Alabama was bound to lose a baseball game at some point this year, and they did this weekend by dropping the first two games of their road series at Oklahoma, 2-1 (in 11 innings), and 16-4 the Tide bounced back in a big way by taking game three 13-1. ‘Bama is now 10-2 on the year, while OU improved to 6-6.
Game One, Lost 2-1 in 11 innings
Sam Finnerty pitched his best game in an Alabama uniform in Friday’s opener, and got nothing to show for it. Finnerty pitched eight innings, allowing eight hits with two walks, two strikeouts and only one run. The junior right hander started off slowly, walking the lead off batter and allowing three first inning singles. After Cade Harris walked to open the bottom of the first he was sacrificed to second by Brandon Zaragoza and scored on a sacrifice fly by OF/QB Kyler Murray. Finnerty survived further damage when right fielder Chandler Taylor fielded Justin Mitchell’s single and threw a strike to Sam Praytor at the plate to nail Steele Walker for out three.
Six foot six junior right hander Jake Irvin took the mound for the Sooners and was dynamite, mixing a 92-94 mph fastball with a wicked slider. Tide hitters couldn’t catch up to the fastball, or connect with the slider. ‘Bama finally broke through in the sixth inning when Hunter Alexander walked to lead off the inning, and scored on a two out double by Keith Holcombe. Irvin finished seven innings, allowing hits, walking two, hitting one, and striking out 11.
A parade of big, hard throwing guys, followed Irvin out of the bullpen, all four throwing in the low to mid nineties, with good off speed pitches. The relievers combined to pitch four innings, allowing only one hit while walking two and striking out six.
The Tide had chances to win the game by putting two base runners on in both the tenth and eleventh innings, but could not come up with the needed big hit. OU finally ended the game in the bottom of the 11th off of Kyle Cameron. The leadoff man reached on an error, was sacrificed to second, and scored on a single by Kyle Mendenhall. Cameron pitched the last 2.1 innings, allowing two hits, walking one, and striking out four, and was the hard luck loser.
The Tide was held to five hits, drew six walks, struck out 17 times and got hit one time, standing 11 runners on base. Oklahoma collected 10 hits, drew thee walks, struck out four times, and stranded seven runners on base. Holcombe led the way with a 2-5 day, double, and run driven in. Cobie Vance, Jeaux Breaux, and Chandler Avant all had singles to round out the Tides hits in the game.
Game Two, Lost 16-4
Game two was by far the ugliest game the Tide has played all year. Besides allowing 17 hits and nine walks, the normal reliable defense committed three errors. Jake Walters got the start on the mound and was touched for two first two innings runs. Walters retired the first two batters by strikeout and ground out, but two walks and three singles gave the Sooners a lead they never relinquished.
‘Bama cut the deficit in half in the fourth when Chandler Avant walked and scored on a two out double from Cody Henry. OU chased Walters in the bottom for the fourth by scoring four runs. Brock Guffey replaced Walters and pitched through the sixth inning. Game one hero Kyke Mendenhall blasted a two run homer off of Guffey in the bottom of the sixth to stretch the lead to 8-1.
The Tide drew closer with one in the seventh in a Hunter Alexander RBI double, and two in the eighth in a twi run single, also by Alexander. With the score 8-4, the Sooners blasted Tide relievers Connor Stutts and Tyler Adams for eight runs in the eighth inning on seven hits, two walks, and an error.
Walters suffered the loss after allowing six runs ( all earned) in 3.1 innings. Walters struck out four and walked four. ‘Bama had nine hits and drew nine walks in the game, stranding 12 runners in base. Alexander was the big gun on offense, going 3-5 with three runs driven in and a double. Henry was the only other multi hit player with a 2-3 day, a double, and a run driven in.
Game Three, Won 13-1
Junior right hander Sam Gardner was the choice to pitch on Sunday to try and break the Tides two game losing streak. Gardner started slowly when he was touched for a run in the bottom of the first by allowing two hits and a walk. The run scored on a fielders choice ground out.
Alabama finally broke through on the top of the third, scoring three times to take their first lead of the series. Sam Praytor started the frame with a single, but was erased on a double play ball off the bat if Jett Manning. Five straight batters then reached base, pushing across three runs. Cody Henry had a run scoring double off the top of the wall, and Chandler Avant lined a two run single to center.
The Tide put the game away in the fourth, plating four runs on a RBI double off the bat of Manning, a run scoring single from Cobie Vance, and a towering two run home run from Henry. The visitors poured more salt in the Sonners wounds with a three spot in the fifth, with all the damage happening after the first two batters were out. Vance and Manning had RBI singles in the inning, with Manning later scoring on a wild pitch. The Tide wrapped up the scoring in the top of the sixth when Chandler Taylor launched a three run bomb over the right field wall, his fourth of the year.
Gardner was relieved after five full innings, replaced by Davis Vainer, Deacon Medders, and finally, Dylan Duarte. The trio combined for four innings of three hit baseball with one walk and four strikeouts. Tide coach Brad Bohannon emptied the bench, playing 16 position players to go along with four pitchers. ‘Bama had a season high 18 hits, walked four times, struck out 11 times, and left nine runners in base. All while holding OU to six hits, with three walks, and 11 strikeouts. The Sooners left eight runners in base.
Vance was 3-4 with two runs and two RBI. Henry was 2-5 with a home run and a double, driving in three. Avant, Praytor, Manning and Walker McCleney had two hits each. Landon Sartain was a late game replacement and recorded the first hit of his Tide career.
Who Did What?
Cody Henry 4-8, two doubles, home run, four RBI, three runs
Cobie Vance 4-11, two RBI, four walks, four runs
Hunter Alexander 4-11, double, three RBI, three walks
Chandler Taylor 3-11, three RBI, home run, three walks
Matt Malkin 3-4
Sam Finnerty 8 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 R
Sam Gardner 5 IP 3 H 2 BB, 5 K, 1 R - Win
The series will be a boost to the Tide going forward. The Sooners are a formidable opponent with a pitching staff much like will be seen in the SEC. The Friday night game was every bit as good and tight as a typical SEC Friday night. ‘Bama let Saturday’s game get out of hand, but showed a lot of fortitude to bounce back on Sunday.
The Oklahoma park is a nice, small, venue and provided a lot of atmosphere. The Tide seemed to have some trouble adjusting to the totally turf field. The infield, outfield, the batter’s box, and the pitcher’s mound were all turf. There was not a blade of grass or grain of dirt to be found.
Cody Henry continues to drive in runs at a high pace, now leading the team with 17. Hunter Alexander, Chandler Avant, Holcombe, Vance, and Taylor all continue to swing hot bats. The bullpen has been good and the starting pitching is rounding into shape. Overall, a road trip to a Power Five Conference foe will pay off through the rest of the season.
The next game is a Wednesday night home affair with Southern Miss. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. CT and can be seen in SEC Network Plus or you can follow on twitter @rogerpatmyers
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