Alabama's baseball team may not have been impressive doing it, but with wins on Tuesday and Wednesday over an over matched Alcorn State team, they ran their record to 22 wins and 13 losses, after finishing 21-35 last season. Tuesday the Tide won 3-2 and Wednesday's final was 7-3, in a pair of games that last years team could have found a way to lose, this year's team found a way to win.
Tucker Hawley was the starting pitcher on Tuesday and threw five very impressive innings, allowing three hits, not walking any batters and striking out six, and leaving with a 1-0 lead. Taylor Guilbeau relieved in the sixth and pitched two innings and earned the win. Guilbeau allowed two hits, one run and struck out one. Freshman stud relief pitcher Ray Castillo pitched the eighth and ninth innings to gain his sixth save of the year. Castillo allowed one hit, three walks and one run, while striking out two.
'Bama struck early, but not often, scoring one in the first on three straight two out hits. Ben Moore singled, followed by a Brett Booth safety to center. Freshman second baseman Kyle Overstreet continued his torrid clutch hitting, driving in Moore with his single. In the sixth, after Alcorn had tied the score, 'Bama struck again. Booth singled, stole second, and continued to third on a wild pitch. Overstreet's second hit plated his second RBI. Mikey White reached on a fielder's choice and scored after Andrew Miller singled and the right fielder threw the ball away.
Overstreet led the offense with a 2-3 night, a walk and two RBI's. Moore and Miller were both 2-4. Freshman infielder Daniel Cucjen got the first start of his career at third base and stroked two hits in four plate appearances. Booth and White had one hit and one run scored each.
Freshman walk-on Mike Oczypok received the first start of his career on the mound in Wednesday's second game, and shined. Oczypok pitched five hitless, scoreless innings, allowing only a fifth inning walk. However the runner was erased by "The Eraser" Brett Booth attempting to steal. Booth has thrown out 23 runners stealing and picked off three more.
The offense started slowly, not recording a hit until White's third inning single. The Tide finally broke into the scoring column in the fourth. Kenny Roberts led off with a line drive single. Moore was hit by a pitch and with Booth at the plate was doubled off when Booth lined a hit and run line drive to the first baseman. Once again Overstreet came through with a two out RBI single. 'Bama added to the lead in the fifth with two runs. White led off with a single, but was thrown out stealing. With two outs Georgie Salem started a rally with a single. Roberts was again hit by a pitch, setting up Moore's booming triple in the left center gap scoring both runners. The Crimson Tide added three insurance runs in the sixth. Austen Smith walked and scored on Cameron Carlisle's double. Miller walked and Salem singled Carlisle in. Roberts was once again hit by a pitch and with the bases loaded Booth was hit as well, bringing in another run.
'Bama scored their last run in the seventh. Chance Vincent led off the inning with a single and stole second base. Cucjen walked, Riley Colburn was hit by a pitch and Roberts walked, forcing in the final run.
Keaton Haack replaced Oczypok and pitched two hitless, scoreless innings, walking one and striking out one. Mitch Greer came in for the eighth inning and was greeted rudely. Greer's first pitch was driven for a long home run by Alvin Jackson, breaking up not only the no-hitter but the shut out as well. Later in the inning Angel Rosa slammed a two run home run to trim the Tide lead to 7-3. Jay Shaw pitched a perfect ninth inning, striking out one.
Booth received his first "rest" from behind the plate by sliding to first base for the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. This allowed Vincent to receive his first playing time, at any level, behind the plate. Vincent has only recently began working at catcher in practice as a way to possibly let Booth get an occasional blow from the physical and mental demand of being an every inning catcher.
In Tuesday's game the Tide got a glimpse at a possible future infield as all four freshman infielders started. Cucjen was at third, White and Overstreet were at short and second as they have been all season. and Vincent started at first base. The goal for these two games was first and foremost to tally two wins. Secondarily, Coach Mitch Gaspard hoped to get some playing time for a lot of players. To some extent he was able to, however the margins of victory were not as large as expected. The hope was for Vincent to catch more than he did, but the circumstances didn't dictate that happening. Vincent did admirably considering his preparation time, even throwing out a runner attempting to steal.
'Bama travels to Oxford Mississippi this weekend to take on the highly ranked Ole Miss Rebel's. Friday's first game features a homecoming for Tide pitcher Charley Sullivan, an Oxford native. Sullivan will start in the 6:30 p.m. game. Saturday's second game is a 4 p.m. CSS televised game and Justin Kamplain will receive his first start of the season, after 13 relief appearances. Sunday at 1:30 p.m. 'Bama will send Spencer Turnbull and his 29 and 2/3 straight scoreless innings to the mound. All times are CST. This weekend Ole Miss plays their spring football game and there will be extra excitement in the air in Oxford. The baseball team already draws impressive, enthusiastic crowds and wouldn't appear to need extra help, but will receive it in this key SEC series.
The Tide needs to continue to grind out wins and good things will happen. An SEC tournament bid is almost a sure thing at this point. and reaching 30 plus wins should assure a NCAA Regional berth.
Bama Baseball Fever , Catch it!
Roll Tide Ya'll Roger