The Crimson Tide did a lot of good things this weekend in their series with Mississippi State, but could not garner a series win. They did, however, break a 10 game conference losing streak with an exciting extra inning win on Saturday. The Bulldogs made a big comeback on Friday to force extra innings and won in the 10th inning, and came back again on Sunday to claim the series with a 6-4 win. The Tide collected 33 hits, walked 19 times, and got hit by nine pitches, to reach base 61 times while scoring 20 runs. Thats the good. The bad was 34 men left on base, including the bases loaded five times, 24 strikeouts, and six errors. ‘Bama pitchers walked only eight runners all series, while striking out 15. Again, as has been for most of the season, the one big hit, pitch, or play, was not made when needed in the two losses.
Game One: Lost 14-12 in 10 innings.
Of all the losses this season, this one probably hurt the most. The Tide built an 11-5 lead entering the eighth inning, but a disastrous seven run eighth inning brought the Bulldogs back and lead to a 14-12 loss in 10 innings for Bama.
Sam Finnerty matched up with another potential high draft pick in MSU left hander Connor Pilkington. Finnerty has helped the Tide keep close on Friday nights all season against a bevy of future Major League hurlers. Bama started fast off of Pilkington, getting singles from Cobie Vance and Jeaux Breaux to start the first inning. After a strikeout Sam Praytor loaded the bases with a single of his own, and was followed by a towering, opposite field shot off of the score board by Chandler Taylor. The grand slam was Taylor’s team leading 12th home run of the season. The Tide wasted a chance to further the lead by leaving the bases loaded.
In the second The Bulldogs used two singles, a walk, a booted double play ball by Jett Manning at shortstop, a sacrifice fly and a three run home run by Rowdey Jordan to take a 5-4 lead. Jordan is a freshman and a native of Auburn, Alabama. The Tide recaptured the lead in the fifth when Keith Holcombe rocked a three run double deep to left center field.
Meanwhile Finnerty settled in over the next five innings, allowing only a fourth inning single while retiring 15 out of 16 batters. Bama added to the lead in the sixty with a Sam Praytor run scoring single, and seeming broke the game wide open in the bottom of the seventh on a three run home run by Cobie Vance on top of the playground in left field. The home run, Vance’s fifth of the year, was his third in the last three games.
Finnerty was brought out to begin the eighth, but was greeted by a double, followed by two singles, bringing in one run. Dylan Duarte was then called on and promptly allowed back to back run scoring singles. Suddenly the score was 11-8 with two on and no outs. A tailor made double play ball was misplayed by Jett Manning at shortstop to help extend the inning. Runs then scored on another single, an infield ground out, and a sacrifice fly to center field. Suddenly an 11-5 lead had become a 12-11 deficit.
To their credit the Tide answered with the tying run in the bottom half of the inning. Chandler Avant and Praytor opened the frame with singles to place runners at first and second. Walker McCleney, in Taylor’s spot after an oblique injury forced the slugger out of the game, then bunted to move the runners up. The speedy McCleney beat out the bunt for a hit, and Avant scampered home when the throw got away at first base. Holcombe walked with one out to load the bases, but a strikeout and a fly out ended the threat.
With the game tied at 12 each, the Tide called on closer Deacon Medders in the ninth. Medders worked a quick, perfect, ninth to set up Bama with a chance to win the game. A hit batter and two walks loaded the bases for the Tide in the bottom of the ninth, but once again could not come through.
Medders recored three strikeouts in the top to the tenth, but in between allowed a single and a two run home run by freshman Justin Foscue. Third baseman Foscue, is a native of Huntsville, Alabama. The Tide had a chance in the bottom of the 10th when Holcombe singles and Matt Malkin was hit by a pitch, putting two on with one out, and Vance coming to the plate. Vance hit a line drive that was headed toward centerfield, but somehow diminutive second baseman Hunter Stovall, a Birmingham native, ran, leaped, and snared the drive, and then double Holcombe off of second to end the game with a 14-12 Bama loss.
The Tide had 16 hits, walked five times, were hit by pitches six times, struck out 10 times, and stranded 13 runners. The efficient Bulldogs had 13 hits and one walk with six strikeouts and only two runners left on base. Praytor led the way with four hits, while Avant added three and Vance, Holcombe, and Breaux had two apiece. Taylor drove in four and Vance and Holcombe drove in three each. Medders fell to 0-3 with the loss. Bama tagged Pilkington with seven hits and seven earned runs in only 4.2 innings of work.
Game Two: Won 4-3 in 10 innings.
The Tide took an exciting 4-3 victory on Saturday in another 10 inning affair. Senior Jake Walters, who graduated in the morning, took the mound at 6 p.m. for the 50th start of his Alabama career. Walters is second to Mike Sodders 52 starts in Alabama’s long, storied, baseball history.
Once again the Tide started fast, but didn't maximize their opportunities. Bulldog starter Ethan Small walked four batters in the first innings, with Hunter Alexander earning a run driven in on his bases loaded free pass. However, once again, the Tide left the bases jammed after two straight strikeouts ended the inning.
The Tide added to the lead in the second on an RBI single by Jeaux Breaux and had runners on second and third with only one out. Two pop outs to first base stranded them there. The Bulldogs finally scored off of Walters in the second on a walk, stolen base, and an RBI single from Tanner Allen. MSU tied the game in the sixth after a double, a passed ball, and a sacrifice fly. Walters was replaced by Brock Guffey with one out in the sixth. Walters allowed only one earned run on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
When Rowdey Jordan hit a home run off of Guffey in the seventh, the Bulldogs had their first lead of the day at 3-2, and things looked bleak for the Tide. In the bottom of the ninth with one out, John Trousdale ignited the crowd with a long drive into the right field plaza to tie the game. Sam Gardner had replaced Guffey in the eighth and was untouchable, striking out six batters of the seven outs he recored, setting up the Tide for a chance in the bottom of the 10th.
Breaux led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a perfect sacrifice bunt from Chandler Avant. Sam Praytor was then walked intentionally to set up a possible double play. Walker McCleney struck out for the second out, brining Keith Holcombe to the plate against Cole Gordon. On a two-two pitch Holcombe laced a single to right, sending Breaux across the plate with the winning run. The team mobbed Holcombe with a dog pile at first base with Cobie Vance slinging the gatorade cooler into the fry.
Bama had seven hits, drew seven walks, had one hit batter, while striking out nine times and stranding nine runners. The Bulldogs had 10 hits, drew five walks, and stranded 13 on base. Breaux was the only player with multiple hits for the Tide. Gardner was the winner, running his recored to 2-2 on the year.
Game Three: Lost 6-4
The rubber game of the series was a 3 p.m Sunday afternoon affair shown on ESPNU. Garret Rukes took his normal game three start on his usual pitch count. Rukes is just over a year removed from Tommy John surgery.
For the third straight game the Tide jumper out to an early first inning lead. Cobie Vance led things off with a double and scored on a single by Jeaux Breaux. Bama added to the lead in the second after Hunter Alexander doubled and scored on a single by Vance. Breaux followed with a double, and then Chandler Avant walked. All three were left on base.
Bama added another run in the fourth on three walks and an RBI single by Keith Holcombe. However a double play and deep fly out stranded two more Tide runners. Rukes was replaced by Kyle Cameron in the fourth after three innings of no hit, one walk, pitching. Cameron had a perfect fourth inning, but was touched for a two run home run by Elijah MacNamee in the top of the fifth, cutting the lead to 3-2.
The Bulldogs used two doubles, a single, a walk, and an error to score three times in the top of the sixth. The Tide drew closer in the bottom of the sixth on yet another RBI single off the bat of Holcombe. MSU third baseman Justin Foscue robbed Sam Praytor of a double, and cost the Tide a chance to do more damage. Tanner Allen tripled in an insurance run in the top of the seventh, pushing the score to 6-4. Bama went in order in the seventh and eighth. Holcombe drilled his fourth hit of the game off of Bulldog pitcher JP France with one out in the ninth, but two straight fly outs ended the game with the Tide on the wrong end of a 6-4 game.
Bama had 10 hits, walked five times, and had two hit batters. The Tide stuck out five times, and keeping with the theme of the weekend, stranded 12 runners on base. The Dogs had seven hits, drew three walks, struck out twice, and stranded four runners. Holcombe had his third game of four hits while Vance and Breaux had two each. Cameron suffered the loss and dropped to 1-2 on the year.
This was a series the Tide woulda, shoulda, coulda won. The Bulldogs were ripe for the taking, but Bama was one play, one pitch, one hit, away in the two losses. The season long problem of stranding runners on base was rampant this weekend. Thirty four runners left on base, five times the bases left loaded, is not a recipe for victory. Key errors on Friday night particularly were very costly. The bats did come alive after several weeks of subpar performance. Taylor getting hurt half way through the first game took the Tides top slugger out of action.
Who Did What?
Keith Holcombe 7-13, six RBI, double, two walks, Game winning RBI
Jeaux Breaux 6-11, four runs, three walks, two RBI, double
Cobie Vance 4-15, four RBI, five runs, two walks, double, Home run
Sam Praytor 4-11, five walks, two runs, RBI
Chandler Taylor 1-3, grand slam home run, four RBI, run,
John Trousdale 1-11, game tying home run in bottom ninth of game two
Sam Gardner Win, 2.1 IP, 0 H 0 BB 6 K
Jake Walters 5.1 IP 6 H 1 ER 3 BB 4 K, 50th career start
A game Tuesday night at home with Jacksonville State at 6 p.m., followed by a trip to Baton Rouge for three games with LSU. Friday and Saturday games are scheduled for 7 p.m. and Sunday is set for 2 p.m. The Saturday game is a SEC Network game, while the other two game will be available on the Watch ESPN App, SEC Network Plus.
Roll Tide, Bama Baseball Fever, Catch It
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