Alabama took the opening series of SEC play by winning two out of three games on the road in Starkville against 15th ranked Mississippi State. Friday's opening game was rained out, so a doubleheader was played Saturday, and a single game dropped on Sunday. 'Bama won the bookend games to improve to 11-7 (2-1 in the SEC) on the year. Mississippi State dropped to 16-6 (1-2 in the SEC.)
Saturday: Game One, Won 10-5
Taylor Guilbeau started on the mound for the Tide, struggling with his control -- walking seven. Despite struggling during his 4 2/3rds innings, Guilbeau kept the Tide in the game. He threw 94 pitches, allowing just two hits and two runs (one earned,) and struck out three. Guilbeau was followed on the mound by Ray Castillo, Alex Watkins, Jake Hubbard and Thomas Burrows, who also had control issues, walking a total of 12 Bulldog batters.
The Tide took an early 2-0 lead in the fourth inning when Mikey White singled and stole second base before scoring on J.C. Wilhite's single. Casey Hughston, who had walked, scored on an RBI hit by Chance Vincent. Mississippi State cut the lead in the half in the bottom of the fourth using small ball. Reid Humphreys singled, and when Josh Lovelady bunted, catcher Will Haynie lost his footing fielding the ball, allowing both runners to score. Jacob Robson sacrificed bunted, where Humphreys scored on a Ryan Gridley's groundout.
Guilbeau ran into trouble in the 5th. After issuing walks and a bunt, the tying run moved to the plate. Castillo was brought in to relieve Taylor with two outs. Castillo was able to stop the bleeding, leaving the Tide holding a 2-1 lead heading to the sixth inning. Castillo himself then ran into trouble when Seth Heck reached on an infield single, followed by a walk to Preston Brown. Big Wes Rea then blasted a two-run double, giving the 'Dogs a 4-2 lead. Castillo recovered to record two strikeouts to end the inning.
Jake Walters replaced Castillo in the seventh and the Bulldogs continued their small ball assault. Humphreys singled and was sacrificed to second, followed by a walk and another infield single. With the bases loaded, Jake Hubbard replaced Walters and got a pop out for the second out, before walking Brown with the bases loaded to drive in a run, and then getting a fly ball for out three. The Tide entered the top of the eighth trailing 5-2.
The eighth inning proved to be deciding frame, as the Tide exploded for a two-out, eight run inning. White opened the inning with a single followed by a walk to Casey Hughston. A double play advanced White to third where he scored on another Wilhite single. Vincent was hit by a pitch, and both runners advanced on a passed ball. Will Haynie came through with two outs, blooping a single just over Heck's glove at shortstop to score both runs, tying the game at five. Riley Colburn worked a walk on nine pitch at bat, followed by Chandler Avant being hit by a pitch. Georgie Salem delivered with a clutch full count single, scoring two runs for a 7-5 lead. White, in his second at bat of the inning, blasted a long three run home run for the final margin of 10-5.
Hubbard allowed a single to lead off the bottom of the eighth, and had to come out of the game with a 3-1 count on the next batter with an elbow issue. Burrows got the next three batters, and allowed a single and a walk in the ninth, but got a strikeout and fly ball to end the game, with the Tide winning 10-5. Hubbard was the winning pitcher and is now 2-1 on the season.
Saturday: Game Two, Lost 4-1
Mississippi State's Austin Sexton faced off with 'Bama's Will Carter in game two, and Sexton got the best of the Tide, pitching a complete game, allowing eight hits, and one run, while only walking one and striking out seven. Carter lasted 5 and 1/3 innings, allowing six hits, three runs (all earned), striking out five, but fell victim to the control bug, walking six.
MSU got all the runs they would need in the third, scoring twice on a bunt single, a stolen base, a walk, a slash double by Preston Brown on a fake bunt, followed by a sac fly by John Holland. The Bulldogs added insurance in the fourth when Jacob Robson reached on an infield single and stole second, scoring on a single by Jake Vickerson. State continued to torment the Tide with bunts in the seventh, loading the bases on a single, a bunt/error where Jake Walters, who had replaced Carter, slipped while fielding it. Robson reached on yet another bunt single to load the bases with no outs. That brought Jay Shaw out of the pen, and he limited the damage, with the Dog's only scoring once.
The Tide's only run of the game came on a long solo home run by Casey Hughston, his third, in the top of the sixth. For the game the Tide collected eight hits among eight batters. Shaw pitched the final two innings, walking one, striking out two, and not allowing any runs. In Saturday's two game, MSU reached base ten times on bunts or infield singles.
Sunday: Game Three, Won 8-4
Geoffrey Bramblett started for the Tide against Vance Tatum for the Bulldogs. Bramblett lasted 5 1/3 innings, while Tatum made it through seven innings. The Bulldogs scratched first, scoring twice in the second on a walk, a single, and another bunt where Bramblett slipped down trying to field the ball. A wild pitch and a ground ball brought the two runs in before Bramblett ended the inning, picking John Holland off of first base.
The Tide cut into the lead on a Will Haynie home run to lead off the top of the third inning. 'Bama took a 3-2 lead in the top of the fourth when Kyle Overstreet led off with a single, followed by a double by J.C. Wilhite. The next two batters were retired, before Riley Colburn lined an 0-2 pitch over the first base bag for a two run double. The Bulldogs retook the lead in the fourth on a lead off double, a sacrifice bunt and a single by Holland. When the throw in got away both runs scored for a 4-3 lead.
When Bramblett allowed a double in the sixth, Ray Castillo was called on with one out and got the next two batters out to end the threat. 'Bama tied the game in the top of the seventh when Georgie Salem singled with two outs, stole second base, and scored on a Mikey White single.
Once again the eighth inning proved huge for the Tide, scoring four runs to take the lead for good. Overstreet led off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Wilhite. Chance Vincent and Will Haynie both drew walks to load the bases for Riley Colburn. Colburn started off in a 0-2 hole and worked a bases loaded walk for the go ahead run. Chandler Avant then laced a two run single, and White delivered another RBI single to drive in another.
Castillo had a perfect eighth inning, but ran into trouble in the bottom of the ninth, hitting the lead off batter and then allowing a single. With two on and no outs, Thomas Burrows was called in from the bull pen for the save opportunity. Burrows coaxed a fly out, a pop out and a ground ball to end the game with the Tide on top 8-4. Castillo got the win, running his record to 2-0, and Burrows notched his third save.
- White was 6-11 with five RBIs and three runs scored
- Wilhite was 5-12 with two RBIs, a double and two runs scored
- Avant was 4-12 with two RBIs, a run scored and two hit by pitches
- Colburn was 3-11 with two runs, two walks, and three runs driven in
- Hughston was 2-10 with a home run, four walks, two runs scored and an RBI,and has reached base in every game
- Salem was 3-13 with two runs driven in and his 10th stolen base in 10 tries
- Overstreet was 3-12 with a double and two runs scored
This was a huge series for the Tide to win as they start SEC play. The Bulldogs were ranked 15th, and the next three opponents are currently all in the top five. Texas A&M is the last undefeated team in the NCAA (20-0), followed by Florida and LSU. Particularly impressive was Alabama still managing to win after issuing twelve walks in game one, where only 1-of-12 runners scored. Likewise to battle back for two late-inning game-winning rallies, in a hostile road environment, speaks well of this team. Also, a big takeaway from game three is that for the first time this season Alabama won without a significant offensive production from Hughston. White is on fire right now, and WIlhite has contributed heavily. Colburn has been a find the last two weekends taking over in left field. Avant, Salem, Vincent and Haynie also pitched in. When Alabama gets timely production from the rest of the lineup, the team has a chance to do some special things.
The Tide is back in action Tuesday night at the Hoover Met in a game with Samford. The game is set for a 6:30 p.m., and can be found on SEC Network Plus. The weekend brings the Aggies to the Met for three games, Friday at 7:00 p.m, Saturday at 3:00 p.m, and Sunday at 1:00 p.m and can all be seen online with SEC Network Plus..
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch It!