The Crimson Tide baseball team improved their record to 13-3 this weekend by taking two of three games from New Mexico State. Last season the team didn't win their 13th game until April 1 on the way to a 19-34-1 record. New coach Brad Bohannon has molded his young men into a cohesive unit that plays smart and hard.
New Mexico State came to the southeast this week to play two games in Starkville with Mississippi State and three with the Tide in Tuscaloosa. Entering the week the Aggies were leading the nation in scoring at over 14 runs per game. In the five games with the SEC West opponents they scored only seven total runs. However, the visitors have a scrappy team with good pitching that should win WAC and be a regional team. Coach Brian Green is in his fourth season at his alma mater and coached with Bohannon for five years at Kentucky. Their philosophies and style of play appear to be very similar.
Pending bad weather on Saturday evening and Sunday facilitated a schedule tweak. A double header was played on Friday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. and Saturday’s game was pushed up two hours to a noon start.
Game One- Lost 3-0
The Crimson Tide lost their first home game of the season, and also got shut out for the first time in the game on Friday. Sam Finnerty matched up with Justin Dehn and both pitched well enough to win. Dehn looked nothing like a pitcher that entered the contest with a 6.79 ERA, pitching 7.2 innings and allowing only four hits with two walks and five strikeouts. Finnerty didn't allow a run until the seventh inning, when he was touched for two scores. The Pelham junior pitched 6.1 innings allowing five hits with no walks and five strikeouts, and had quality starts in all four of his appearances this year.
Finnerty stranded runners on second and third in the fifth before finally being scored on in the seventh. With one out, a hit batsman and two singles scored one run. Sophomore right hander Kyle Cameron was called out of the bullpen and was greeted by an RBI single by the first batter he faced. Cameron walked a man to load the bases but got a fly out and a strikeout to strand the bases loaded. The Aggies used a leadoff double, a sac bunt, and a sacrifice fly to add an insurance run in the eighth. ‘Bama tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth when Hunter Alexander led off with a walk and Chandler Avant added a one out single. Jeaux Breaux, who has been out with turf toe, pinch hit with two outs, and looked to have extended the inning with a ground ball up the middle. However Breaux stumbled and face planted about halfway to first base and was thrown out.
Jett Manning had two of the four Tide hits and Avant, Cody Henry, and Cobie Vance had one each, for all the offense the team could manage. Alexander reached twice by walk. The team had five hits, three walks, six strikeouts and left seven on base. The Aggies managed eight hits, walked once, struck out seven times and stranded eight runners. Finnerty fell to 2-1 on the season with the loss.
Game Two- Won 3-1
Jake Walters faced off with Aggie ace Kyle Bradish in game two. Bradish entered the game with an ERA of 0.49 in 18 innings pitched with 35 strikeouts. Walters struggled in his last start at Oklahoma, but bounced back with a gutty performance on Friday night.
Walters labored through the first three innings, throwing 75 pitches, allowing two hits and four walks, before settling down. The Tide put two runs on the board in the fourth inning off of Bradish. Hunter Alexander led off with a walk, followed by a Chandler Taylor single. Two wild pitches advanced the runners and another plated Alexander for the first run of the game. Keith Holcombe then singled to push Taylor across for a 2-0 lead.
With one out in the sixth Walters gave up back to back doubles to cut into the lead. Freshman left hander Brock Guffey replaced Walters and stranded two runners with a fly out and strikeout. Sophomore righty Deacon Medders took over on the mound in the seventh and pitched a perfect frame. The Tide added an insurance run in the bottom half on an RBI single by Cody Henry. Medders walked a man in the eighth but got an around the horn double play from Cobie Vance, Chandler Avant, and Alexander. In the ninth Medders issued two walks after one out, but bounced back to strike out the next two batters to end the game.
Walters improved to 2-1 with the victory, and Medders notched his second save. The Tide used four hits and seven walks to win the game. Henry, Alexander, Taylor and Holcombe all had singles for the only safeties. The Aggies had five hits, reached on eight walks, struck out eight times, and stranded 10 runners.
Game Three- Won 5-2
Sam Gardner started his fourth game of the year in Saturday’s rubber match, opposing left hander Jonathan Groff. Gardner pitched four innings allowed four hits with one walk, one strikeout, and one run on a solo home run by Tristen Carranza. The Tide finally scored in the bottom for the fifth when Chandler Avant doubled and scored on a fielders choice ground out by Jett Manning.
Davis Vainer had relieved Gardner in the fifth and had shutout innings in the fifth, sixth, and seventh. ‘Bama broke the tie in the bottom of the seventh with three runs. Keith Holcombe led off with a single and scored on another double by Avant. Holcombe charged home and with a hard slide jarred the ball away from catcher Braden Williams. Williams is listed as 5’8’ and 175 pounds. Holcombe, a linebacker for Nick Saban, is listed at 6’4” and 230 pounds.
Vainer allowed three straight singles to lead off the eighth, but got a nifty double play from Avant and Manning to limit the damage before a strikeout ended the inning. The Tide added to the lead in the eighth with yet another double by Avant. The senior 2B’s second of the day plated Keith Holcombe, who had reached on a single. Avant touched the dish on a single by Manning, and 6’3” 210 pound catcher Matt Malkin scored on a single by Walker McCleney. Malkin charged home with a head first slide and reached around Williams to slap the plate for the score.
Avant continued his big day in the bottom of the eighth when his third double of the game scored Hunter Alexander, who had walked. Dylan Duarte pitched the ninth, allowing only a walk for his second save of the year. Vainer went four innings and was the winning pitcher, and is now 2-1 on the year. Vainer allowed three with with one walk and three strikeouts. Avant had half of the team’s six hits. Holcombe, Manning, and McCleney had the others. The Tide walked four times, struck out six times, and stranded five runners. The Aggies had seven hits, only one walk, three strikeouts, and stranded eight runners.
Who Did What ?
Not a lot of gaudy statistics in this series. The team was 15-87 with 14 walks and 21 strikeouts, scoring only eight runs in the three games.
- Chandler Avant: 4-10, three doubles, two walks, two RBI, two runs
- Jett Manning: 3-10, two RBI, one walk
- Cody Henry: 2-7, one RBI
- Sam Finnerty: 6.1 innings, five hits, two runs, five strikeout, no walks
- Deacon Medders: 3 innings, 0 hits, three walks, two strikeouts, save
- Davis Vainer: 4 innings, three hits, one walk, three strikeouts, one run, win
- Jake Walters: 5.1 innings, four hits, five walks, five strikeouts, one run, win
The Tide’s nine game homestand continues next week with five games. Alabama A&M comes to town on Tuesday and Wednesday for two games, and SEC play begins on the weekend with a home series with Georgia. The AAM games are both to start at 6 p.m CT. The UGA game times are 6 p.m. on Friday, 1 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m on Sunday. The Alabama A&M games are available on SEC Network Plus, Watch ESPN App, and all three of the Georgia games will be on the SEC Network.
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