The Alabama Crimson Tide went toe to toe with the seventh ranked South Carolina Gamecocks this weekend, winning game one but coming up just short in losing the final two games, and the series, two games to one. The Tide fell to 12-12 overall and 1-5 in the SEC. The ‘Cocks improved to 17-6, 5-1 in conference play. ‘Bama had a chance to win all three games, and showed they could play with a very good team, but couldn't make the plays when needed for victory. Alabama out hit the Gamecocks in each game, but struck out too much, and didn't walk enough or put the ball in play enough to pressure the defense.
Game One: Won 4-2
In Fridays nights game one Jake Walters started for the Tide against USCe pitcher Adam Hill. As has been the case in recent games the Tide struggled in the first inning. Walters was touched for four hits and a walk from the first five batters, scoring two runs and putting ‘Bama in another early hole, 2-0, after one inning. Cody Henry slammed a solo home run in the third to close the margin to 2-1. The long ball was Henry’s fourth of the season.
The Tide took the lead in the third with a two out rally. Tanner DeVinny singled and scored ahead of Chandler Taylor’s sixth home run of the year. Walters settled in after the first inning, shutting the Gamecocks down into the sixth inning when he had a one out walk. That brought on Garrett Suchey out of the bull pen and he stymied USC the rest of the way, throwing 52 pitches in 3.2 innings, allowing only one hit with five strikeouts and no walks. Walters went 5.1 innings with five hits, four strikeouts and six walks, while throwing 111 pitches.
‘Bama threatened to blow the game open in the top of the ninth, having five batters reach base, but were only able to scratch one insurance run across. Kyle Kaufman’s third hit of the night scored Gene Wood for a 4-2 lead entering the bottom of the ninth. Suchey got a pop out and recorded two strikeouts to end the game. Walters was the winning pitcher, improving his record to 4-2 and Suchey got his second save of the season.
The Tide collected 10 hits, with four walks and 12 strikeouts, while the Gamecocks had six hits, drew six walks, and struck out nine times. Kaufman was the leading hitter with his 3-4 night, with a walk and run driven in. Henry was 2-3 with a home run and RBI and also drew a walk. Taylor drove in two with his home run.
Game Two: Lost 6-5, 10 innings
Dylan Durate drew the start against USCe’s Will Crowe in game two on Saturday. The Tide used a late inning rally to take a lead, before allowing a ninth inning run to send the game into extra innings, where the Gamecocks scored once to win the game.
Once again the Tide struggled in the first inning, but Durate stranded the bases loaded with out a run scoring. The ‘Cocks finally broke through in the third, aided by an error on a double play ground ball. Three singles and a sacrifice fly plated three runs for the home team. USCe added another run in the bottom of the sixth. Crowe was mowing down ‘Bama batters up until the seventh inning. After walking Cody Henry to lead off the inning, and notching a strikeout, the Tide finally touched the right hander. Henry advanced on a wild pitch, and scored on a Hunter Alexander single off the top of the wall in left field. The ball just missed leaving the ball park by about five inches. Chandler Taylor followed and blasted an opposite field double off the top of the left center field fence. Connor Short hit a deep ball to center for a sacrifice fly, and a 4-2 deficit.
Chandler Avant singled in the eighth and scored on a sacrifice fly by Henry, setting the stage for an exciting ninth inning. Taylor led off the inning, and absolutely smoked a drive over the right field wall, for his seventh home run, and a tie game. Short followed with a double and advanced on a Gene Wood single. When Chandler Avant hit into a double play, Short scored the go ahead run.
Coach Greg Goff called on closer Davis Vainer to try and nail the game down. Vainer didn't have his best stuff, and struggled to find the strike zone, walking two, and throwing three wild pitches that allowed the tying run to score. In the top of the tenth Cobie Vance walked to open the inning, but with Cody Henry called on to bunt him over, was picked off first. Henry then singled, and advanced to second on a sac bunt by Alex Webb. A strikeout for out three ended the threat.
In the bottom of the 10th Vainer walked the lead off batter, and allowed a single to the next, followed by a wild pitch to put runners on second and third with no outs. A strikeout for out one was followed by another walk, then a game winning hit to left by Jonah Bride. The Tide battled to tie, then take the lead, scoring all five of their runs from the seventh inning on. Seven of the teams 11 hits were during the same time frame. ‘Bama out hit the Gamecocks 11-9. The Tide drew four walks, and struck out eight times, while USCe drew nine walks and a hit batter and stuck out six times.
Alexander, Taylor, and Wood were all two hit performers for ‘Bama, while Short stretched his hitting streak to eight games with his fourth double of the year.
Durate pitched 5.1 innings, allowing seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts while allowing four runs, only two of which were earned. Sam Finnerty tossed 2.1 quality innings, with one hit and two walks with no runs.
Game Three: Lost 4-2
In the rubber game of the series Alabama’s Nick Eicholtz faced South Carolina ace Clark Schmidt. Schmidt is a potential very high draft pick in the up coming June MLB draft. He and Eicholtz have both been hampered by injuries early in the season, but look to be rounding into form. Schmidt opened the game with power, throwing up to 97 mph through the early innings.
Eicholtz didn't have his best control, but had the best stuff he has had all year. The Gamecocks touched him for a run in the second with a single and three walks, including one with the bases loaded. A double play ended the inning, limiting the damage, with a 1-0 deficit. The Tide tied the game in the bottom of the sixth when Gene Wood hit the first home run of his career, clear out of the park, hitting a bus behind right field. Eicholtz started the sixth inning with two quick outs, before allowing a walk and a game tying double. He exited after 103 pitches in favor of Suchey, who came in after throwing 52 pitches on Friday night.
The Gamecocks got the winning runs in the seventh when they opened with a pop fly that fell in right field for a double, followed by a sacrifice bunt that Suchey fielded, and threw away when he tried to catch the runner at third, allowing the go ahead run to score. A sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly brought home an insurance run, making the score 4-2. The Tide were able to get on runner on in the eighth and ninth inning, but that was all.
Once again ‘Bama out hit the Gamecocks, 5-4 this time. The Tide drew only one walk, and struck out seven times, while USCe walked eight times and struck out three times. Henry led the way at the plate with a 2-3 day with a walk, a home run and run driven in. Wood drove in the other run with his solo home run.
Who Did What?
Cody Henry 5-9, two home runs, three RBI, SF, two runs, hit by pitch
Chandler Taylor 3-12, two home runs, a double, three RBI, two runs
Connor Short 3-9, nine game hitting streak, two doubles, RBI, SF, stolen base, hit by pitch
Gene Wood 3-11, home run, two runs, RBI
Kyle Kaufman 4-13, BB, Run, RBI, stolen base
Losing a series is never a good thing, but giving the 7th ranked team in the country a scare can be, if built upon. The pitching overall was the best it has been in a three game series this season. In the three games the Gamecocks collected 20 hits and struck out 18 times. The most glaring weakness was the 19 walks allowed by the Tide. ‘Bama collected 26 hits, but only drew eight walks while striking out 27 times. Simply put the Tide has to throw more strikes on the mound, and draw more walks and put the ball in play more often on offense. The defense was sloppy at key times. The ability to bounce back was a positive, but the inability to finish was not.
The annual Capital City Classic game with Auburn will be played Tuesday night in Montgomery. The Tide is 1-7 all time in this game, and many (this writer included) think the game has out lived its usefulness. That game is at 7 p.m CT and will be shown on ESPNU. The weekend series is a home clash with Arkansas. The games will be at 6 p.m. on Friday, 7 p.m on Saturday and 3 p.m on Sunday. Fridays game can be seen on SEC Network Plus-Watch ESPN App, while Saturday and Sundays will be on the SEC Network.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch it.
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