Alabama started the SEC portion of their season this weekend and got off to a good start, winning the series from the Tennessee Vols two games to one. The wins give the Tide a record of 11-9.
For the weekend the Crimson Tide exploded for 43 hits and 33 runs, raising the team batting average from .222 all the way to .247 in just three games.
Friday night the Tide rode the complete game, three hit performance of senior right hander Charley Sullivan to a 12-1 victory. Sullivan pitched the first complete game for 'Bama since Nathan "Peanut" Kilcrease on May 19, 2011 against South Carolina. Sullivan allowed a first inning run on a walk, stolen base, sacrifice bunt and ground ball but now much else. The leadoff walk was the only one he allowed and he struck out seven in his 106 pitch gem.
Offensively the Tide bounced back with four runs in the second essentially putting the game away. After Kyle Overstreet reached on an error, DH Cameron Carlisle, in his first start of the season, singled to center. Mikey White put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. Andrew Miller was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Georgie Salem got an RBI with a walk. Ben Moore then stroked a base clearing double to give 'Bama all the runs they would need. From there Sullivan was on cruise control allowing singles in the fourth, seventh and ninth innings.
'Bama added two in the fifth. After Kenny Roberts singled, Brett Booth singled and continued to second when the throw went to third to try and catch Roberts. Austen Smith struck out, but reached base, and Roberts scored as the ball eluded Volunteer catcher David Houser. Overstreet grounded out scoring Booth. Alabama scored two more in the seventh and four in the eighth.
Booth led the offense with three hits including a double, three runs scored, and RBI and a stolen base. Moore was 2-4 with three RBI a stolen base and run scored. Roberts was 2-4 with a double. White had a single and an RBI on a sacrifice fly. Wade Wass the injured JUCO transfer that was expected to provide power to the Tide made his season debut after recovering from a broken bone in his foot. Wass pinch hit in the eighth and reached on an error, before being replaced by pinch runner Daniel Cucjen. The bad news in Wass possibly broke a bone in his wrist and may miss most, or all of the season.
The game was by far the cleanest, crispest game the Tide has played all year. Pitching, defense and offense were all outstanding.
Saturday 'Bama had every opportunity to win the game but fell 7-6, despite outhitting the Vol's 12-7. Starter Jonathan Keller pitched into the sixth before being relieved by Keaton Haack. Keller allowed four hits, three walks and three runs, two of which were earned. Haack was the losing pitcher pitching 1 and 1/3 inning allowing two runs, one earned. Justin Kamplain pitched 1 and 2/3 innings and allowed two runs. Ray Castillo pitched a scoreless ninth inning.
Tennessee scored two in the top of the second inning on two hits, a walk and a double steal, including home. 'Bama answered back in the third on an Andrew Miller double and a Salem RBI single. The Tide took a brief lead in the fifth when Carlisle singled, advanced on a White sacrifice and a Miller single. Salem walked and Roberts delivered a sacrifice fly to center to score Carlisle. Moore singled in MIller to give 'Bama a 3-2 lead.
In the top of the sixth Tennessee scored two runs on three hits and two Bama errors to tie the game. Tennessee re- took the lead with a walk; a hit batter and a two run double from number nine hitter A.J. Simcox. Trailing 7 to 3 entering the bottom of the eighth 'Bama staged a furious rally. Moore led off with a double and was singled in by Booth. Smith doubled Booth to third who then scored on Overstreet's ground out. Carlisle then singled in Smith, but that was as close as the Tide could get. A one, two, three bottom of the ninth ended the game.
Miller lead the offense with three hits, including a double, and two runs scored. Salem had two hits, two stolen bases, and an RBI. Moore, Smith, and Carlisle all added two hits each. Booth added a single and RBI.
With the rubber game on the line on Sunday, the Tide turned to sophomore Spencer Turnbull to try and secure the series and he responded with his best outing of the year. After giving up a first inning run on two singles and a sacrifice bunt, Turnbull settled down to pitch seven innings, allowing nine hits with only one walk. Turnbull survived a scare in the fourth when Scott Price lined a shot up to middle that struck the pitcher on the glove, as he threw it up to protect himself. Turnbull recovered to throw out Price at first. One or two inches either way and Turnbull could have been hurt severely. Jay Shaw pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Senior Trey Pilkington made his season debut and threw a perfect ninth inning, ending the game with a called strike three.
On offense the Tide pretty much had batting practice, stroking 20 hits and scoring 15 runs. Thirteen Tide batters came to the plate in the bottom of the first and eight of them scored. Roberts had a double and a single in the first inning, and Salem had a two run single. Booth had an RBI single and Overstreet an RBI double. Three 'Bama batters in a row were hit by pitches. The eight runs came on five hits, two walks and the three hit by pitches. The onslaught continued in the second as Smith singled and was driven in by Whites double. Carlisle scored in the fourth after singling and being driven in by Salem's single. White singled again in the sixth and scored on Salem's double.
The seventh and eighth innings became fun for the Tide as several players came off the bench to contribute, some for the first time in their career. Ryan Blanchard replaced Moore and singled twice, scored two runs and drove in one. Chance Vincent recorded his first career hit and two runs driven in. Daniel Cucjen drilled his first career hit and first RBI. Steven Cole added a single, and Riley Colburn had his first career at bat. The Tide won 15-1.
Booth was 4-6 with an RBI, Salem was 3-5 with four runs batted in, and White was 2-3 with a walk and a RBI. Turnbull earned his first victory of the season.
For the weekend Booth lead the team with an 8-13 performance, followed by Salem at 6-13, Moore at 5-11, Roberts and Smith at 4-12 and Carlisle at 4 for 10. Booth threw out six more runners attempting to steal. Dubbed "The Eraser" by The Tuscaloosa News Aaron Suttles, Booth lived up to nickname by controlling the Vol's on the base paths. Booth has gunned out 16 runners so far this season.
Winning a series in the SEC is always a positive thing, but this was one that was ripe for a sweep for the Tide. Tennessee has 18 freshmen on their roster and start has many as six of them at a time. Truthfully this Vol team looked as bad as any SEC team in recent memory.
With the 43 hits 'Bama raised their team batting average from .222 all the way to .247. Booth continues to lead, raising his average to .348. Moore has been hot as of late and has brought his average all the way up to .300. Salem continues to impress as a freshman and his average stands at .293. Overstreet is only hitting .186, but continues to have productive at bats and leads the team with 17 RBIs, followed by Moore with 15 and Booth and Salem with 13 each.
This week the Tide has five games scheduled, starting with a Tuesday night trip to Birmingham to play Samford on their campus. First pitch is at 6:00 p.m. Wednesday 'Bama comes home to host Jacksonville State at 6:05, before traveling to Athens Georgia to take on the Bulldogs. Friday's game begins at 6:00 p.m., Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and Sunday's final game at 1:00 p.m. Expect Tucker Hawley and Taylor Guilbeau to pitch the mid-week games and Sullivan, Keller and Turnbull on the weekend.
Overall a good weekend.
Roll Tide Ya'll