The Alabama Crimson Tide showed they can go toe to toe with the best in the country, but fell just short, losing two out of three to the third ranked Texas A/M Aggies this weekend. TAM won 4-3 on Friday in 10 innings. The Tide evened things up on Saturday 7-4 but the Aggies won the rubber game on Sunday, scoring once in the bottom of the ninth for a 2-1 win. 'Bama can match up with anyone in the country with their weekend pitching rotation, but scoring runs is still a major obstacle for the team.
Game One: Lost 4-3, 10 innings
Alabama ace Geoffrey Bramblett got off to a rough start in the first inning, as the first three batters of the inning all reached base, and all scored, for a quick 3-0 Aggie lead. 'Bama bounced back with one run in the second with a lot of help from TAM, on two errors, a walk and a wild pitch. Bramblett settled down from there, only allowing three more hits and no more runs in six full innings.
The Tide finally caught up in the sixth when their dynamic freshmen, Cobie Vance and Chandler Taylor both scored on a home run by Taylor after Vance's single. Matt Foster relieved Bramblett and pitched 2.2 clutch innings with five strikeouts. Aggie relief pitchers returned the favor, and shut down the Tide as well. In the top of the 10th, 'Bama put two runners on via another single by Vance and Chance Vincent getting hit by a pitch, but both were stranded.
Vance led the offense with two hits, and Taylor drove in two his fifth home run of the year.
Freshman lefty Dylan Duarte, a Texas native, relieved Foster and hit the first batter in the bottom of the 10th. A sac bunt and a walk followed, putting two runners on with one out. Aggie shortstop Austin Homan then singled, bringing in the winning run. The Tide was out hit 10-6 , out walked 6-2 and struck out 12 times in the game.
Game Two: Won 7-4
Alabama used 13 hits, including five for extra bases, seven runs, and outstanding pitching to beat Texas A/M in Saturday's second game. The loss was only the Aggies' second at home all season. Jake Walters started for the Tide, and despite six walks, was outstanding in his 5.2 innings of work, allowing only five hits and no runs. Sam Finnerty and Thomas Burrows followed Walters, and despite four late meaningless runs by TAM, the Tide won comfortably.
The Tide scored first in the second inning on three singles and an Aggie error. Chance Vincent singled in the fourth and scored on a Cody Henry double for a 2-0 'Bama lead. Vincent and Henry combined again in the sixth, blasting back to back doubles. Keith Holcombe got hit by a pitch, and he and Henry both scored on a wild pitch plus a bad throw by catcher Michael Barash, for a 5-0 lead. 'Bama added insurance in the top of the ninth when Chandler Taylor stroked a two run home run, his sixth of the year and a 7-0 lead.
Finnerty pitched a clean seventh and eighth inning before running into trouble in the ninth. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with no outs for the Aggies, bringing in Thomas Burrows. A ground out was the first out, allowing a TAM run to score. A bloop single and a soft liner to left brought in three more runs before Burrows shut things down with a strikeout and a ground out, giving the Tide the 7-4 win. Burrows was charged with one earned run, the first run he has allowed all season, and raising his ERA to 0.55.
Henry was the offensive leader with three hits, including two doubles and two runs driven in. Vincent added three hits of his own, and Taylor added a double to his home run, and drove in two. 'Bama out hit the Aggies 13-9, while walking three times and striking out nine times. The Aggies walked eight times and struck out four. The win set up the rubber game of the series on Sunday.
Hot-hitting shortstop Chandler Avant was injured in the game, dislocating his ankle when he slid trying to make a play in the field. Avant was hitting over .400 in his last 12 games.
Game Three: Lost 2-1
Alabama sent Nick Eicholtz to the mound on Sunday to try and secure the series victory, and he couldn't have done any more than he did, pitching seven innings, allowing only five hits, with no walks and five strikeouts and only one run. The Aggies scored in the third on a single and double to take the early lead.
The Tide finally evened things up in the sixth, and lost an opportunity to take control of the game on a bizarre double play. Hunter Webb and Georgie Salem led off with walks to start the inning. Cobie Vance laid down a bunt to try and move the runners up, however Webb was thrown out at third for the first out. Cody Henry drilled a single to center, scoring Salem, tying the game up. Chance Vincent followed and his check swing sent a slow roller toward the mound. Vincent was thrown out at first,and Vance was caught at home trying to score on the play.
Brock Love followed Eicholtz on the mound and walked the first batter he faced. Lead off man J B Moss laid down a sacrifice bunt for out one, bringing Jon Keller to the mound. Keller recorded a strikeout of Nick Banks for out number two, then intentionally walked Boomer White, the SEC's leading hitter. With two out and two on, Matt Foster was called on and struck out Hunter Melton to strand runners at first and third.
The Tide went quietly in the top of the ninth on nine pitches, setting up the Aggies winning inning. On a close 3-2 pitch Foster walked the lead off batter of the inning. A sacrifice bunt followed, bringing Thomas Burrows in with the winning run at second base. Pinch hitter Jonathan Moroney lined a single to center, plating Birk with the winning run.
The Tide was out hit 6 to 3 in the game, with Henry collecting two of the three hits for 'Bama. The Tide walked four times and struck out 10 times. TAM struck out seven times and drew two walks. Foster was the hard luck loser in the game.
The Crimson Tide outplayed the Aggies in almost every aspect in the series, but couldn't come up with a big hit when it was needed. The weekend pitching matches up with anyone in the country, holding the hot hitting Aggies to a .265 average on 26-99 hitting on the weekend. TAM came into the series with a .335 team average, and scoring at a 10 run per game clip. The Tide held the Aggies to 10 runs total for the series.
However, the Tide only hit 22-107 for a .205 average, below their conference low .250 team average. Alabama did outscore the Aggies 11-10 over the three games. Despite the lack of runs, the team had a real chance to win every game, but lacked clutch hitting. The Aggies did just enough to take the two walk-off victories.
Cody Henry seems to be finally heating up, and lead the team with a 5-13 weekend, with two doubles and three RBI's. Cobie Vance and Chance Vincent were both 4-13. Chandler Taylor was the only other player with more than one hit in the series, going 3-13 with two home runs, a double, and four runs driven in. Losing Avant right when he had returned to form will be a big blow to the offensively challenged Tide.
The Tide fell to 24-17 overall and 9-9 in the SEC. TAM is now 32-8, and 12-6 in conference.
'Bama travels to Birmingham Tuesday to take on the Samford Bulldogs at 6:00 p.m., before hosting another top five team in the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The three games will be at 6:30 p.m, 7:00 p.m and 3:00 p.m. Thursday's game will be available on ESPNU while the other two will be on SEC Network Plus.
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