The Tide traveled to Knoxville for their second SEC series of the year, and were treated rudely. The Vol’s swept ‘Bama 3-0 in three close, hard fought, games. The Tide lost the first two games by one run on bases loaded walks, 5-4 on Friday night, and 2-1 in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader. Game three was a 3-0 loss for the men in Crimson. Terrible weather on Saturday necessitated the double dip on Sunday, and because of SEC travel rules they were played as seven inning games. (Have I told you how much I despise seven inning games? Very high schoolish).
Game One: Lost 5-4
Sam Finnerty took his normal Friday night start for the Tide, and kept the team in the game, pitching six gutty innings. Although the junior righty allowed 11 hits, all singles, he didn't walk any batters and struck out three, while allowing four runs.
Once again the Tide was working from behind, allowing the Vols to score one in the bottom of the first. Finnerty retired the first two batters before three singles scored the run. Three straight one out singles in the fourth pushed the UT lead to 2-0 before the Tide offense came alive. In the top of the fifth the visitors plated three runs to take the lead. Matt Malkin led off with a double, and scored on a two out double from Chandler Avant. Chandler Taylor then singled Avant home, stole second, and scored on two passed balls. The Vols used two singles and a sacrifice fly to tie things in the bottom of the frame. UT retook the lead in the sixth on an RBI single.
Davis Vainer replaced Finnerty in the seventh and was saved from allowing a run when Chandler Taylor gunned out a runner at the plate on a strong throw from right field. The Tide tied things in the eighth. Keith Holcombe drew a walk, stole second, and later scored on a RBI single from Malkin.
Deacon Medders came on to pitch the eighth and, after walking the bases loaded, got a comeback ground ball to the mound for a 1-2-3 double play to end the threat. The Tide stranded two runners that walked with one out in the top of the ninth, ending the inning with a fly out and strikeout.
Medders continued to fight the strike zone, and the home plate umpire, in the bottom of the ninth. After two quick outs to start the inning Benito Santiago drew a walk. A ground ball to third that would have ended the inning took a tricky turn and was misplayed by Vance, putting runners on second and third. Medders walked the next man, and with a 2-2 count on Evan Russell, threw a perfect curveball that split the middle of the plate. Home plate umpire Scott Kennedy somehow called it a ball, drawing the ire of Bama coach Brad Bohannon. The next pitch wasn't close and the Vols literally had a walk off win, 5-4.
The Tide had seven hits, drew seven walks, got hit by two pitches, struck out 13 times and stranded 11 runners on base. The Vol’s had 12 hits, drew seven walks, struck out five times and stranded 12 on base. Malkin collected two hits, including a double for Bama.
Game Two: Lost 2-1, 7 innings
Jake Walters started game two for Alabama in the second game, and threw his best game of the year, returning to the form he showed in his first three seasons in Tuscaloosa. Walters pitched 5.2 strong innings, allowing four hits with two walks, while striking out nine hitters. The two runs he allowed were both unearned, and his record dropped to 2-3 on the season.
The problem of stranding runners continued to haunt the Tide. In the first Keith Holcombe led off with a single, but was caught stealing. With two outs Chandler Taylor ripped a long double that would have easily scored Holcombe, and then was stranded after a ground out. In the second ‘Bama had three base runners, but a double play and groundout ended that threat.
The Tide finally pushed a run across in the fifth. Matt Malkin stroked a two out single, and came around to score when Holcombe singled and the ball was thrown away. The way Walters was rolling the one run looked like it might be enough to secure the victory. However, a leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth proved costly. After Justin Ammons walked, Jay Charleston sacrificed him to second. Andre Lipcius singled to put runners on the corners. before Walters stuck out Benito Santiago for out two. A dribbler to third was thrown in the dirt to first on what would have been out three allowed the tying run to score. Dylan Duarte was called in to replace Walters and walked two straight batters to force in the go ahead run. A strikeout ended the inning with the bases loaded, giving the Tide one last chance.
Jeaux Breaux led off the top of the seventh with a single before advancing to second on a perfect sac bunt by Walker McCleney. A ground out and a strikeout out looking ended the game with the Tide on the wrong end of a 2-1 score. ‘Bama had six hits, and unusually drew zero walks and didn't get hit by a pitch. The batters struck out five times, and stranded five runners. The Vols only had four hits, drew four walks, struck out 10 times, and stranded six runners. No one had a multi hit game for the Tide.
Game Three: Lost 3-0 7 innings
Garret Rukes drew his second straight game three start for the Tide in the series finale. Rukes is being brought back slowly from Tommy John surgery, which he had in April of last year. Once again the Tide started in the hole, allowing two first inning runs. A one out walk followed by two singles and a misplay in the outfield led to the scores.
Rukes, pitching on a pitch count, lasted three innings, allows three hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Kyle Cameron relieved and pitched the final three innings, allowing four hits with no walks and two strikeouts, allowing one run.
The Tide only really had two chances, in the second and the fourth. In the second inning, Jeaux Breaux opened with a walk and advanced to second on a balk. Jett Manning added a two-out single, putting runners at first and third, but a groundout stranded them there. In the fourth Breaux singled with one out, followed by a single by Hunter Alexander and a walk to John Trousdale. A popout to shortstop and a strikeout left the bases loaded. The Tide only had one more baserunner the rest of the way.
Tennessee added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on a two out RBI single by Justin Ammons. The Tide went in order in the top of the seventh, ending the game and pushing Bama to a six game losing streak. Bama had five hits, two walks, four strikeouts, and seven left on base. UT had seven hits, two walks, six strikeouts and left eight men on base. Alexander’s two hits was the only multi hit performer for the Tide.
Who Did What?
- Matt Malkin 3-9, double, RBI, run
- Jett Manning 3-10,
- Four other players had two hits over the weekend.
- Jake Walters 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 9 K, 2 R, 0 ER
After a great start to the season, the Tide has fallen on bad times. A 16-3 start has now become a 16-9 record, with six losses in a row, four by one run, one by two runs, and one by three runs. ‘Bama continues to get runners on base, and in scoring position, but is having a hard time coming up with the big hits at the right time. The 1-5 start in the SEC is particularly disappointing because it has come against Georgia and Tennessee, perceived to be two of the bottom teams in the league. From here things will only get tougher. The Tide will need to continue to get good work from the pitching staff, and will need to come through with some clutch hitting.
Alabama will travel to Montgomery for the annual Capital City Classic Game against Auburn on Tuesday, at 6:35 p.m. Next weekend the Kentucky Wildcats come to Tuscaloosa for three games, at 6 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday, all on SEC Network Plus-Watch ESPN App. This week’s opponents are the last two employers of Bama coach Brad Bohannon, and he was the lead recruiter for most of the key players on both teams. Both teams are ranked in the top 10 in the nation, which bodes well for the Tide going forward.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch It
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