Alabama won their SEC series from Auburn, winning the first two games by scores of 6-2 and 4-3, before losing game three on Sunday by a score of 8-1.
Game One: Won 6-2
Geoffrey Bramblett took his normal Friday night turn in the rotation and earned his fourth victory of the season in 5.2 innings of work. The junior right-hander allowed three hits, two walks with seven strikeouts, and surrendered both runs, but only one earned. Matt Foster earned his second save, pitching the final 3.1 innings in dominant fashion, allowing one hit with no walks and seven strikeouts.
The Tide scored all the runs they would need in the third, pushing three runs across. In the inning Georgie Salem lead off with a single and Chandler Taylor and Chance Vincent had RBI singles. AU bounced back in the fifth, scoring twice on two doubles, a hit batter and an error.
'Bama added an insurance run in the sixth, on a long home run by Will Haynie, and two more in the seventh on a RBI double by Cody Henry and an RBI single from Taylor. The 6-2 lead allowed the Tide to stick with Foster for the duration instead of turning to closer Thomas Burrows, and Foster responded with his best outing of the year.
The Tide collected 11 hits in the game to just four for the Tigers. Haynie, Taylor and Cobie Vance all had two hits, with Haynie's home run being the big blow. 'Bama started five freshman in the game. 'Bama pitchers walked only two while striking out 14 batters. Auburn pitchers issued three walks and struck out six hitters on the night.
Game Two: Won 4-3 in 11 Innings
In a game that set fundamental baseball back 100 years, the Tide rallied late to tie, and then to win, 4-3 in 11 innings. The game featured dropped pop ups, botched double plays, and a lack of situational hitting, but a very exciting ending.
[Ed. Note: Roger was gracious enough to invite me down to see a game in the 525 Club with him: This Gaspard opus was the game that I attended...naturally. LOL. On a serious note, at $50 a seat, the 525 Club cannot be recommended highly enough for a luxurious viewing experience, even if you can't afford the minimum $12,500 Tide Pride donation.]
Jake Walters started for the Tide and turned in his usual solid performance, pitching 5 innings, allowing two hits, with three walks and five strikeouts. Only one of the two runs he allowed was earned. The walks and a couple of untimely errors forced his pitch count up, and when he was replaced he had thrown 97 pitches.
Auburn scored first in the third inning on two walks, a double, an error and a fielders choice. 'Bama got one run back in the fourth when Chandler Taylor ripped a double (and was thrown out trying for third) to score Cody Henry. The Tigers crossed the plate once in the sixth off of Dylan Duarte on a double and a run scoring single.
In the seventh inning the Tide looked poised to, at worse, tie the game when the first three batters reaching base, with Will Haynie's RBI single scoring Chance Vincent, who had led off with a single. However, with runners on first and third and no outs, and AU playing back in double play position, pinch hitter Tanner Devinny struck out in a spot where almost any contact would have scored the tying run. Another strikeout and a line-out ended the frame with the Tide still trailing 3-2.
Sam Finnerty replaced Duarte and went 2.2 scoreless innings to keep the Tide in the game, allowing two hits while striking out three. Haynie provided the fireworks in the ninth, leading off with a towering home run over the playground in left field to tie the game (and showing an impressive bat flip along the way.) Ryan Blanchard then singled, and was sacrificed to second by Daniel Cucjen, but the next two batters went out to strand the winning run.
Thomas Burrows was called on in the 10th and was the winning pitcher, tossing two scoreless innings, with two hits allowed and three strikeouts. In the bottom of the 10th the Tide squandered a golden chance after Henry led off with a double and Chandler Taylor was intentionally walked. During Taylor's walk Tiger pitcher Casey Mize threw one pitch over the catchers head, allowing Henry to reach third. Taylor stole second to put runners on second and third with no outs, putting the Tide in very good position to end the game. A strikeout for out one, followed by a ground ball to shortstop where Henry was thrown out at the plate, and a ground out to third ended the inning with the game still tied.
In the bottom of the 11th Blanchard, who had entered the game in the eighth inning, led off with his second hit of the night. Once again Cucjen layed down a perfect sacrifice bunt to put Blanchard in scoring position. Cobie Vance worked a walk, bringing Georgie Salem to the plate. Salem hit a hard ground ball to Melvin Gray at second base, and, has he had several times on the night, could not field it cleanly. The ball bounced off his glove into short right field, allowing Blanchard to slide across the plate with the winning run.
The night (and the series for Alabama, really) belonged to Haynie with his career high three hits, including his sixth home run and two runs driven in. Alabama's catcher also threw out a runner trying to steal. Chance Vincent and Blanchard added two hits apiece to the 11 hit Tide attack, the second straight game with 11 hits. The victory was Burrows' first of the year, and he lowered his ERA to an unreal 0.47.
Game Three: Lost 8-1
After such a thrilling victory on Saturday night, the Tide seemed to come out flat and suffered one of their worst SEC losses of the year. Sunday starter Nick Eicholtz entered the game with a 1.89 ERA, but was rudely greeted by the Tigers, who put up a two-spot in the first, and added three more in the third.
Eicholtz settled down after that, and pitched three straight three-up, three-down innings, but the damage had been done by that point. The offensively-challenged Tide isn't built for big come backs, and with the Tigers adding single runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth off of 'Bama relievers, the margin grew too big to overcome.
The Tide got their only run in the fifth when Chance Vincent led off with a bunt single, and advanced when the ball was overthrown. At that point the score was 5-1 and some hope still remained after two out singles by Cobie Vance and Georgie Salem. However, in a very familiar story this season, both were left stranded on base.
'Bama continued the rest of the way peppering meaningless and harmless two-out singles, collecting two in the eighth and three in the ninth. Overall the team had 12 hits, all singles, and seven of those were after two outs. Tiger pitchers did not walk a single batter, while striking out five. Tide pitchers allowed 10 hits to AU, walked five batters, and struck out four.
Vance, Chandler Taylor, Will Haynie and Daniel Cucjen all banged out two hits each for the Tide. Nick Buentello was a thorn in 'Bama's side all weekend, and he led the Tigers with three hits and four runs driven in. Of his six hits on the weekend, four went for doubles for the big AU first baseman.
It is always great to win an SEC series, especially over your instate rivals, and it has become routine. The Tide has now won five straight series from the Tigers, and six of seven years under Mitch Gaspard. In that same time frame AU has won six of the seven Capital City Classics. I will take the series wins any day over the Classic.
Tide bats improved in this series as they went 34-109 (.311 average), by far their best in SEC play this year. However all those hits only translated to 11 runs in the three games, but thankfully to two victories.
Will Haynie had a monster weekend going 7-of-13 with two home runs and three runs driven in. Haynie also showcased his rocket arm, throwing out four base runners trying to steal. Chandler Taylor had a 5-10 weekend with a double, three walks, three stolen bases and a run driven in. The team batting average improved to .250 with the 34 hits over the three games, their most hits in a 3-game series this season.
'Bama is now 27-21, 12-12 in the SEC. The Barn fell to 21-26, 8-16 in the conference.
With a 12-12 SEC record the Tide still needs victories, but travels to Arkansas this weekend to take on the Hogs in a three-game series. Game one is Friday at 6:30, followed by a 6:00 p.m. game on Saturday and a 1:00 Sunday start. A series win there is imperative as another top-five team in South Carolina will be the final conference foe on May 19, 20 and 21st. The Tide also face SoCon giant Samford once more, looking to avoid the sweep from the tiny in-state power.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch it
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