The Greg Goff era opened in Tuscaloosa with much enthusiasm among the fans. Over 13 thousand made their way through the Sewell-Thomas Stadium turnstiles in the three game series. The student area, the right field plaza, was back to a hopping, happening place and an extra 1,300 were packed in the area for each game. The Tide did their part by winning the series two games to one, although they certainly expected and wanted a three game sweep.
‘Bama flashed some long ball potential, hitting five home runs in the three games, lead by sophomore slugger Chandler Taylor. JUCO transfer Hunter Alexander and junior Connor Short added one each. The Goff trademark of small ball also showed up with several sacrifice bunts and aggressive base running being the norm. Goff also did a good job of using his roster as 23 different players saw action over the weekend. It will take a few series to separate who will garner the most playing times, as several players are still fighting to impress their coach.
Game One- Won 4-3
Goff sent senior right hander Nick Eicholtz to the mound for the Tide in game one. Eicholtz was a 13th round draft pick of the Miami Marlins last year, but chose to come back for his last year of eligibility. Eicholtz wasn't quite as sharp as normal, but still got the win with five innings of three hit ball, allowing three runs, two earned, with three strikeouts and no walks.
The Tide got on the board first, scoring in the bottom of the firs when Chandler Avant singled, stole second and later scored on a fielders choice ground ball by Chandler Taylor. PC strung together three straight hits, including a double, to score two runs in the second to take a 2-1 lead. ‘Bama tied the game up in the third after Hunter Alexander singled, and scored on a long triple off the bat of Taylor. The Tide took the lead in the fourth when Cody Henry, who had doubled, scored on an RBI single by Cobie Vance. The Blue Hose got one more run off of Eicholtz in the fifth without benefit of a hit with a hit batter, stolen base and throwing error.
Brock Love replaced Eicholtz in the top of the sixth inning and pitched the final four innings to earn his first career save. Love avoided disaster in the seventh when PC seemingly tied the game, but had a baserunner miss third base while running in with the tying run. After an appeal play the runner was called out. Goff credited assistant coach Jake Wells for noticing the missed bag and calling to the teams attention. Eicholtz was the winning pitcher. Avant, Vance, Alexander and Henry all collected two hits apiece. Taylor drove in two for the game.
Game Two- Won 8-1
The Tide rode four home runs and sparking pitching by Jake Walters to an 8-1 victory in Saturdays game two. A fourth inning barrage of three home runs plated five runs for ‘Bama, putting the game out of reach early. Cobie Vance lined a one out single before Chandler Taylor blasted his first home run over the visitors bull pen in right center field. On the very next pitch Hunter Alexander drilled his first career home run far over the left field fence. Cody Henry singled and was chased home on another long blast, this one off the bat of Connor Short.
‘Bama added insurance in the fifth when Keith Holcombe walked and stole second base before scoring in front of Taylor’s second blast of the night, this one into the right field plaza, to the delight of the students. Vance brought in the last run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth to score pinch hitter Taylor Poe, who had reached after being hit by a pitch.
Walters was outstanding in his six innings of work allowing three hits with one walk and seven strikeouts. Sam Finnerty followed with two innings of work, allowing one run on two hits with four strikeouts. Freshman left hander Sonny Potter finished up allowing one hit before getting a strikeout and an a game ending double play.
Vance had three hits, including a double, Alexander had three hits with a home run, while Taylor had four runs driven in with his two home runs.
Game Three-Lost 4-3
Sophomore left hander Dylan Durate earned his first career start in Sundays game three. Durate cruised through the first four innings in a perfect manor while striking out four. Chandler Taylor put the Tide on the board first with a solo laser shot in the right field plaza for his third home run of the series. ‘Bama tacked on a run in the fourth when Kyle Kaufman singled in Connor Short who had also singled. In the fifth Durate got touched for three hits, scoring two runs for the Blue Hose, tying the game.
Garrett Suchey took the mound in the sixth and quickly gave up the go ahead run on three straight hits for PC. The Tide evened things in the seventh when Hunter Alexander scored Gene Wood with a fielders choice play. Wood had singled and advanced on a sac bunt by Chandler Avant and a single by Cobie Vance.
Presbyterian scored the go ahead run in the eighth on a solo home run by Tyler Weyenberg. Suchey was tagged with the loss after allowing two runs on five hits in his three innings of work. Davis Vainer pitched the ninth and struck out two in an overpowering inning of work. For the game ‘Bama pitchers allowed eight hits, with no walks and eight strikeouts.
Kaufman and Wood had two hits apiece for the Tide while Colton Chapman had two hits for the Blue Hose.
The big bats on the weekend for the Tide were: Hunter Alexander 6-11 with three walks, two runs and a home run, Cobie Vance was 6-13 while Chandler Taylor was 4-12 with three home runs and seven runs driven in. Cody Henry was 4-10 with two doubles, while Gene Wood was 4-12. ‘Bama blasted out double digit hits in each game for a total of 33 hits in the three games.
Although disappointing to not get the sweep, it was good for the Tide to get their feet wet under their new leadership, and learn how Goff manages a game, and what is expected of them. Expect high energy, aggressiveness and mixture of small ball and guerrilla ball. The team, with Taylor, Alexander, Vance and Short should improve their power numbers, which have been down for several seasons.
The next game is Tuesday night at 6 p.m when the Tide hosts the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. It can be seen on SEC Network Plus. ‘Bama’s first 21 games of the season will be at The New Joe in Tuscaloosa. The way the pitching panned out over the weekend, the starting pitcher for Tuesday is up in the air. An educated guess is freshman lefty Garrett Rukes, but that is a hunch more than anything.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch it!
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