The Crimson Tide baseball team appeared to have played themselves off of the NCAA bubble last weekend by sweeping three games from Arkansas in Fayetteville. Unfortunately, they may have played themselves back squarely on the bubble by being swept by South Carolina at home this weekend. The Tide was in every game, but fell by scores of 6-4, 4-2 and 9-7 to the 10th ranked Gamecocks.
The losses placed the Tide as the ninth seed for the SEC Tournament, which starts Tuesday at the Hoover Met. 'Bama will play eighth seeded Kentucky in the third game of the day, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. UK defeated the Tide two games to one in a series played in Lexington on April 8, 9 and 10. Both teams finished with a conference record of 15 up and 15 down, while UK is 32-24 overall, while the Tide is 31-24. The Wildcats boost a little better RPI with 55, compared to 58 for UA.
Game One: Lost 6-4
Geoffrey Bramblett took the mound in game one and pitched five innings, throwing 75 pitches before being pulled in favor of Ray Castillo. Bramblett allowed seven hits, three walks, and struck out three while allowing four runs- two of which were unearned. With the low pitch count Bramblett should be fresh for next week if the Tide gets by Tuesday's play in game with Kentucky.
The Cats used a single, double and sacrifice fly in the second to take a 1-0 lead. UK added to the lead in the third with some help from the Alabama defense. Bramblett seemed to have worked around a one out double and walk when Will Haynie picked Dom Thompson-Williams off of second base for out two, and then induced a easy fly ball to left field. However, Keith Holcombe dropped the fly ball, allowing two runs to cross the plate for a 3-0 lead.
Kentucky added their fourth run in the fifth, scoring from second base on a bunt when all 'Bama fielders converged on the ball, leaving home plate uncovered. The 4-0 lead was short lived, as the Tide exploded for four runs in the bottom half of the fifth.
Holcombe drew a one out walk and then Cobie Vance blasted a long home run to left center to cut the lead in half. Georgie Salem was hit by a pitch, followed by a double from Chandler Taylor. With two outs Cody Henry lined a two run single to tie the game at four apiece. Ray Castillo replace Bramblett in the fifth and recorded two outs after allowing a double and hitting a batter. Matt Foster was called from the bull pen, and after a walk to load the bases, allowed a two run single to Marcus Mooney, on a ball that landed just in front of Holcombe, barely out of his reach. That was the last runs of the game, although the Tide did have chances.
'Bama loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth, before ending the inning with a strikeout of Haynie, ending the Tide's best chance to tie the game. 'Bama collected 10 hits and four walks, while striking out 11 times, and stranding 12 runners on base, including six in scoring position. The Gamecocks had 11 hits and drew four walks while striking out eight times.
Holcombe, Vance and Chance Vincent led the attack with two hits each. The team had three doubles and a home run on the night, continuing their late season surge of extra base hits.
Game Two: Lost 4-2
On Senior Day, the Tide's six seniors, Georgie Salem, Chance Vincent, Jon Keller, Daniel Cucjen, Ray Castillo and Jake Hubbard were all honored prior to the game for their contributions to the program. Sophomore Jake Walters took the mound in his regular turn and pitched well enough to win, but did allow four runs in his seven innings of work. The right hander allowed eight hits with one walk and six strikeouts. Two of the hits were home runs, and the difference in the game. The long balls were the first Walters had given up since his first start of the year on February 20th against Maryland.
The Cocks took the early lead, scoring a run in the first with three straight two out singles. Red hot Georgie Salem quickly tied the game in the bottom of the first, lining a two out home run off of the foul pole in right field. A two run homer from John Jones and a solo shot from Dom Thompson-WIlliams stretched the USCe lead to 4-1 after six innings. The Tide had a great chance in the eighth inning, scoring once on a bases loaded walk to Ryan Blanchard, but stranded three, the second time in the game that the bases were left loaded.
Colton Freeman relieved Walters and continued his outstanding late season push for time on the mound, going 1.2 innings allowing only two bloop hits, while striking out three hitters. The RS-junior lefty has pitched 9.2 innings on the season and has struck out 18 hitters while not allowing a run, while walking only three and allowing four hits.
Chandler Taylor led the offense with a 3-5 night with a double, stolen base and run scored. Salem was 2-5 with a home run, RBI and run scored. Hunter Webb added two singles, as the only other player with multiple hits. Once again the Tide stranded 12 runners on base, seven in scoring position, while walking five times and striking out 12 times.
Game Three: Lost 9-7
Junior right hander Nick Eicholtz was held out of his game three start in favor of senior left hander Jon Keller. Eicholtz will pitch the teams opening game in the SEC Tournament vs Kentucky on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. The Cats struck Keller for three runs in the first on three hits and a sac bunt, although two of the hits were of the bloop and dribbler variety.
The Tide took the lead in the third, scoring four runs on a rally that began after two were out. Keith Holcombe legged out an infield single, followed by a Cobie Vance. The scorching Georgie Salem blasted a double to center to score two runs, and soon scored himself on a opposite field home run by freshman Chandler Taylor. The home run tied Taylor with Will Haynie for the team lead with nine homers each. 'Bama now has 28 home runs on the season, 10 of which have come in the last seven games. The team has hit at least home run in each of the last seven games.
The Gamecocks retook the lead in the fifth, tallying two times off of freshman left-hander Dylan Duarte, who had replaced Keller. 'Bama started the fifth with three straight hits, but could only score one run as a pop up, strikeout and fly out ended the threat with the bases loaded. USCe added a single run in the seventh, which the Tide matched, but once again left the bases jammed after scoring only once. The teams traded single runs again in the eighth, and the 'Cocks added another in the ninth, for a 9-7 lead, the eventual final score.
The Tide once again had a 10 hit game, but USC had 17 knocks in the game.The Gamecocks struck out five times and walked five times on the game. 'Bama drew four walks, struck out seven times and left seven runners on base, including four in scoring position. Holcombe and Salem led the way with three hits each, with Holcombe scoring three runs out of his lead off spot, reaching base four times. Salem drove in three runs, and had a double and scored a run. Taylor added two hits, driving in three with his home run and single and also stole a base. Duarte was the losing pitcher, dropping his recored to 2-3 on the season.
Taylor led the team with a 6-13 weekend with a home run, double and three runs driven in. Salem was 6-14 with a home run, double, four runs driven in and three runs scored. Holcombe was 5-13 and scored four runs, reaching base seven times on the weekend. No other players had more than two hits in the series.
The Gamecocks improved to 42-13, 20-9 in conference play.
Overview & What's Next
The Tide's late season offensive surge continued with two double-digit hit games and a seven run game. The Saturday game was the first loss for the team when they had scored six or more runs in a game, falling to 14-1 in such games. The decision to hold Eicholtz was probably the right one with the SEC Tournament game on Tuesday being an elimination game, but it would have been nice to have been able to get at least one win this weekend over a top quality opponent. UK and 'Bama are almost mirror images resume wise, with UK at 32-24, 15-15, with a 55 RPI and the Tide at 31-24, 15-15 and a 58 RPI. With the Wildcats series win earlier in the year, the game in Hoover holds a lot of importance for the post-season hopes of the Tide.
If you look at it, the team actually over achieved this season. Remember they were picked by league coaches to finish 14th in the conference. All-American closer Thomas Burrows missed a month of the season with an oblique injury and Eicholtz missed three starts with a forearm strain. The whole left side of the infield ( SS Chandler Avant and 3B Connor Short) both missed half the season each. The starting left fielder-DH-lead off man- Keith Holcombe missed a month with football duties. Yet the team was able to take series victories from top 10 teams LSU (on the road) and Ole Miss (at home), while playing toe to toe with powers such as Texas A@M, Mississippi State and South Carolina.
The game with UK on Tuesday looks to be very important. The Cats had to sweep their series with Mizzou this weekend, and did, but did use their three weekend starters. So, the Tide should have a pitching advantage in the game. If the Tide survives the Cats, they will move into the double elimination portion of the Tournament with a 4:30 p.m. game with league champion and top seed Mississippi State on Wednesday.
Bama Baseball Fever, catch it!
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