The 20th ranked Alabama Crimson Tide lost the first two games of their series with the No. 3 Houston Cougars, but bounced back on Sunday to take an 8-3 victory. The win was number 2,500 for the storied program. The Cougars prevailed in the previous two games of the weekend series; a 3-1 defensive performance, and again on Saturday in a wild, sloppy 14-9 affair. Alabama is now 4-2 on the year, and Houston sports a 6-1 record.
Friday (Houston 3 Alabama 1)
Taylor Guilbeau took the mound in Friday's game one, and pitched well enough to win. But, despite outhitting the Cougars eight to four, his teammates could only plate one run for him in the 3-1 loss. 'Bama jumped out to an early lead as Casey Hughston ("Casey Baseball") led off with a double and was brought home on a single by Chance Vincent.
Guilbeau was cruising along after five innings, notching five strikeouts and allowing only two hits. However, the senior lefty ran into trouble in the sixth when Houston's Josh Vidales doubled, followed by Jacob Campbell's walk with one out. The Cougar's slugging clean-up hitter Chris Iriart then cranked a mammoth home run over the wall in left to give Houston all the runs they would need. The long ball was Iriart's third of the young season. Guilbeau recovered to strike out the next two batters, ending both the inning and his night of work. The Zachary, LA native allowed seven hits, with two walks and seven strikeouts in his six innings, but suffered the loss, putting his record at 1-1.
'Bama's best chance was in the eighth inning when Chandler Avant and Georgie Salem led off with singles, and advanced to second and third on a fly out by Mikey White. However they were stranded, as was the Tide's chance to get even in the game.
Saturday (Houston 14 Alabama 9)
Saturday's game two pitted Alabama's Will Carter against Houston ace Jake Lemoine, but neither pitcher made it past the fourth inning. Carter could not get into a groove, and never seemed to have command of his pitches. The juco product lasted 3 1/3 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits with two walks and one strikeout while notching 73 pitches. A parade of seven 'Bama relievers followed Carter on the mound. His counterpart fared little better, as Lemoine made it through just four innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
Houston jumped out early, grabbing a 2-0 lead after one inning, and 4-0 after four innings. The Tide fought back with four runs in the fifth, aided by walks and an error on the Cougar third baseman. The Tide's Ryan Blanchard and J.C. Wilhite added RBI singles to tie it up. Houston took the lead again in the bottom half, before 'Bama tied the game on a long home run by Casey Baseball.
In the top of the seventh, Alabama seemingly took control of the game, scoring four runs on the strength of a walk, two botched bunt attempts, an RBI single by Chandler Avant, and a two-run error by the Cougars. Unfortunately Houston bounced back with six runs in the seventh on the back of four walks, three hit batters, and a bloop three-run double down the right field line. The Cougars put the game out of reach in the eighth, with three more runs, making the final score 14-9. Thomas Burrows was the victim of the three-run bloop double, and suffered the loss. Tide pitchers combined to allow 13 hits, eight walks, and hit five batters, while the defense committed three errors, not a good recipe for success.
Sunday (Alabama 8 Houston 3)
After the long four-hour game Saturday night, the teams had a quick turn around for Sunday's noon start. To the Tide's credit they didn't hang their heads, instead playing with intensity and purpose...and a shuffled lineup. Salem moved to the leadoff spot, White to second, Hughston to third, and Kyle Overstreet batted cleanup. Wilhite batted fifth, Vincent sixth, Blanchard seventh, and Taylor Poe was inserted at catcher, and Daniel Cucjen at third base, completing the new look. Sophomore right-hander Geoffrey Bramblett got the start for 'Bama.
The Tide took an early lead as White and Hughston hit back-to-back doubles for an early 1-0 advantage. Houston managed to tie the game up in the third on three singles and a passed ball. Things settled down until the fifth when the Tide added three runs to retake the lead. White just missed a home run, banging a double off of the left field wall. White advanced on a passed ball, and then scored when Casey Baseball legged-out an infield single for an RBI. Overstreet singled, Wilhite sacrificed bunted, and Blanchard drilled an RBI single. In the bottom of the sixth Casey Baseball added to his legend, throwing out a runner at the plate.
'Bama added one more in the seventh when White walked, and scored his third run on a double by Overstreet. Houston drew closer when Ashford Fulmer was hit by a Bramblett pitch and scored on a long home run by Connor Wong with no outs. Bramblett got the first out before handing the ball to Ray Castillo, who finished the inning with no further damage. Wilhite slammed the first pitch he saw in the eighth inning over the left field wall for his first career home run, and third hit of the game. The Tide added two more insurance runs in the ninth on an infield single by Salem, a walk to Casey Baseball, and RBI singles by Overstreet and Wilhite.
Castillo had an easy eighth and ninth inning, allowing only one harmless single. Bramblett pushed his record to 2-0 with the victory, going 6 1/3 inning allowing eight hits, with two walks and two strikeouts, and three runs. Castillo went the final 2 2/3 innings, earning his second save, while allowing two hits with two strikeouts and no walks or runs.
Winning one out of three is not the outcome the team was looking for, but coming back on Sunday for the victory was a big shot in the arm. The team walked only seven times while striking out 22 times in the three games, something that will need to improve going forward. Alabama pitchers issued 15 walks and struck out 18 in the series, another area that will need improvement over the season.
* Hughston was 7-12 on the weekend, and is now 18-25 on the season, with multiple hits in all six games and at least one extra base hit in every game. His batting average is an absurd .720, with six doubles, a triple, a home run, 11 runs scored, and 11 driven in. Add to that a slugging percentage of 1.160, an OBP of .724, and an outfield assist.
* Overstreet went 5-13 for the weekend and is hitting .458 for the season. He leads the team with 12 runs batted in, and, like Hughston, has a six-game hitting streak.
* Wilhite was 6-11, and boasts a .412 average on the season.
* White is hitting .348, with three doubles, a triple, and eight runs scored.
* Salem has reached base in every game, hitting .286 and leads the team with four stolen bases.
* Blanchard is batting .417 (5-12) in his three starts.
The Tide returns to the Hoover Met for a Tuesday double-header versus Savannah State. Game one will begin at 2:00 p.m. CST, with game two set for 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first tilt. Nick Eicholtz draws one start on the mound, with the other start to be determined. Both games will be available on the SEC+ streaming service.
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