Zac Houston and Gavin Collins were the stories for the regular season SEC champions, Mississippi State on Wednesday against the Tide. Houston had pitched only 24 innings all year, and seven in conference play, but dominated the Tide with a mid 90's fastball and his breaking pitch, carrying a shutout until there were two outs in the ninth inning. Collins had a 4 for 4 night with a home run and two runs driven in, while scoring two runs.
MSU struck first scoring a run on three singles in the first inning. SEC leading hitter and Freshman of the Year, Jake Mangum led off with a single and scored on a single by Collins. Mangum drove in the second run with a ground out in the third, before Collins blasted a long solo home run in the fourth for a 3-0 lead.
Geoffrey Bramblett started on the mound for 'Bama and struggled somewhat, but per usual, kept the Tide in the game. The junior from Hoover pitched 5.2 innings, allowing nine hits with no walks and four strikeouts. All of the four runs he allowed were earned. Freshman Sam Finnerty relieved Bramblett and went the final 2.1 innings, allowing three hits and one walk (intentional) and no runs.
Alabama had a run taken away in the seventh when Chance Vincent blasted a long fly ball that Bulldog left fielder Reid Humphreys brought back into the park, robbing Vincent of his first home run of the season. The Tide finally broke through with two outs in the ninth when Georgie Salem just missed a home run to the opposite field, for a stand up double. Freshman Chandler Taylor then drove a long line drive to right center, seemingly for a two run home run. However the umpires said it had hit the top of the yellow line on the wall and Taylor slid into second for an RBI double. When coach Mitch Gaspard protested the umpires reviewed the call and upheld their original decision. Houston was replaced by Blake Smith and a strikeout ended the game with the Dogs a 4-1 winner.
Salem, Taylor, Vincent and Hunter Webb collected the four hits for the Tide, while the team did not walk and stuck out six times. 'Bama left four runners on base. Alabama had their streak of home runs in eight straight games broken.The Bulldogs collected 12 hits, and an intentional walk to Brent Rooker was the only walk for either team. 'Bama pitchers struck out six Bulldogs on the night.
Houston was outstanding for MSU, especially considering his lack of mound work this season. Bramblett and Finnerty kept the Tide in the game, but 'Bama hitters could not put any pressure on Houston or the State defense. State is a tough team and it is easy to see why they were regular season champions in the conference.
Alabama will now play Florida in an elimination game. The Gators played late into the night eventually losing in 14 innings to LSU in a game that lasted 5 hours, 7 minutes - the longest game in SEC Tournament history.
Today's game is scheduled for 12:30 p.m - but don't look for a start before 1-1:30 based on the way the first two days have gone. Sophomore Jake Walters will start on the mound for the Tide. The Gators will likely counter with SEC Pitcher of the Year Logan Shore who is (gasp) 10-0 with an ERA of 2.33.
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