In the 17th game of an opening season 20-game home stand the Crimson Tide took it on the chin to the tune of a 10-3 defeat by the Samford Bulldogs on Wednesday afternoon. ‘Bama opens SEC play this weekend when they host the 16-1 Missouri Tigers. The Tide fell to 10-7 on the season.
Sam Finnerty started on the mound for Alabama and struggled right out of the shoot. A lead off walk, followed by a single, a sac bunt and a sacrifice fly plated a first inning run. After a single and two walks in the third Garrett Suchey came in in relief. Another sacrifice fly and bases loaded run pushed the Bulldogs to a 3-0 advantage.
Samford starter Cody Shelton kept the Tide at bay until the fifth when a Keith Holcombe single scored Chandler Taylor, who had singled and stolen second base. With a 3-1 lead the ‘Dogs added to their margin in the seventh when Troy Dixon launched a two run home run to right off of Brock Love. With two on Davis Vainer replaced Love and got a double play to end the inning with a 5-1 deficit.
Alabama looked to get something started in the eighth with a lead off single from Connor Short and walks to Chandler Avant and Logan Carey. With one out Cobie Vance lined what looked to be a single up the middle. However second baseman Dixon short hopped the ball and flipped to second for the force out. Avant wasn't sure if the ball had been caught and was trapped off the bag and doubled up. In the ensuing confusion, Short crossed the plate, and was called safe after the umpires went to replay monitors to check the timing of him crossing the plate. If Vance’s ball had made it through, the game would have been a minimum of 5-3 entering the ninth.
Things went spiraling out of control in the top of the ninth as Samford sent 10 men to the plate and scored five runs to put the game away. Deacon Medders came on to pitch and after giving up a lead off double, got a ground out for out one. Medders was replaced by Sonny Potter who gave up three hits to the batters he faced. Zac Rogers replaced Potter and limited the damage, but an error, a single and a walk brought in more runs, pushing the lead to 10-2.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Tide got a single from Cody Henry, two walks, and an RBI ground out by Short, but no more, and fell 10-3.
‘Bama was out hit 13-7 in the game. Tide hitters struck out seven times while walking six times. The Bulldogs drew nine walks and struck out four times. Shelton was the winning pitcher and Wyatt Burns earned his seventh save. Finnerty’s record dropped to 1-1 on the season. Henry was the only Tide batter with multiple hits with two hits in four tries.
Alabama will have to tighten up in all areas as conference play begins. The starting pitchers need to go deeper into games, the base running has to improve (12-26 in stolen base attempts so far), and, although the team batting average is .305, clutch hitting needs to be better. Avant, Vance, Hunter Alexander, and Henry have hit well to begin the season, and Taylor and Tanner DeVinny are providing home run power and are driving in runs. When all are on at once the offense can be dangerous.
On the pitching side, Jake Walters has been the steadiest starter, having pitched six innings in three of his four starts, and has an ERA of 1.65. Dylan Durate, who starts on Sunday, had his career best game Sunday, going six innings with no runs and eight strikeouts. Garret Rukes pitched a gem on Tuesday, with eight innings of two hit, shutout baseball. Out of the bullpen Garrett Suchey has been very good, and Vainer has been outstanding. Love has bounced between starting, middle and late inning relief and at times as been almost un-hittable. However in his last two outings, he has surrendered three two-run home runs. Nick Eicholtz, one of the best pitchers in the SEC last season, has struggled a bit to start the year, and was held out this week to rest up some nagging injuries. He should return this weekend, and should take the Saturday start. Walters will go on Friday and Durate on Sunday.
Missouri touts one of the best pitchers in the country in Tanner Houck, and the Tigers are rejuvenated this year after struggling last year. The series will be a big test for the Tide and will give them their biggest challenge they have faced thus far.
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