Alabama continued their late season slide losing in the single elimination round of the SEC Tournament to Kentucky 7-1 on Tuesday. The Tide beat the Wildcats 2 games to 1 in the first SEC series of the year back in mid-May.
The 'Cats pitched their ace, frontrunner for National Player of the Year, A.J. Reed, while the Tide countered with freshman Nick Eicholtz. Eicholtz began the year very well, but has struggled down the stretch. Reed went five innings, pitching on four days rest, and got credit for the victory. Eicholtz only recorded three outs before being pulled in the second after loading the bases on two walks and a hit batter.
Kentucky got all the runs they needed in the second, after loading the bases with no outs. Jay Shaw replaced Eicholtz and limited the damage, allowing a sacrifice fly and single. In the bottom of the second the Tide had a golden opportunity to get back in the game, loading the bases with one out. Austen Smith walked, Casey Hughston singled, and Chance Vincent reached on an error. However, Daniel Cucjen and Mikey White were retired to end the threat.
Alabama got their only run in the third when Georgie Salem singled and scored on a long double by Wade Wass. Wass's blast was crushed deep to left center, and would have been out of most college parks. The spacious Hoover Met held it in the park however. Wass and Smith, who walked again, were stranded to end the inning.
The Wildcats added two more runs in the fourth on three singles, the last of which was a two out, two run, bloop single to shallow right field. Second baseman Kyle Overstreet and right fielder Ben Moore both made valiant efforts but the ball fell just out of their reach. 'Bama's only other threat was in the bottom for the fourth. Cucjen had a one out bunt single, followed by a White single. Salem rapped into a double play, ending the Tide's last real chance to score. The last five innings, 'Bama only had two base runners, a sixth inning single by Chance Vincent and an eighth inning single by Wass.
Ray Castillo followed Shaw on the mound and had a scoreless fifth inning before running into trouble in the sixth. After the first two batters in the sixth reached, on a single and a walk, Mitch Greer was called to the hill. Greer fumbled a bunt from the first batter he faced, Austin Cousino. Two ground outs scored two more runs, pushing the score to 6-1. Greer was followed by Tucker Hawley and Hawley pitched 1 and 1/3 innings, allowing two hits with two walks, and the final Wildcat run. Taylor Guilbeau was called on with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth and went the final 1 and 2/3 innings, allowing one hit with a strikeout.
* Georgie Salem was 2-4 with the only run scored.
*Wade Wass was 2-4 with his team leading 19th double and an RBI.
*Mikey White was 1-5.
*Casey Hughston was 1-4.
*Chance Vincent was 1-4.
*Daniel Cucjen was 1-3.
*Austen Smith drew the only two walks for the Tide.
The loss dropped the Tides record to 34-22. Next for the team is to wait on the NCAA pairings that will announced next Monday afternoon. The team looks to be possibly a two seed, but more likely a three. The projections of where they may be sent range from coast to coast, and there really is no telling where they may land.
Right now the team needs to take a couple of days off and regroup, get rested and healthy. The off time will help get the pitching staff back lined up, and give some minor and major aches and pains time to heal. Jonathan Keller will hopefully be ready to go with an extra week of rest, but that remains to be seen. After a long season, a few days off will allow the arms of Spencer Turnbull, Justin Kamplain, Thomas Burrows and company to be more lively and ready to go.
Regardless of how good the pitching is, the team will have to score more than one run to win most games. Today even with Turnbull or Kamplain on the hill, one run would not have been enough. The Tide needs to figure out ways to advance runners and manufacture some runs. Bunting, hit and run, and stealing may need to be dusted off and put in the game plan.
The season starts over next week with a clean slate. Hopefully with some rested bodies and minds, the team can bounce back and play like they did earlier in the year when they reached as high as 8th in the nation. The ability is there, they just need a reboot and get a fresh start. This team can still do things, but they need to come out with a fresh attitude and a mean streak to advance.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch It!
Roll Tide Y'all Roger
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