Senior Taylor Guilbeau and junior Ray Castillo combined for a shutout as Alabama opened the 2015 season with a 6-0 victory over Maryland Eastern Shore. Guilbeau went the first six innings, allowing only two hits while walking three and striking out a career high seven hitters to earn the victory. Castillo notched the save pitching the final three innings, allowing three hits with no walks and five strikeouts.
Casey Hughston led the offense with three hits including two doubles and two RBI. Mikey White contributed a double and a triple along with two walks, both intentional. Georgie Salem had two singles, two stolen bases, two runs, and an RBI. Kyle Overstreet walked twice, had an RBI double and drove in a second run with a sacrifice fly. Will Haynie, J.C. Wilhite, and Chandler Avant each had one single. Overall the Tide had 11 hits and walked seven times, while striking out nine times as a team.
Guilbeau never really faced any trouble as he looked more in control and confident than he has at any point in his Crimson Tide career. In 2012 Guilbeau became the first freshman to start the season opener on the mound in Alabama history, but was up and down in 2013 and 2014. In this one he looked the part of the confident veteran rather than the nervous youngster of yesteryear. The Zachary, Louisiana native even showed off an excellent pickoff move, erasing his first hit allowed on the day.
Castillo is looking to bounce back from a disappointing, injury plagued season, hoping to return to his freshman All-American form of 2013. For one game at least, he appeared to have his velocity back and showed good control, walking no one. He did surrender a double and a single to open the ninth, but proceeded to get three straight outs to preserve the shutout.
'Bama started off slowly on offense before finally breaking through with a run in the third inning. Wilhite reached second base on an error by the third baseman then advanced to third on a fly ball by Avant. Salem then bounced a single through a drawn-in infield for the only run the Tide would need.
In the fifth inning 'Bama added two insurance runs. Salem beat out a one-out bunt for his second hit of the night and scored on a double by Hughston, who then scored on a double by Overstreet. The Tide added one in the seventh after White drove a long drive in the right center gap for a leadoff triple. Hughston drove him home with a hustling double to short center-field. The big, speedy Hughston dove headfirst into second to beat the throw from shallow center field.
The Tide concluded the scoring for the night with two more runs in the eighth. Wilhite singled to right and was replaced by Riley Colburn as a pinch runner. Colburn stole second base on the next pitch and then advanced to third on a ground-out by Avant. Salem worked a walk and stole second. After an intentional pass to White, Hughston drove in his second run with a single to center and Overstreet lifted a sacrifice fly to center, plating the final run.
Lower level competition notwithstanding, the Tide looked solid in the opener. Eleven hits including five for extra bases along with seven walks was a good sign for the offense. The nine strikeouts are not ideal, but not unexpected this early in the season as the bats usually take a while to catch up to the pitching. The team stole four bases and brilliantly executed two hit-and-run plays, playing to Coach Mitch Gaspard's "small ball" strategy for the season.
Jesse Stinnett suffered the loss for Maryland Eastern Shore, pitching five innings and allowing three runs, two earned. Skylar Murray collected two of teams five hits.
The teams will play game two of the three game series on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. CST at the Hoover Met. JuCo transfer Will Carter will toe the rubber for 'Bama and Jordan Bone will start for MES. Sunday is a 1:00 p.m. first pitch with sophomore Geoffrey Bramblett going for the Tide against Tanner Whiteman for MES. The games can be seen on the webcast SECN+. You can also get live, in game, updates via twitter @rogerpatmyers.
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