Two hot teams met on Tuesday night at The Joe as Samford, on a nine game winning streak, and 'Bama on a five game streak collided. The Tide scored early and often and rode the talented right arm of freshman Nick Eicholtz to the 12-1 victory. Eicholtz pitched seven innings, allowed three hits, struck out 12 and did not walk a batter. When Samford scored in the seventh inning, it was the first run allowed by the 'Bama staff in 37 innings. Bama is now 92-15 all-time against Samford, and Coach Mitch Gaspard's record is 7-3 against the 'Dogs.
Eicholtz set the tone early, striking out the side in the top of the first and two batters in the second. 'Bama broke through in the second, scoring three times. Kyle Overstreet started the rally with a lead off, infield single, where he dove into first base to beat the throw. Austen Smith walked and Casey Hughston singled, scoring Overstreet. Chance Vincent lined another single, scoring the other two runs in the inning. Eicholtz finally allowed a hit in the third, but got a strikeout and a double play to end the inning.
'Bama added two runs in the fourth when Smith singled and scored on Will Haynie's first career home run, a laser shot to left field. The way Eicholtz was pitching, five runs were plenty, but the Tide poured six runs across in the fifth to break the game wide open. Overstreet started things with a one out single, and then with two outs six straight Tide batters reached base. Smith singled again, as did Hughston, driving in a run. Haynie then smashed a two run double, followed by a Vincent walk, a Georgie Salem RBI single and a two run single from Mikey White.
Samford finally dented the score board on a leadoff triple and a sacrifice fly. Eicholtz quickly shut the door and ended his night after seven fantastic innings. Taylor Guilbeau pitched the eighth inning and allowed a walk and struck out a batter. 'Bama got their final run in the eighth when the reserves took over. Daniel Cucjen drew a walk, advanced on a single by Matthew Goodson and scored on a RBI single by Steven Cole. Freshman Thomas Burrows pitched the ninth inning and struck out two to end the game.
Coach Mitch Gaspard called the win "The most complete game we have played all year, pitching, defense and at the plate. Hopefully we can take this offensive production forward into SEC play this weekend." The pitchers allowed only three hits, only walked one batter, and struck out 15. The defense did not commit any errors, and the offense scored 12 runs on 15 hits. Five Tide batters reached via walk, a weakness for the team thus far in the season.
The freshmen were big in this victory, as Eicholtz, Haynie, Hughston and Burrows are all first year players. Eicholtz earned his first career win, and now has a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings pitched. Haynie drove in a career high four runs in the game, and hit his first career home run. In his last five games the big (6 foot 5) catcher is 10-18 (.526) with six RBI. Hughston added a sacrifice bunt to his two singles and two RBIs. Burrows has appeared in five games, and is yet to allow a run on the season. The lefty has pitched 8.1 innings, allow only one hit, and has struck out nine. Sophomore Salem now has an eight game hitting streak after tonight's game. The big senior, Smith is hitting .556 with eight RBI in the last six games, coinciding with the teams winning streak.
Overstreet had a 3-4 night, followed by Haynie with his 2-3, home run, double, four RBI game. Hughston and Smith both had two hits and Vincent, Salem, White, Goodson, and Cole all had one each.
The team has improved their batting average to .267 after tonight's win, and the pitchers lowered their ERA to 1.71. Smith is leading the team with a .362 average and with 11 RBI. Salem is hitting .318, and Moore is at an even .300. Haynie, after a slow start, is up to .297. Jonathan Keller has four wins to lead the staff. Justin Kamplain and Burrows both have two wins. The freshmen together, Eicholtz, Burrows and Geoffrey Bramblett have a 0.93 ERA in 38.2 innings pitched.
Samford was a hot team coming in, with a nine game winning streak, so this was a nice mid-week win and as long as 'Bama can continue to hit, and score some runs, they will be a dangerous team in the SEC. With the pitching and defense playing as well as they are, scoring 4-5 runs a game would guarantee several wins. SEC play opens this weekend, as Kentucky comes to town for a three game series. The 16th ranked Wildcats sport a 14-4 record. The 'Cats lead the SEC in hitting with a .337 mark. Six regulars are hitting over .300, with three of those being over .400. Austin Cousino is hitting .432 and A.J. Reed, who doubles as their number one pitcher, is hitting .414 with an amazing eight home runs and 28 RBIs. Michael Thomas checks in at an even .400 average. The Wildcats have scored an amazing 186 runs through 18 games. By contrast the Tide has scored 73 runs in 15 games. Reed is 3-0 on the mound with a 1.38 ERA. Chandler Shepherd is also 3-0 and carries a 2.42 ERA.
'Bama will start Spencer Turnbull on Friday, in the 6:35 p.m. game. Justin Kamplain will pitch Saturday, and the game beings at 6:05 p.m., and Jonathan Keller will get the nod on the hill in the Sunday game, which begins at 1:05 p.m. Remember you can follow me on twitter @rogerpatmyers for live, in game, inning by inning updates.
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Roll Tide Y'all