drove a double scoring both runners for a 3-0 lead.
The Tide broke the game open in the seventh with three more runs. White once again was the catalyst, leading off the inning with a single. Salem sacrificed him to second again, and Ben Moore singled to score White for the third time. Wass followed with a towering blast off the scored board in left center for his fifth home run of the year, and a seemingly safe 6-0 lead.
However things got interesting in the bottom of the ninth. After John Nogowski singled off Kamplain to lead off the inning! Coach Mitch Gaspard called on junior Jonathan Keller. Keller, the Tide's Sunday starter this season, has been limited lately by an elbow problem, and clearly was not himself. Keller hit the first batter he faced, walked the next, and hit the third, forcing in the Seminoles first run. With the bases loaded, and still no outs, closer Thomas Burrows was called on and promptly walked the first two batters he faced to make the score 6-3, with the bases loaded and still no outs. Burrows settled down to record a strikeout and fly ball for two outs. All American D.J. Stewart rifled a single to center, scoring two runs, making the score 6-5, and putting the tying run at third, and the winning run at first. Burrows then induced a fly ball to Salem in center to end the game, avoiding a disastrous loss, and moving the team to Sunday's play.
Smith had two more doubles, White had a home run, single and hit by pitch, and scored three times. Salem had a double, two sac bunts, and a walk. Moore had an RBI single. Wass drove in two with his home run. Chance Vincent reached base three times with a single, walk, and hit by pitch. Casey Hughston added one single. Heisman trophy winner Jamies Winston pitched the final 2 2/3 innings for FSU,and didn't allow a hit or run. Kamplain got the win, pushing his record to 7-3.
The Tide held on in what could have been an epic meltdown, reminiscent to last years season ending game against Troy. However the team held on , and lived to play another day. The win set up a Sunday after noon game with Georgia Southern.
Game Three, Saturday, vs Georgia Southern, Won 6-0
Alabama called on freshman Geoffrey Bramblett to try and extend their season, and Bramblett was up to the task, firing a complete game, two hit, shut out gem. The Hoover native struck out seven and walked two in spinning his first career complete game, throwing 124 pitches. ' Bama got all the runs they would need in the third, scoring three times. Chance Vincent led off with a walk,and was sacrificed to second by William Elliott. Mikey White walked, and Georgie Salem singles to score V incent. Ben Moore ripped a two run double, making the score 3-0 after three innings.
White doubled in the fifth, and scored on another Moore double, giving the Tide a 4-0 lead. 'Bama added two insurance runs in the eighth. Moore walked and Wade Wass singled! Austen Smith walked and Kyle Overstreet singled in the inning. Vincent also drew a bases loaded walk to bring in the final run. Bramblett's only trouble came in the seventh when two batters walked with one out, but he recovered to silence the threat, and from there he cruised home for the shut out victory.
Moore was 3-3 with two doubles, a walk and three runs driven in. White had a double and a walk, and scored twice. Smith had a single and a walk and scored a run. Overstreet, Salem and Casey Hughston all had one hit. Vincent drew two walks.
The unexpected performance by Bramblett was needed, as the team still would need to win two more games to advance through the regional. Previously Bramblett's career high in inning pitched was 61/3. The victory set up a rematch with Kemnesaw State later in the day, with the Tide needing to beat the Owls twice.
Game Four, Sunday, Won 4-1
For the Tide to advance, they were going to need to get some help from unexpected sources, and on Sunday they did. Junior lefty Taylor Guilbeau had not started a game all season, and had only pitched 15 innings on the year. Guilbeau followed Bramblets complete game with one of his own, pitching nine innings, allowing four hits, walking six, and striking out five in the 4-1 victory.
The Tide scored three runs in the third, on singles by Ben Moore and Wade Wass and a two run double by Casey Hughston. The Tide's other run came in the seventh on a Mikey White single and a Georgie Salem RBI double. Guilbeau allowed his only run of the game in the fourth, but averted a big inning. The Owls had two walks and two singles in the inning, but Guilbeau stranded the bases loaded by striking out Cornell Nixon to end the inning. After that Guilbeau settled down and never faced another major threat, and finished off his career beat game with a 1-2-3 ninth inning. The victory set up a winner take all game on Monday for the regional championship. With the two complete game performances the Tide was set up well for Mondays game.
White was 2-3 with a walk. Moore was 2-4 as was Kyle Overstreet. Hughston was 1-4 with a double and two runs driven in. Salem was 1-5 with a double and RBI. Chance Vincent was 1-3. Wass was 1-4.
Champinship Game, Game 5, Monday, Lost 4-2
Alabama gave the start on the mound to relief pitcher Jay Shaw, who had never started a game in his Tide career. Shaw did a good job, and lasted 4 2/3 innings, throwing 73 pitches, allowing two runs. KSU took an early lead, scoring one run in the bottom of the second, by loading the bases with no outs. Shaw limited the damage and only allowed the single run on a sacrifice fly. Bama had a great opportunity in the top of the third, loading the bases with one out, but could not push a run across. William Elliott and Mikey White opened the frame with walks. Georgie Salem attempted to bunt them over but was unsuccessful. Ben Moore worked a walk to load the bases with one out. With cleanup man Wade Wass and Austen Smith to follow the Tide was poised to have a big inning. However Wass struck out and Smith popped out to the pitcher to end the inning.
The Tide finally broke through in the top of the fifth, scoring twice, to take a short lived lead. Salem singled to open the inning, and advanced on a hit and run ground out by Moore. Wass singled to score Salem. Wass advanced to second on the throw to the plate, and continued to third on a balk, where he scored on a sacrifice fly by Austen Smith. KSU bounced back in the bottom of the fifth to tie the score off of Shaw. After a lead off walk to Cornell Nixon, Kal Simmons attempted a sacrifice bunt. Third baseman Chance Vincent fielded and fired to second baseman Kyle Overstreet covering first. Nixon was off on the pitch and attempted to reach third, However Wass raced from behind the plate to cover third and took a perfect throw from Overstreet and made the tag for the unorthodox 5-4-2 double play. The Owls regrouped and got back to back doubles from Jacob Bruce and All American Max Pentecost to tie the score, Thomas Burrows replaced Shaw and ended the inning with a three pitch strikeout.
Bama continued to threaten, getting two runners on in the sixth, seventh and the ninth innings, but we're not able to score any of the base runners. For the game the Tide stranded 13 runners on base. KSU broke the tie in the seventh, scoring on a single, sacrifice bunt, and a Bruce double. The Owls added an insurance run in the eighth on a single, another sac bunt, and an RBI single to close out the scoring.
Headed to the ninth needing two runs to keep their season alive, the Tide had a chance. Salem led off and was robbed on a blind stab by pitcher Travis Bergen. Moore was hit by a pitch, and Wass singled, putting the tying runs on base. The teams leading hitter, and leading RBI man, Smith was up with one out, but popped out for the second out. Kyle Overstreet came up as the Tide's last chance. On a 2-2 count Overstreet was called out on a pitch that was six inches inside and about four inches off the ground, in what has been called one of the worst ball strike calls in recent memory. If you haven't seem it look it up on twitter,Facebook or u-tube. It would have only been ball three, but at least there would have still been some life left, although on support. That being said, the Tide wasted too many opportunities to score, and Kennesaw was a deserving winner. The Owls travel to Louisville to face the Cardinals in th Super Regional later this week.
The season was a good one, but mid way through the year, it looked to be a great one. The Tide had risen to eighth in the country and was leading the SEC until a late season swoon dropped the team to eighth in the conference, and took any chance of hosting a regional off the table. Nevertheless the Tide was a two seed, and was within two runs of reaching Super Regional play. 37-23 with 12 one run losses could have been a much better record. Personally I was expecting 40-45 wins and a regional win.
There were a lot of positives, and things to build on. There was also adversity in the form of injuries. Pitcher Mike Oxyzpok missed the whole season after Tommy John surgery. Outfielder Ryan Blanchard broke his knee cap in a early season game at Louisana-Lafayette. Jonathan Keller was having a spectacular season until a suspension and elbow injury derailed him. Keller was unable to pitch the last three weeks. Tucker Hawley hurt his shoulder and was not able to pitch the last few weeks. Jake Hubbard was coming off of Tommy John surgery and hurt his shoulder and was limited all season. Catcher Will Haynie had a concussion and later a back injury that limited him.
On the plus side, pitchers Spencer Turnbull, Justin Kamplain and Thomas Burrows were outstanding. Jay Shaw was a solid , dependable long reliever all season. Turnbull and Kamplain, both juniors, look to be high draft picks in this weeks MLB draft. After not having a single hitter with an average over .290 last year, this years squad had four batters over .300. Austen Smith led at .316, followed by Ben Moore at .305, Wade Wass at .302 and Mikey White at an even .300. The team hit .275 on the season and slammed 42 home runs, by far their highest total since the bat change four years ago.
Look for juniors Moore, Wass and Taylor Guilbeau to also join the draft parade, and it would be a big surprise if any of them returned. Senior Smith will also be selected and Shaw will either be drafted or sign a free agent deal, most likely. The core group of White, Overatreet, Salem, Vincent and Hughston will all be back, and will be the backbone of the team. Burrows, Geoffrey Bramblett, and Nick Eicholtz will be back as sophomores.
Ray Castillo will be a junior and will look to reclaim his brilliance of his freshman year after an up and down on the mound this year. Daniel Cucjen will be a junior and will look to increase his playing time. Will Haynie and Hunter Webb both started several games as freshmen and look to step up and improve in their second campaign. Several highly regarded freshmen will be on campus in the fall and the team will look to have several of them step up and make contributions. All in all the future looks bright, and despite most likely having to play all their home games on the road, in Hoover, next season, look for the Tide to take another step forward.
If anyone has an questions, feel free to fire them this way, and I will do my best to answer them for you.
Bama baseball fever! catch it,
Roll Tide Y'all. Roger
I enjoyed reporting for you this season!