The Alabama Crimson Tide welcomed the undefeated, 5th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies to the Hoover Met this weekend, and had a chance to win all three games, but could only come away with a victory in the third game. The loss in the second game of a Saturday double header, was A&M's first loss of the season, taking their record 24-1. The two losses and one victory give the Tide a 13-9 season record, 3-3 in the SEC.
Game One (L 2-4)
The Tide's Taylor Guilbeau and the Aggies Grayson Long squared off in what was expected to be a pitching duel, and the game lived up to those expectations. Both pitched into the seventh inning, and set career highs for strikeouts. Long went six-plus innings, allowing three hits, two walks, tallying 14 strikeouts -- including a stretch of nine batters in a row, and allowed only one run (earned) in throwing 115 pitches. Guilbeau lasted 6 and 1/3 innings, allowing two hits, two runs (both earned) walking five, and striking out 11, and threw 101 pitches.
Guilbeau had a rough start, walking four in the first inning to force in a run, but also added two strikeouts to limit the damage. After walking lead-off man, Blake Allemand, Guilbeau picked him off first, but when Allemand broke for second, first baseman Chance Vincent threw the ball into left field, allowing him to reach base safely. Allemand eventually walked around to score. 'Bama was able to tie the game in the second when Kyle Overstreet singled, advanced on a Vincent single, and scored on an opposite field hit by Will Haynie.
After that both pitchers settled in and neither offense was able to generate anything close to a scoring threat. Guilbeau struck out two batters per inning in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings. Long one-upped him by striking out the last two batters of the third, striking out the size in the fourth and fifth, and the first batter of the sixth inning.
Guilbeau allowed a lead off single in the seventh, and a wild pitch advanced the runner to second. Guilbeau retired the next hitter on a ground ball, and then left in favor of Ray Castillo. Castillo induced a weak ground ball to Vincent at first, but couldn't handle the toss when covering the bag, and fumbled it for an error. The next batter walked, which led to a sacrifice fly from Allemand to make the score 2-1. Ryne Birk then doubled in the right center gap, scoring two more runs for the Aggies.
Andrew Vinson followed Long on the mound for A&M and pitched two innings, striking out two hitters. Ryan Hendrix came in to pitch the ninth to try and nail down the victory. Mikey White doubled with one out, followed by a walk to Casey Hughtson, bringing the winning run to the plate with only one out. After a strikeout for out two, Vincent hit a ground ball and hustled down the line, diving into first base, and beating the throw, which got away, allowing White to score. With the tying runs on base, and winning run at the plate, pinch hitter Cody Henry grounded out to third to end the game, with 'Bama on the wrong end of a 4-2 score.
'Bama collected only five hits on the game, three of them of the infield variety, in addition to striking out 17 times and walking only three times. White and Vincent each had two hits, and Haynie added the other. Jay Shaw and Colton Freeman both pitched one clean inning each for 'Bama at the end, and Tide pitchers allowed only four hits, walking seven and striking out 13.
Game Two (L 10-5)
'Bama's Will Carter faced off with Matt Kent in the first game of Saturday's double header. Carter was sharp early, and the Tide got to Kent right out of the shoot. Chandler Avant led off the bottom for the first with a single and was doubled in by Georgie Salem. Salem advanced on fly out by Mikey White, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Casey Hughston, giving the Tide a quick 2-0 lead.
The Aggies got on the board in the fourth on two singles, a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly. 'Bama answered back in the bottom half, scoring twice. Chance Vincent singled, was sacrificed to second on a bunt by Will Haynie, and scored on a double by Daniel Cucjen. Chandler Avant singled, and when the throw got away Cucjen scored, giving the Tide a 4-1 lead. A&M scored twice in the top of the fifth on a lead off walk to Patrick McLendon. McLendon was sacrificed to second, and scored on a wild pitch. Allemand then scored on a ground out by Ryne Birk. cutting the Tide lead to 4-3.
The Tide added a run in the fifth when White reached on an error, stole second, and scored on a single by Kyle Overstreet. Overstreet was thrown out trying to steal, and was the last base runner for the Tide until two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Carter gave up a single and a walk in the sixth, before being replaced by Mitch Greer with two on and two out. Greer stuck out Allemand to thwart the rally and strand the runners.
Greer allowed a single and a walk in the seventh, and was called on to come back out for the eighth inning, and walked the first two batters he faced. After a sacrifice bunt put the tying runs in scoring position, closer Thomas Burrows was called on to try to close out the game. Burrows was not sharp and hit a batter, walked a batter, and allowed two singles. allowing four runs to score. Burrows was touched for two singles and a double leading off the ninth, and was replaced by freshman Alex Watkins. Watkins allowed two more hits, and before the inning was over, the Aggies had padded their lead with three more runs, and a 10-5 lead. Riley Colburn singled with two outs in the ninth for the Tide, their only base runner in the last 4 1/3 innings of the game.
Texas A&M rapped out 16 hits and collected seven walks. 'Bama had eight hits and only one walk in the game. Kyle Simonds was the winning pitcher for the Aggies, and Greer was tagged with the loss for the Tide. Avant and Colburn were the only 'Bama hitters with multiple hits, both with two singles.
Game Three (W 6-2)
Sophomore Hoover native Geoffrey Bramblett was called on by 'Bama to try and salvage a victory in the series finale, the night cap of Saturday's double header. He was up to the task, pitching seven crisp innings and handing the Aggies their first loss of the season.
The Tide jumped all over starter Turner Larkins early. In the first inning, Georgie Salem rifled a one out double followed by a Mikey White single. Salem scored on a Casey Hughston fielders choice, followed by a walk to Kyle Overstreet. Chance Vincent then lined a triple down the right field line, scoring two. Vincent trotted home on a double by Will Haynie, and a quick 4-0, first inning 'Bama lead.
Bramblett was touched for single runs in the second and third innings, being victimized by some uncharacteristic defensive lapses by the Tide. After that Bramblett and Aggie relief pitchers Ty Schlottmann, Jason Freeman and Andrew Vinson were never really threatened. In the eighth, Ray Castillo replaced Bramblett, who pitched seven strong innings, allowing seven hits, two runs (one earned) with three walks and three strikeouts. Castillo had an easy inning, and his teammates gave him some insurance in the bottom half of the eighth. Kyle Ovestreet doubled and Chance Vincent reached on an error, and both scored on a double by Chandler Avant, making the score 6-2 heading to the ninth inning.
Castillo got two quick outs, allowed a double, then got a ground ball to Vincent to end the game. Bramblett improved his record to 4-1 on the season, and Castillo picked up his third save. Avant had three hits and Salem added two, Vincent and Avant both had two runs driven in.
* Chance Vincent was 5-11 with a triple, and two runs driven in.
* Chandler Avant was 5-14 with a double and two RBIs
* Mikey White was 3-11 with a double.
* Georgie Salem was 3-12 with two doubles.
* Salem broke Jeremy Brown's school record for consecutive errorless games with 85, and then in his next game committed his first error in well over a year on a throw to the plate.
* Guilbeau's eleven strike outs in game one was a career high, and a team-high for the Tide this season.
* DH/relief pitcher J.C. Wilhite missed the series with an illness, and his bat and arm were missed.
* Back up catcher Taylor Poe is hampered by a concussion and also was not avaliable
* Pitchers Nick Eicholtz and Jake Hubbard both were still out with elbow issues,
The Tide had a chance in all three games, but there is a reason the Aggies have the record that they have. They are very good: a solid, fundamental team that plays the game the right way in all three aspects, hitting, pitching and defense. The A&M bullpen is full of arms that can get anybody in the country out. After two disappointing losses, that the Tide were in a position to win, Alabama held their heads up, and pulled out game three victory rather than hanging their heads.
Alabama will need to make more consistent contact as the season progresses. You simply can not strike out 17 times in a game and expect to win. The Tide will also need to work their way on base more via walks. Conversely, the pitching staff needs to cut down on the walks issued, and let the teams sterling defense do work behind them. As noted above, four errors in game three was an anomaly for an otherwise very strong defensive team.
The Tide travels to Mobile on Tuesday to take on the South Alabama Jaguars in a 6:30 p.m game, and will continue on to Gainesville to take on the second-ranked Florida Gators in a three game series. The Fri. and Sat. Florida games are at 6:00 p.m. and will be televised on the SEC Network. Game three on Sunday is at noon and can be found on SEC Network Plus. All time are Central Time.