The suddenly hot-hitting Crimson Tide struck for 12 hits and eight runs on Tuesday to defeat Samford 8-2, revenging their 3-2 loss on April 26th. Alabama improved to 31-21 on the season, heading into the last regular season series of the year starting on Thursday when they host 10th ranked South Carolina. The Tide has scored 33 runs in the last four games, by far their best four game total of the year.
Freshman right hander Brock Love drew the starting assignment for 'Bama, his fourth start and 11th appearance of the year. The reigning Alabama high school player of the year pitched four innings, allowing five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts, while allowing two runs. Junior left-hander Colton Freeman followed, and was the winning pitcher, going three scoreless innings, allowing one walk and one hit with three strikeouts. The victory was the first of Freeman's career. The redshirt junior has been outstanding in his limited chances this season, pitching eight innings while allowing only two hits and two walks while striking out 15 batters. Freshman lefty Dylan Duarte threw the final two innings and earned his third save of the season, allowing two hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
The Tide got all the runs they would need in the first inning when Keith Holcombe and Cobie Vance both singled, then scored on a home run by Georgie Salem. The home run was a career-high fourth on the season for Salem, and second in two games. Holcombe, Vance, and Salem struck again in the second when Holcombe was hit by a pitch and scored, while Vance and Salem both had RBI singles.
The Bulldogs scored their two runs in the third on a solo home run by Heath Quinn and doubles by Jordan Fucci and Hunter Swilling. Thereafter, SU never really threatened. From the third through the seventh inning the Tide was held at bay, but put the game away with three runs in the eighth. Cody Henry had an RBI single and Vance drove in two more with his third hit of the game.
Holcombe, in the lead-off spot, did what a lead-off hitter should do, get on base and score runs. The linebacker/outfielder reached base four times on two singles, a walk and a hit by pitch, scoring twice. Vance drove in three runs with his three hits, while Salem continued his late season surge with his three hits and four runs driven in. This was Salem's second straight game with three hits, a home run, and four runs driven in. After struggling for the first 28 games, Salem has hit .321 over the last 24 games, raising his season average to .247. Henry added two hits and a run driven in.
Tide pitchers scattered eight hits, walking only two batters and striking out 12. Samford pitchers struck out 10 Tide hitters, while walking two and hitting one.
Now 'Bama welcomes in 10th ranked South Carolina for a three game series on Thursday-Friday and Saturday. The Gamecocks hit at a .287 clip as a team and have a team ERA of 3.28. The 'Cocks run a lot, with 63 stolen bases, and have hit 97 doubles and 36 home runs on the year. Gene Cone leads the team with a .359 average and Alex Destino has a .341 average and leads in home runs with eight and runs driven in with 49. The Tide is hitting .252 as a team with 26 home runs and 40 stolen bases and 81 doubles. Holcombe has a .302 average, followed by Chance Vincent with a .292 mark. Will Haynie has nine home runs to lead the team, while Chandler Taylor has eight long balls and leads the team with 29 runs driven in. Henry is the team leader in doubles with 16.
Thursday and Friday's games are both set for 7:00 p.m. starts while Saturday's game three is a 2:00 p.m. first pitch. The Tide is 15-12 in the SEC, while USCe is 17-9 in conference and 39-13 overall. Coach Mitch Gaspard has not announced his rotation for the weekend, but expect Geoffrey Bramblett and Jake Walters to take their normal starts in the first two games. With the SEC Tournament starting on Tuesday there is a good chance Nick Eicholtz will be held out of Saturday's game and will start the opening tournament game. If that is the case Jon Keller, Ray Castillo, Jake Hubbard or Mike Oczypok would be candidates for the Game Three start.
The Tide is getting hot at the right time of the year having won four in a row and and six of their last seven games. The bats, particularly extra base hits, have heated up, and matched with the year long excellent pitching, has put the team in position to make some post-season noise. In a regional with Bramblett, Walters and Eicholtz starting and Durate, Foster and Thomas Burrows out of the pen, the Tide would be a tough out for anyone.
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