Alabama could do nothing offensively, 16-93 for a .172 batting average, scoring seven runs, or on the mound, 21 runs allowed in 24 innings for a 8.75 ERA, in being swept by the Florida Gators this weekend. The 24th ranked Gators entered the series with an SEC record of 1-5, but quickly got healthy on the Tide. Friday’s game was the only competitive one of the three, with Florida claiming a 3-1 win. Saturday was a 12-3 blowout, and Sunday the Tide fell 6-3.
Game One: Lost 3-1
The Tide fell behind quickly, when Sam Finnerty walked the lead off man in the bottom of the first, followed by two ground balls that scored the run. As is always said, oh, those lead off walks. Bama tied the game in the top of the third when T.J. Reeves reached on a one out bloop single to right, followed by Kobe Morris reaching on a hit by pitch. Kolby Robinson grounded a single up the middle to score Reeves to tie the game.
Finnerty then put up three scoreless frames, even though he walked two more batters. The three walks were surprising since the senior right hander had only walked four batters all season up to this game. FInnerty got in trouble in the top of the fifth on a lead off double and two singles, before being replaced by Casey Cobb. Cobb induced three ground outs to end the inning, with the Gators on top 3-1. Cobb and Chase Lee both pitched two scoreless innings for the Tide.
Meanwhile Florida starter Tommy Mace was mowing down the Tide inning after inning, and pitched a rare complete game with 119 pitches thrown. Bama had three hits on the night, none of which were hard hit, two of the infield variety and one bloop. Mace walked only one and hit one, while striking out seven batters.
The Tide had only five runners on base all day, three singles, one walk, and one hit batter, stranding four on base. The Gators had seven hits, walked and struck out five times, stranding 10 runners on base. Finnerty suffered the loss, and fell to 4-3 on the season.
Game Two: Lost 12-3
The Gators jumped out early again, hitting Brock Love for a one out home run in the first. Bama actually tied the game up in the second on freshman Drew Williamson’s first career home run. After a scoreless second the Gators teed off of love with three home runs, taking a 5-1 lead. The Tide cut into the lead in the fourth without the aid of a hit, with Reeves scoring on a sacrifice fly by Joe Breaux.
Garret Rukes replace Love in the fourth, and pitched three scoreless innings, allowing three hits with one strikeout. Breaux singled in the seventh and eventually scored on a wild pitch to cut the lead to 7-3. Florida hit Conner Shamblin for three doubles to add two runs in the seventh, and added three more off of Dylan Smith with two walks, a double, and a home run, all after two were out, to push the game to the final 12-3 margin.
Bama had four hits, drew five walks, struck out 10 times, and stranded nine runners on base. Florida had 16 hits, nine for extra bases, with five home runs and four double. Tide pitchers walked only two and struck out six, the Gators stranded four runners. Love fell to 3-1 with the loss.
Game Three: Lost 6-3
Tyler Ras moved back into the weekend rotation on Sunday after his good outing against Auburn in the Capital City Classic. Bama came out swinging, collection three hits in the first inning. However they were unable to push a run across despite the hits. Breaux led off with a single, but was caught stealing. Robinson lined a single, Morgan McCullough hit a fly ball to deep center field for out two, followed by a single off the bat of Keith Holcombe. Tyler Gentry then hit another deep fly out to center field to end the inning.
The Tide took their first lead of the weekend in the second, but again missed a chance for more. Williamson singled to start the frame, followed by a John Trousdale walk. Brett Auerbach laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runners up, and Williamson scored when Florida threw the ball away after Kobe Morris grounded out to third. Breaux added an infield single, but the Tide couldn't score on the play. Florida starting pitcher, Jake Leftwich, had to be replaced in the innings with blister problems. His replacement, Hunter Ruth, became the story of the game.
Florida regained the lead in the second with an RBI double and a sacrifice fly. Coach Brad Bohannon then made the call to bring in his closer Jeremy Randolph with two outs in the second. Randolph has been the best Tide pitcher all season, and was in danger of not being used all weekend if this game got away. Randolph’s streak of no runs allowed in 19 innings ended in the fourth when he walked a batter and allowed a two out home run to Austin Langworthy. Randolph pitched 3.2 innings, his longest outing of the year, and allowed two hits, two runs, one walk and had three strikeouts. Ras fell to 1-2 with the loss in 1.2 innings of work.
The game remained four to one as Ruth economically disposed of the Tide inning after inning. Ruth had consecutive innings where he threw 7-8-9-and 7 pitches, and in his 7.2 inning pitched, used only 82 pitches. Brock Guffey followed Randolph and three 1.2 spotless innings. Kyle Cameron was hit for two Gator runs in the eighth in only 1⁄3 of an inning. Deacon Medders got the last two outs with no further damage.
Facing a 6-1 deficit in the top of the ninth, the Tide tried to mound a rally. After the first two batters grounded out and flew out, Auerbach drew a walk. Bohannon called on Reeves to pinch hit, and the powerful freshman blasted a long home run to the deepest part of the park in center field for his third round tripper of the year.
The Tide had nine hits, drew two walks, struck out five times, and stranded seven runners. Florida had nine hits, two walks, four strikeouts, and five runners left on base. Breaux and Holcombe had two hits each, and Reeves drove in two runs.
The Tide has to improve in two out of three aspects of the game. The defense has been outstanding , first in the league. However the hitting and pitching can't both take off at the same time. This weekend the hitters were 16-93 and the pitchers allowed 21 earned runs in 24 innings. None of three starters made it out of the fourth inning this weekend, and even with a deep bullpen, that puts entirely too much stress on them. The hitters are leaving too many runners on base (261 in 29 games), especially in scoring position, many times needing only a ground ball or fly ball to score the run. With Sam Praytor out for the season the team lost their middle of the order big bat, as well as their defensive stalwart at catcher. Brett Auerbach is doing an admirable job behind the plate after moving from third base. However the move weakens the Tide in several ways, at catcher, at third, and by trickle down affect, designated hitter. One thing is becoming clear, it is time to use T.J. Reeves on a regular basis, and if he could learn third base in two days, that would be a bonus. Reeves has the best raw power on the team, and has tremendous upside, despite a lot of swing and miss in his game.
Who Did What? Not much to report here
T.J. Reeves 2-6, home run, two RBI, run, HBP
Joe Breaux 3-12
Drew Williamson 3-11, home run
Casey Cobb 2 IP 1 H 1 BB 2 K 0 runs
Chase Lee 2IP, 1 H 1BB 1 K 0 runs
Garet Rukes 3IP 3 H 0 BB 0 K 0 runs
Four home games next week. Troy comes to town on Tuesday for a 6 o'clock game, followed by a three game series with South Carolina on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The first two games are at 6 p.m. and Saturday’s game three is set for 1 p.m. The Troy game and the third USC game will be on SEC Network Plus, and the first two Gamecock games will be on the SEC Network.
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