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Bama Baseball Can’t Get Over The Hump

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The Tide took Game One over the 14th ranked LSU Tigers on Friday but fell short Saturday and Sunday, losing the series two games to one. Bama was in position to win all three games, but fell short.

Brett Auerbach had a big weekend.
Roger Myers

The Crimson Tide took on the 14th ranked LSU Tigers in Tuscaloosa this weekend, and very nearly spoiled the Bengals weekend. However, after winning game one 6-1, the Tide dropped game two 5-2 and game three in a heartbreaker by a 5-4 score. Bama outscored LSU 12-11 in the three games, and out hit the Tigers 28-24, but the visitors did all the little things needed to win baseball games, and took the series. Alabama fell to 26-19 overall and 5-16 in the SEC, while LSU improved to 29-16 and 13-8 in league play.

Game One: Won 6-1

The Tide got off to a fast start, and got a masterful pitching performance from Sam Finnerty to take game one 6-1 on Friday night. T.J. Reeves and Tyler Gentry put the Tide out in front for good in the bottom of the first inning. Reeves blasted his seventh home run of the season over the scoreboard in left, followed two batters later by Gentry’s moon shot off the scoreboard. With an early 2-0 lead Finnerty took care of the rest, pitching six scoreless innings of five hit ball, walking one, and striking out six.

Bama added to the lead in the second to 3-0, highlighted by a Brett Auerbach double, Joe Breaux single, and a sacrifice fly from John Trousdale. The red hot Auerbach singled in another run in the third with the second of his four hits on the night. The Tide added their fourth run in the fifth when Morgan McCullough singled and eventually scored on a ground out by Breaux. Auerbach’s second double of the night scored Drew Williamson in the seventh for the Tides final run of the night.

Chase Lee relieved Finnerty in the seventh and pitched 1 23 innings allowing only one hit with two strikeouts before being relieved by Brock Guffey. Guffey went the final 1.1 innings allowing the one meaningless run in the top of the ninth.

Auerbach was the offensive star of the game with his 4-4 night with two doubles, two RBI, and a run scored. McCullough was the only other multi hit man on the night with a 2-4 game. Finnerty improved to 6-5 with the win.

The Tide had 10 hits, drew two walks, struck out nine times. and stranded eight runners on base. The Tigers had eight hits, drew one walk, struck out 11 times, and also stranded eight base runners.

Game Two: Lost 5-2

Once again the Tide got off to a quick start, with a Keith Holcombe home run to lead off the bottom of the first. However they couldn't maintain, or capitalize on chances, and fell 5-2, largely on the back of a controversial home run call that went in favor of LSU.

The Tide had a chance to add to the lead in the second when they had runners on second and third with one out. Kolby Robinson could not get a squeeze bunt down and ended up striking out for out two, another strikeout stranded both runners.

Love sailed through the first two innings with little trouble. but gave up three singles in the third as the Tigers tied the game 1-1. The turning point of the game happened in the top of the third. Love followed a lead off walk with a strike out and ground out, and looked like he would survive the inning. The ninth place hitter, Brock Mathis, entered the game hitting .168 on the year worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch to put two runners on base. Tiger lead off man Zach Watson fell behind 0-2 before hitting a long drive down the left field line that was called foul by both the third base umpire and the home plate umpire, as well as the 4,000 plus Bama fans on hand. LSU coach Paul Mainieri called for the play to be reviewed. With the angles available there seemed to be little chance for an overturned called. After a 10 plus minute delay while the umpires conversed with Birmingham, the call was somehow overturned and called a home run. The view was such that there shouldn't have been anyway to have a clear enough view to have irreputable evidence for the changed call.

Garret Rukes relieved Love and retired the next batter, but gave up a run in the fifth on a successful squeeze bunt play pulled off by the Tigers. Bama squandered another chance in the fourth when Joe Breaux and Robinson singled with one out, but were stranded after a fly out and ground out.

Casey Cobb relieved Rukes and pitched the final 3.2 innings, allowing only two hits with two strikeouts and no walks. The Tide got three hits in the bottom of the seventh, but could only score one run, on a Tyler Gentry RBI single. Brett Auerbach and Robinson singled in the eighth, but a double play and a fly out kept the Tide from cutting into the lead. Bama went down in order in the ninth, and ended up on the short end of a 5-2 score.

This game turned on three plays, basically. The overturned home run gifted the Tigers three runs, and the successful squeeze play by LSU, as well as the failed attempt by the Tide was a two run swing.

Bama had 10 hits, walked three times. struck out 12 times, stranded 10 runners on base, and committed two errors. LSU had nine hits, walked five times, struck out seven times, played clean defense, and stranded nine runners on base. Holcombe, Breaux, and Robinson had two hits each for the Tide.

Game Three: Lost 5-4

Bama closer Jeremy Randolph got his second start of the season on Sunday, after not being needed in Friday or Saturdays game. The game three starter has been a problem for the Tide all season, particularly in SEC play.

LSU used a one out single, a stolen base, and a Josh Smith double to score in the top of the first. Bama scored in the first also, but let a golden chance to take the lead go to waste. Brett Auerbach led off with a single, followed by a T.J. Reeves single. Morgan McCullough followed with a walk to load the bases with no outs. After two straight strikeouts it looked as if the Tide, once again, would not be able to score. Drew Williamson drew a walk to drive in the tying run.

The Tide let another opportunity go to waste in the second with runners on first and third with only one out. However Reeves hit the ball sharply, but right at shortstop Smith, who turned a 6-4-3 double play to stifle the rally.

Tiger catcher Saul Garza, who entered the weekend hitting .188, hit a massive home run off of Randolph to lead off the top of the third. Zach Watson followed with a single and a stolen base. A line drive out and a fly out followed, with Watson advancing to third. With two outs and the runner on third coach Brad Bohannon elected to intentionally walk Smith. Smith promptly stole second base, putting two runners in scoring position. Gavin Dugas lined a single to score both runners, and a 4-1 lead.

Davis Vainer followed Randolph to the mound, pitching the fourth inning. Daniel Cabrera led off the inning with a home run into the right field plaza for a 5-1 deficit. Brock Guffey and Deacon Medders split the last five innings, and combined to allow only one hit, one walk, and five strikeouts, giving the Tide offense a chance to get back in the game.

Auerbach singled with one out in the bottom of the fifth and eventually scored on a McCullough single. Auerbach’s at bat was one of the best of the year by the Tide, drilling his hit on the 13th pitch of the sequence. The junior from Mission Viejo, CA fouled off seven pitches with a 3-2 count before lining his hit to center.

Bama lost out on another chance to cut into the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Keith Holcombe led off and was hit by a pitch. Drew Williamson then singled. Kobe Morris layed down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runners up 90 feet. A pop up to the catcher and a fly out to left field left the runners at second and third as the inning closed.

Tyler Gentry stroked an opposite field home run to start the eighth inning for the Tide. The long ball was Gentry’s second of the weekend and 10th of the season. Bama entered the bottom of the ninth down 5-3, and had five runners actually reach base during the inning. Joe Breaux led off the inning off of Tiger closer Devin Fontenot by being hit by a pitch on the elbow. Kolby Robinson hit a ground ball to third, and Breaux was forced out at second base. Auerbach got yet another hit, followed by a Reeves walk. With the bases loaded and one out, McCullough hit a ball that looked like it would sneak through the hole for a game tying hit. Tiger second baseman Hal Hughes, who had just entered the game for defensive purposes, made the play for an out at first base, as one run scored. Facing a 5-4 deficit with runners on second and third, Gentry came to the plate with a chance for a possible game winning hit. Gentry was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Holcombe. Fontenot regained his composure and struck out the Tide DH to end the game.

The Tide had eight hits, drew three walks, had three hit batters, struck out four times, and stranded 10 runners on base. Bama is averaging right at 10 runners left on base per game this season. The Tigers had seven hits, drew three walks, struck out seven times, and stranded five runners. Auerbach continued his torrid week at the plate, going 3-5 with two runs scored. McCullough was 1-4 with two runs driven in.

Analysis

The Tigers were yet another team in the Western Division of the SEC that is a top 15 team. Spoiler-they all are except for Alabama. Despite that, this was a series that the Tide could have just as easily won, even swept. Bama out hit the Bengals, and actually out pitched them as well. LSU did what good teams do, and did all the little things that you have to do to be successful. When a bunt was called for, the Tigers got it down. Need a stolen base ? They have that covered as well. Need a big strikeout, or defensive play made ? No problem. The little, often overlooked fundamental things, won this series for the Tigers. Well, that and a favorable call on a foul ball/home run. At 5-16 in the league the Tide will probably need to win at least one game in each of their last three series, at Auburn, Texas A&M at home, and Georgia on the road, to make the SEC Tournament the first time in three years.

Who Did What ?

  • Brett Auerbach 8-13, two doubles, three runs, RBI- 10-15 for the week
  • Joe Breaux 4-11, two HBP, BB, Stolen Base
  • Tyler Gentry 3-11, two home runs. three RBI, three runs, SB, BB. HBP
  • Sam Finnerty W (6-5) 6 IP 5 H 1 BB 6 K 0 R
  • Brock Guffey 4.1 IP 3 H 5 K 0 BB 1 R
  • Casey Cobb 3.2 IP 2 H 0 BB 2 K
  • Deacon Medders 2 IP 0 H 1 BB 3 K 0 R

What’s Next ?

No midweek game because of finals. The weekend will feature a trip to the plains to take on Auburn. Game one is Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday’s game two is set for 7 p.m. on the SEC Network, and Sunday’s game three is also on the SEC Network and is a 3 p.m. first pitch.

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Roll Tide

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