The Alabama Crimson Tide continued their dangerous trend of spotting their opponents multiple first inning runs again on Tuesday night. In a game played at Regions Park, the home standing Birmingham Blazers scored four first inning runs, and held on for a 6-4 victory over the Tide. The loss was the first midweek loss for Bama, after allowing only four runs in their first five games not played on the weekends. The Tide fell to 16-6 and the Blazers improved to 9-10. The game was carried out in cold, rainy weather on the first day of spring. The first three innings were played in a moderate rain. About the time the rain stopped, play was halted and the tarp was placed on the field. After 30 minutes of no rain play was finally resumed.
Being the visitors, the Tide actually took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the first. Jeaux Breaux reached on a fielders choice and later scored on a fielder’s choice by Keith Holcombe.
Junior right hander Sam Gardner started the game on the mound for ‘Bama and gave up an RBI single and a three run home run in the first. After a single, a hit batter, and a RBI single, light hitting Brett Blackwood went opposite field for his first long ball of the year. The Blazers entered the game hitting only .225 as team with two total home runs.
Gardner surrendered another run in the second after a lead off triple from Stephen Hobbs and an RBI ground out from Tyler Tolbert. The Tide made it close in the third when Cobie Vance had the second of his three singles on the night, and trotted home in front of a mammoth shot of the bat of Chandler Taylor. The long ball was Taylor’s ninth of the year. ‘Bama pulled closer with one run in the fifth, when Matt Malkin scored on an error after the Blazers threw the ball away on a single by Breaux.
After that the Tide was shut down by great pitching by the Blazer bullpen, although they had multiple chances to tie or take the lead. Holcombe led off the fifth and reached second on a dropped pop in shallow left. A ground out advanced him to third with one out, but two strikeouts stranded him there. Breaux doubled with two outs in the sixth, but was stranded again by a strikeout.
‘Bama had their ultimate chance in the top of the seventh, when they loaded the bases with no outs. Chandler Avant and Holcombe walked before Cody Henry was hit by a pitch to pack the bags. A ground ball to third forced the lead runner at the plate, and a ground ball back to the pitcher for a home to first double play thwarted the rally.
Brock Guffey relieved Gardner in the sixth, and ran into trouble in the seventh, allowing an insurance run after a single, sac bunt, single, and RBI single. Mason Duke received and stranded the two base runners. After going quietly in the eighth the Tide came to the ninth with one last chance. Holcombe reached with two outs after being hit by a pitch, and later stole second before yet another strikeout ended the game.
The Tide’s inability to get hits at crucial times has haunted the team all year. With 11 men left on base again tonight the team has now stranded 217 runners in 22 games, an average of 9.86 per game. The plus side of that is that a lot of runners are reaching base, but too many strikeouts at times when almost any contact would score a run is disconcerting and something that will need to be improved going forward. ‘Bama had eight hits, drew three walks, and had four batters hit by pitches, while striking out 11 times and stranding 11 runners. Birmingham had 13 hits, drew two walks, struck out six times and left eight men on base.
Who Did What?
- Cobie Vance 3-5, one run
- Jeaux Breaux 2-5, one run
- Chandler Taylor 2-5, two RBI, Home Run, one run
- Matt Malkin 1-4, one run
- Chandler Avant 0-2, two walks, one hit by pitch
On the road to Knoxville to take on Tennessee (13-9) in a three game set. The Friday game will start at 5:30 p.m. CT and can be seen on SEC Network Plus, Saturday’s game time is 4 p.m and Sunday’s first pitch is at 2 p.m. Both of those games can be seen on the SEC Network.
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ED. NOTE: During Tuesday’s football press conference, Nick Saban announced that linebacker Keith Holcombe would be focusing on baseball this spring.
“Keith wanted to sort of give baseball his best shot,” Saban said. “He’s always tried to do both.”
Saban and Holcombe met after Alabama won a national championship, and the coach told the linebacker to devote his complete attention to baseball.
The two plan to get together again later this spring to determine whether he will continue his football career.
As of Monday, Holcombe was ranked second on the baseball team with a .361 batting average. He has also produced one home run and 13 RBI.
Holcombe, who will be a redshirt senior, is still on the football roster. He has played 44 games the last three seasons and has collected 71 tackles -- three of which resulted in lost yardage.
Late last season, he started in a victory over Mississippi State after Shaun Dion Hamilton fractured his kneecap the previous week. But Holcombe struggled mightily, receiving the lowest grade for his performance in that game from Pro Football Focus before he was ultimately replaced by then-freshman Dylan Moses.
”We’d love to have him come back in the fall,” Saban said of Holcombe. “I hope he chooses to do that.”