Alabama received outstanding pitching from Taylor Guilbeau, Jay Shaw and Thomas Burrows, and got a long home run from Will Haynie to defeat Missouri 4-3 in an elimination game on Thursday at the Hoover Met.
Guilbeau pitched seven innings and collected his first SEC game of the year. Shaw pitched a perfect eighth, and Burrows threw a perfect ninth to earn his seventh save of the year. 'Bama improved to 32-27 on the year, while Missouri fell to 30-28. Freshman Tanner Houck started for Missouri and pitched a complete game, going eight innings, allowing six hits, with one walk with eight strikeouts, with all four runs earned runs. Guilbeau allowed six hits in his seven innings with three walks, four strikeouts and three earned runs. Burrows struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth.
Alabama grabbed an early lead, scoring once in the first, and as has been their MO of late, all the damage happened after two were out. Mikey White beat out a two out infield single and scored on a ringing double by Casey Hughston in the left center gap. The Tigers took the lead in the top of the fifth on a single, a walk, a sac bunt and a two run double by Brett Peel.
Mizzou expanded the lead in the top of the sixth on a double by Josh Lester and a single by Trey Harris. Guilbeau picked Harris off first to end the inning. 'Bama worked their two out magic again in the bottom of the sixth, scoring twice after recording two quick outs with no one on. White worked a walk, followed by Hughston beating out an infield single. Kyle Overstreet hit a ground ball to short stop and Ryan Howard tried to force White at third, but was late on the throw. Freshman Cody Henry then delivered with a two run single to center to tie the game at three apiece.
Guilbeau stranded runners at first and third in the top of the seventh, and his day was finished after 104 pitches. In the bottom of the seventh Haynie took the first pitch he saw and lifted what was called by Ben McDonald, "the longest home run hit at the Hoover Met", well over the left field wall into an adjacent parking lot. The long ball was Haynie's team-leading eighth of the year, despite a .198 batting average.
With a 4-3 lead, coach Mitch Gaspard called on Shaw to pitch the eighth in relief of his roommate Guilbeau. Shaw induced three ground ball outs, setting the stage for closer Burrows to finish the game off. Burrows did quick work, striking out the first two batters and getting a fly ball out to Riley Colburn in left field to end the game with the Tide securing the 4-3 victory.
The win pushes 'Bama back into the fringe talk of an NCAA bid, with a 32-27 record, and a 43 RPI with 14 SEC wins and 19 SEC losses. Most likely the Tide will need to win on Friday and Saturday and reach the tournament finals, and receive some help to make it in the NCAA field. The team needs as few upsets in conference tournaments as possible to sneak in, and needs to continue to pile up wins.
The next game on Friday at 3:00 pm CT will be an RPI builder, as the team will play the loser of the Vanderbilt and Texas A&M, both Top-10 teams. Junior right-hander Will Carter, 4-5 with a 4.68 ERA, will most likely receive the start on the mound for the Tide. Carter had a rough first three-fourths of the season, but has pitched much better in his last few outings. Alex Watkins, Nick Eicholtz, Jake Hubbard and Shaw could also take the hill. Ray Castillo and Burrows will be available, benefiting from Geoffrey Bramblett's complete game victory on Tuesday, which preserved some arms in the 'pen.
Regardless of how & when the season ends, this team has peaked in the last three weeks, playing baseball the way they were expected to all season, when the entered 2015 the No. 25 team in the country. After being swept by Arkansas in early May to drop the Tide's record to 23-24, Alabama has gone 9-3 down the stretch.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch It!