The Alabama baseball team improved to 5-2 on the season by taking two out of three games from Ball State over the weekend. The teams dodged bad weather to fit the three games in. The Tide won on Friday night 7-1 behind excellent pitching from Sam Finnerty and four runs driven in by Keith Holcombe. Saturday’s game made it to the bottom of the seventh before the rain hit and forced the game to be finished on Sunday morning. Ball State won that game 8-5, and then Bama bounced back to take the series with a 6-0 win on Sunday afternoon. Ball State fell 2-5 in the early stages of the season.
Game One: Won 7-1
In a game scheduled for 3 p.m., then moved to 1 p.m, first pitch eventually happened at 5 p.m. as the staff did their best to dodge the expected bad weather.
Sam Finnerty has established himself as a Friday night stalwart for the Tide over the last two seasons. The senior right hander pitched the best game of his Alabama career. Finnerty was in control from the beginning, retiring the Cardinals on four pitches in the top of the first. The Tide scored all the runs they would need in the bottom of the first. Jeaux Breaux led off by being hit by a pitch, followed by a single by Brett Auerebach. After two straight strikeouts, Keith Holcombe lined an RBI single to score Breaux. Freshman first baseman Drew Williamson then singled in two runs for an early 3-0 lead.
Finnerty gave up a seeing eye single in the second, but the runner was quickly erased on a slick double play started by shortstop Kolby Robinson. Finnerty allowed a bunt single in the third, but the runner couldn't advance. The Tide busted the game open in the fifth when Holcombe drilled a three run bomb into the visitors’ bullpen in right center field for his second long ball of the season.
Finnerty rolled through the fourth, fifth, and sixth, before allowing a lead off single in the seventh. That runner was also eliminated on a fine Robinson-Morgan McCullough-Williamson twin killing. At that point Finnerty had pitched seven shutout innings, allowing three harmless singles, no walks, and no runs, all while throwing only 67 pitches, and facing one batter over the minimum.
For some yet unexplained reason before the Tide could come to the plate in the bottom of the frame, tarp pull was called. The team had to tarp the field and face a 30 minute “rain” delay. Nary a drop or a clap of thunder were seen or heard. By the time the game resumed Finnerty was not going to go back out. Deacon Medders drew the eighth inning, and faced three batters, striking out all three. The Tide added an unearned run in the bottom of the eighth to pad their lead. Freshman Dylan Smith pitched the ninth inning and allowed one meaningless run, and Bama ended up with a 7-1 victory.
The Tide had seven hits, drew seven walks, struck out 12 times, and left nine runners on base. Ball State collected four hits, one walk, and struck out 10 times with three runners left on base. Holcombe was 2-4 with four runs driven in, Robinson was 2-3 with a double, and Williamson was 1-2 with two runs driven in.
Game Two: Lost 8-5
Saturday’s game was set for 2 p.m., but was moved to a 12 noon start. Freshman Tyler Ras drew the starting assignment for the Tide. Ball State used two first inning singles and an RBI ground out to take a 1-0 advantage in the top of the first. Ras lost his control in the second and gave up four runs on two hits with two walks, while only retiring one batter. Brock Love replaced him on the mound. By the time the inning was over, the Tide was down 5-0.
Bama got a home run from Tyler Gentry in the bottom of the second to cut into the lead, and added three in the fifth to draw within a one run deficit at 5-4. The Tide used four walks, two with the bases loaded, and one single to score the three runs. The Cardinals jumped on freshman relief pitcher Jacob McNairy for two runs on three hits and a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth to stretch the lead out to 7-4.
Before the bottom of the seventh a weather delay was called, sending the teams to their locker rooms. After about and hour and a half play was set to resume at 4:20 p.m. At 4:00, the grounds crew tried to get the field ready, but it had taken on too much water and the finish of the game was postponed until Sunday morning at 11 a.m. Ball State added an insurance run in the top of the ninth before the Tide tried to rally in the bottom half.
Brett Auerbach led off with a double, and Keith Holcombe drew a one out walk. With two outs Drew Williamson walked, followed by a bases loaded walk to John Trousdale. With the winning run at the plate Sam Praytor entered as a pinch hitter to try to walk it off. Praytor had left Friday nights game with an arm injury. The game ended with a fly out to right, and BSU had an 8-5 victory, setting up the rubber game. The game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m., but started at 12:30, giving the teams the trifecta of none of the game starting when they were suppose to.
Game Three: Won 6-0
Freshman right hander Connor Shamblin received his second start of the season in the series finale. The reigning Mr. Baseball in the state of Tennessee was lights out for the Tide. Shamblin pitched five no hit innings, walking one, and striking out five while throwing only 67 pitches. Shamblin was the winning pitcher and became the first freshman pitcher to start the season 2-0 since Taylor Wolfe in 2010.
The Tide jumped out to the 1-0 first inning lead on back to back doubles by Morgan McCullough and RBI machine Keith Holcombe. In the third, Brett Auerbach doubled and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by the aforementioned Holcombe. In the bottom of the fifth, Jeaux Breaux and Brett Auerbach opened the frame with singles, and both scored on a two run single, by, you guessed it, Keith Holcombe.
Shamblin was followed on the mound by Casey Cobb who threw three sparkling innings of his own. The only hit the Cardinals would get all night happened in the seventh, on a ball originally called an error by the scorekeeper. The call was changed before the top of ninth, keeping the Tide from notching a combined no hitter. Auerbach singled in an additional run in the sixth, and Breaux doubled home another in the eighth for the final 6-0 margin.
Grad transfer Jeremy Randolph cleaned up the ninth inning, facing three batters and striking them all out. Randolph has faced seven batters this season, retiring all of them via the strikeout. Offensively, Holcombe led the way with his 3-3 day with four runs driven in with a sacrifice fly, a double, and a stolen base. Auerbach was 3-4 with a double and an RBI, and Breaux was 2-4 with a double and a run driven in. Drew Williamson added two singles in four trips. Holcombe has played in six games and has 14 runs driven in on the year.
The Tide collected 11 hits, walked four times, struck out only three times and stranded nine runners on base. The Cardinals had one lone hit, walked twice, struck out nine times and stranded two runners.
The Tide would have loved to have swept the Cardinals, but taking 2 of 3 and winning a series is always a good thing. Coach Brad Bohannon was pleased with the pitching on Friday and Sunday, and with the hits up and down the lineup. If Finnerty and Shamblin can continue their hot starts, and Tyler Ras, or someone else, can step in as a dependable Saturday starter the team will have a chance in all their series.
Who Did What?
- Sam Finnerty W 7IP 3H 0BB 6K 67 pitches, 2-0 start
- Connor Shamblin W 5IP 0H 1BB 5K 67 pitches, 2-0 start
- Keith Holcombe 5-10, nine RBI, HR, SF, Double, two runs, stolen base
- Brett Auerbach 7-15, 5 runs, two doubles, RBI
- Morgan McCullough 4-11, four walks, three runs, double
- Drew Williamson 4-11, two RBI, BB
Five games: Tuesday home game at 6 p.m with North Alabama (2-4), and Wednesday at 3 p.m, also with UNA. Both games can be seen on SEC Network+.
Then the first road trip of the season, a trip to Mobile to play South Alabama (4-2) for three games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. [ED. NOTE: All games with USA can be viewed on something called JagNation TV. I assume this link to their YouTube page is what they mean. #NoRefunds]
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