The Alabama Crimson Tide did not execute in any aspect of the game in being swept by the Missouri Tigers to open SEC play. The visiting Tigers improved their record to a sterling 19-1 on the season, while the Tide ends their long open seasoning home stand with a 10-10 mark. Mizzou out-hit, out-pitched, out-fielded and otherwise soundly schooled the Tide.
Game One: Lost 3-0
Against Tiger starter Tanner Houck, who is considered a sure-fire first round pick in June’s MLB draft, coach Greg Goff sent out the Tide’s most consistent starter, Jake Walters. Walters battled without command of his fast ball, and was able to last five innings, albeit while throwing 125 pitches. The junior right hander allowed only one hit, but walked eight batters and struck out eight while allowing only two runs, both unearned and both in the first inning. Walters threw 33 pitches in the first inning alone.
Houck was as good as advertised pitching seven strong innings, allowing only a fifth inning double while walking three and striking out nine.
The Tigers got all the runs they needed in the first inning. The lead off man singled, followed by a walk and a batter reaching on catcher’s interference. Another walk scored the first run and a sacrifice fly to left scored the other. Over the next four innings, Walters stranded six more runners on base, four of them in scoring position.
Meanwhile Houck was mowing down the Tide with ease, only having two runners reach in the first four innings, both via an error. Connor Short finally broke up his no-hitter with two outs in the fifth when he doubled. Houck hit a batter in the sixth, but stranded him at second. The Tide’s best chance came in the seventh when Houck walked Chandler Taylor and Tanner DeVinny to open the ending, but a force at third on a bunt attempt and a double play ended the threat.
Garrett Suchey replaced Walters in the sixth, and despite five walks of his own was able to keep the Tigers off the board until Trey Harris touched him for a solo home run in the top of the ninth. Suchey struck out five and allowed two hits and one walk. He was replaced by Mike Oczypok with two outs in the ninth after throwing 67 pitches. Oczypok struck out the only batter he faced.
T.J. Sikkema replaced Houck in the eighth and made easy work for the Tide to earn the save. Short’s double, and a pinch hit single by Kyle Kaufman were the only hits that ‘Bama would have on the night. Tide batters struck out 14 times and ‘Bama pitchers walked 13 Tiger batters.
Game Two: Lost 7-4
The Tide sent Dylan Durate to the mound for Saturday’s game two, facing Missouri left-hander Michael Plassmeyer. Once again the first inning was not kind to the Tide. Durate allowed a lead off triple, three walks, a single and a sacrifice fly, but was able to limit the damage to two runs, although he had to throw 48 pitches to get out of the top of the first.
‘Bama catcher Kyle Kaufman finally plated the Crimson Tide’s first run of the weekend with a solo home run in the second. The blast was the Texas native’s first as a Tide player.
After two walks, a double and a single in the fourth, Durate exited after having thrown 86 pitches over 3.1 innings. Sam Finnerty replaced him, and the Tide entered the bottom of the fourth down 4-1.
Alabama made some noise in the bottom of the fourth with back-to-back two out doubles by Hunter Alexander and Cody Henry. Kaufman struck again with an RBI single to cut the lead to 4-3. When Finnerty ran into trouble in the sixth after allowing two singles with one out, he was replaced by Davis Vainer. Vainer has been lights out so far this season, but could not find his control and walked three batters while recording only one out. Zac Rogers was next in line, going the final 3.1 innings while allowing three hits with one strikeout, and no walks. Rogers was the bright spot with his effort, and has a 0.00 ERA thus far this season.
Trailing 7-4 in the eighth, the Tide had one more rally when pinch hitter Zack Coker walked and Chandler Avant and Walker McCleney both singled. With the bases loaded and no outs, ‘Bama was only able to push one run across on a sacrifice fly by Cobie Vance. Two long, hard hit balls to left ended the threat. The Tide got a two out single in the ninth from Connor Short, but posed no threat to the Tigers, and lose 7-4.
‘Bama collected six hits, with Kaufman being the star with his 2-4 night with a home run, two RBI’s and a stolen base. Durate was the losing pitcher.
Game Three: Lost 9-5
Nick Eicholtz, coming off missing a start last week, took the mound for the Tide against Andy Toelken for the Tigers. Neither was sharp, and neither made it out of the third inning, although they both pitched a long time as the first inning lasted 48 minutes and the first two innings lasted an hour and fourteen minutes.
A walk, four singles, and a sacrifice fly put the Tigers up 3-0 after the top half of the first inning. Eicholtz needed 38 pitches to retire MU in the first. To their credit, ‘Bama bounced back in the bottom half, scoring twice. Chandler Avant led off with a single and stole second. Logan Carey drew a walk, and when Cobie Vance’s sac bunt was mishandled the bases were loaded with no outs. Hunter Alexander lined an RBI single and Tanner DeVinny drove in a run with a bases loaded walk to draw the Tide within one run after the first.
The Tide tied the game in the second when Carey hit a two out double and scored on a sharp single by Vance. ‘Bama give up the lead in the fourth when an unearned run scored, but retied the game in the bottom half on an RBI ground out by DeVinny.
A sloppy fifth inning was the Tide’s undoing. Two walks, two singles and two errors led to three unearned runs for the Tigers, and ‘Bama could never catch up again. Garret Rooks and Garrett Suchey pitched the final 5.2 innings and held the Tigers at bay, until Suchey allow one ninth inning run. In the bottom of the ninth, the Tide had one last chance. Alexander walked, and after two strikeouts, Connor Short singled. Gene Wood came up and lined a shot just inside the first base bag that looked to be a triple that would score two runs. However, the umpire couldn't get out of the way and the ball struck him, bouncing back to the first baseman, who was able to trap Short in a rundown rounding second, and recording the final out of the game.
Short was 2-4 with an RBI and, as was Vance. DeVinny drove in two runs as the Tide collected eight hits in the loss. Tide pitchers walked five and struck out seven while Tide batters struck out 10 times and drew six walks and had two hit batters.
What can you say? A bad weekend without many redeeming features. As has been the problem all season, the starting pitchers (other than Walters) can not get past the third or fourth inning. They are throwing way too many pitches, particularly too many balls. The hitters are striking out too much and not walking enough. Clutch hitting has been lacking. The Tide has some pieces in place, they just need to start executing better, throwing strikes on the mound, and putting the ball in play at the plate.
After the long home stand, the Crimson Tide finally takes to the road this week playing Birmingham University at Regions Park on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m., before traveling to Columbia to take on the mighty South Carolina Gamecocks on the weekend. It is early, but to para phrase Yogi Berra, “it gets late early out there” and this team needs something positive to happen quickly.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch It
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