Alabama's baseball team bounced back Sunday to grab a much needed win in game three of their series with LSU. Friday night the second ranked Tiger's dominated the Tide winning 5-0 behind sophomore right hander Aaron Nola. Nola never gave 'Bama a chance, pitching a complete game, three hit gem. Nola only allowed five base runners, walking one and hitting one batter and striking out 10. Game two was a 16 inning heartbreaking 11-8 loss, before bouncing back with Sunday's 4-3, 10 inning victory. 'Bama's record now stands at 24-18 overall and 9-9 in the SEC. By contrast last years team finished 21-35 and 9-21 in SEC play.
Friday night LSU showed early why they are so highly regarded, scoring twice in the first inning on Tide starter Charley Sullivan. The two runs proved to be more than enough for Nola. Mark Laird singled and freshman sensation Alex Bregman followed with a single of his own. Raph Rhymes then smacked a triple to score both. The Tiger's added a run in the third and two in the seventh. Sullivan pitched six plus innings allowing seven hits with four walks and eight strikeouts and four runs. Taylor Guilbeau relieved in the seventh and pitched the final three innings allowing four hits and one run. Offensively 'Bama could only manage three singles, one each by Georgie Salem, Kyle Overstreet and Chance Vincent.
In front of Saturday's near sellout crowd of 5,900 the Tide went toe to toe with the Tiger's and had several chances to come out on top. Much like the first fight between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed the two teams traded blows, with the much more highly regarded Tiger's (in the role of Creed) eventually taking down the Tide (as Rocky Balboa) in the epic 16 inning brawl.
After coming out Friday with a passive, timid approach at the plate, the Tide was noticeably different on Saturday swinging in an aggressive and swashbuckling style. The approach seemingly worked as 'Bama hit the ball much harder and even had five extra base hits, four doubles and a home run, among their 17 hits. 'Bama jumped out early by scoring in the first inning on a Kenny Roberts leadoff single and a Overstreet RBI double. The Tide added two in the second as Brett Booth singled, Mikey White doubled and Andrew Miller drilled a clutch two out, two run single.
Justin Kamplain started on the mound for 'Bama and cruised through two innings before running into trouble in the third. With two out and two on Bregman slammed a long three run home run to tie the game. LSU's power struck again in the fourth as catcher Ty Ross, a .204 hitter, took Kamplain deep for another three run home run. Chris Sciambra also had an RBI single in the inning, staking the Tiger's to a 7-3 lead. 'Bama got two back in the bottom of the fourth as Booth singled and White doubled again. Vincent's ground out scored Booth and Miller came through with another two out single, scoring White. Kamplain lasted 5 and 2/3 innings, allowing nine hits and seven runs, all earned. Tucker Hawley relieved and pitched 2 and 1/3 innings, allowing one seventh inning run on three hits, with three strikeouts. Hawley was followed by Keaton Haack, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning, setting up the fire works for 'Bama's ninth.
Trailing 8-5 with only three outs remaining, the Tide staged the dramatics. White lead off with a single, his third hit of the game. Vincent flied out before Miller reached on an error by second baseman JaCoby Jones. Roberts then sent the home crowd into hysterics by smashing his second home run of the season deep into the night, tying the game at eight apiece. Salem followed with a single, but could not be advanced, sending the Tide into extra innings for the fourth time on the season. Coach Mitch Gaspard called on his freshman closer Ray Castillo to pitch the 10th inning. Castillo was once again dynamite pitching the 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th and the beginning of the 14th. Castillo allowed two hits, walked four and struck out five. Mike Oczypok replaced Castillo with two on and no outs in the 14th and promptly walked his first batter, loading the bases. Jones lined what appeared to be a single through the hole at shortstop, but White dove, made the stop, jumped up, fired to Booth at the plate for the force out. Booth was not content with one out and fired the ball to Roberts at third, who in turn made a fabulous stop and tag for the double play. Overstreet then made yet another great stop on a ball headed into the outfield and threw the runner out at first to end the threat.
Oczypok had a walk leading off the 15th, but retired the next three hitters, taking the game to the fateful 16th inning. The first two batters were put out easily, bringing Christian Ibarra to the plate. On a 3-2 pitch Ibarra appeared to swing at a pitch, while trying to check his swing. On appeal the first base umpire ruled that he did not swing, awarding him first base. Pinch hitter Tyler Moore doubled, as did Jones, followed by Ross's single, plating three Tiger runs and giving them their margin of victory. The Tide had the winning run in scoring position in the 10th, 12th and 13th innings but could not muster the clutch hit needed to secure the win.
The game tied for the longest in Crimson Tide history, tying the 1893 squad, who tied Vanderbilt 2-2 in 16 innings. The time of the game was four hours and fifty-five minutes. Booth and White both had three hits, and Roberts, Salem, Moore and Miller had two each. Smith, Vincent and Overstreet added one safety each.
After such a heartbreaking loss it would have been easy for the Tide to fold up on Sunday, but they did not. Sophomore ace Spencer Turnbull took the hill in search of his fifth win. When told that 'Bama was once again putting the pressure on Spencer's shoulders, his dad Jim said "thats all right, he has big shoulders." No truer words have ever been spoken. Turnbull once again gave a brilliant performance, pitching nine full innings, allowing six hits, striking out four and walking two. The big righty gave up three runs, only two of which were earned.
Turnbull did not allow a hit until the fifth inning. Following a fourth inning walk to Mason Katz, Booth gunned Katz down trying to steal, his 30th victim of the year. Booth is definitely earning his nickname bestowed upon him by The Tuscaloosa News Aaron Suttles, "The Eraser". 'Bama grabbed the lead in the fourth as Salem doubled to the warning track in right center, followed by Overstreet reaching on an error by Jones at second base. Ben Moore lined an RBI single to left and Austen Smith reached on an infield single and Overstreet scored putting the Tide ahead 2-0. LSU finally reached Turnbull in the fifth, getting their first two hits of the game, scoring one. The Tiger's evened the score in the top of the seventh inning on a hit batter, error and double play ground out. With the bases loaded Overstreet and White turned a nifty double play to limit the damage. The Tide bounced back to re-take the lead in the seventh when Booth reached on an error, was sacrificed to second on a perfect bunt by Smith, and scored on White's single.
Turnbull ran into trouble in the ninth, allowing a Katz single, a Ibarra double and a Sciambra sacrifice fly, but retired the next two batters, leaving the game tied. 'Bama didn't threaten in the ninth, and Jon Keller came on to pitch the 10th, ending Turnbull's day after 120 pitches. Keller allowed a lead off single and sacrifice bunt before intentionally walking Bregman. Keaton Haack then came on and the one batter he faced, Rymes hit into a double play, turned by 'Bama's dynamic middle infield duo of White and Overstreet.
The bottom of the 10th inning lead to the Tide pushing across the winning run. White was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and was sacrificed to second by Vincent. Miller followed with a bunt of his own, and reached base on the play as Ibarra was charged with an error. Roberts was walked to load the bases. That brought Overstreet to the plate, which is exactly who the Tide would want up in that situation. Oversteet quickly lined a single to center field, scoring White and giving the Tide their first extra inning win of the year in five tries. Overstreet is now hitting .600 with the bases loaded, .386 with runners in scoring position and .339 with two outs. The second baseman also took over the teams RBI lead with 27 on the season.
The Tide found a way to win a game against the second ranked team in the nation despite collecting only five hits. The fact that 'Bama was able to stare Goliath in the eye and go toe to toe speaks volumes about the character and fire in this group of players. The series could have very easily gone to 'Bama, and the Tiger's know they were in a battle over the last two games. (All 26 innings.) After being totally out everythinged in the first game 'Bama fought tooth and nail and finally pulled out a late inning victory.
'Bama travels to Hattiesburg Mississippi on Wednesday to play Southern Miss for the second time this year. The Tide defeated the Golden Eagle's 10-8 on February 19th in Tuscaloosa. The game will by played at 6:00 p.m. Texas A&M comes to town for the weekend series, and will not be bringing Johnny Baseball with them. Friday's game is set for 6:35, Saturday's at 6:05 and Sunday's at 1:05. All time are CST.
This team continue to fight and deserves the fans support. This weekend the crowds were fantastic, buoyed partly by the A Day crowd, and partly by the LSU factor. LSU also travels well and had a big contingency of fans following them. Lets look forward to the day when the fans come out to see the Crimson Tide, no matter who the opponent is.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch It!!
Roll Tide Y'all Roger