In a close, hard fought series that could have gone either way, the Crimson Tide baseball team lost a series to Texas A&M this weekend in Tuscaloosa. All three games could have gone either way, with Bama losing 3-2 on Friday, winning 2-1 on Saturday, and losing 6-5 in Sunday’s rubber match. The Tide is now 29-23 on the year, 7-20 in the SEC. The Aggies improved to 34-18-1, 14-12-1 in the conference. With Saturday’s win, Bama bested last years win total of 28.
Game One: Lost 3-2
With regular Friday night starter Sam Finnerty unavailable after an injury last week in the Auburn series, coach Brad Bohannon went to a “bullpen” approach to the opening game. Junior Wil Freeman got the start, opposite Aggie star John Doxakis.
The Tide got on the board first by scoring a run in the bottom of the first, but wasted an opportunity by stranding the bases loaded. T.J. Reeves reached on an error and eventually scored on a Drew Williamson single. TAM bounced back in the top of the second off of Freeman. A lead off walk, followed by two one out singles plated the first run. With two runners on, Davis Vainer relieved Freeman. A sacrifice fly pushed the second run across.
Bama tied things up in the third when Reeves reached on a fielders choice, advanced on singles by Morgan McCullough and Tyler Gentry, then scampered home on a wild pitch. The Tide had loaded the bases with no outs, but could only score the one run. The Aggies were the recipients of some good fortune in the top of the fourth. The lead off batter hit a dribbler that Vainer pounced on, but threw high to first for an error. Braden Shewmake hit what looked to be a sure double play ball toward McCullough at second base. However the second base umpire screened McCullough and did not get out of way in time, causing the second sacker to not be able to see the ball, and boot it, putting runners on second and third. A sacrifice fly from Bryce Blaum scored the run, while proved to be the last tallied in the game.
Vainer, Brock Guffey, Chase Lee, and Deacon Medders pitched the final 7.2 innings, allowing only two hits with four walks, eight strikeouts, and the loan (unearned) run. Bama had a chance to tie the game in the ninth after Joe Breaux led off with a single, and advanced to second on a Kolby Robinson sacrifice bunt. A strikeout and pop up stranded the tying run at second, and the Tide lost 3-2.
Alabama had six hits, four walks, 11 strikeouts, and stranded eight runners. The Aggies had five hits, walked six times, had two hit batters, struck out eight times, and stranded 11 runners. McCullough had three of the teams six hits on the night. Reeves scored both runs. The pitching strategy employed by the Bama staff worked as well as could be expected, but the offense was unable to give them enough help to snatch the victory.
Game Two: Won 2-1
On senior day at The Joe on Saturday, two young freshman, and a redshirt junior stole the show. Fourth year junior Brock Love took his normal Saturday turn in the rotation, and turned in a career high seven innings, while throwing another career high, of 106 pitches.
Freshman T.J. Reeves gave the Tide an early lead in the bottom of the first by hammering his ninth home run of the season over the scoreboard in left field. Love looked to make that lead hold up, mowing down the Aggie hitters inning after inning.
In the fourth, DH Tyler Ras, one of four freshman in the starting lineup, yanked a no doubt home run over the left field fence for a 2-0 lead. Love marched along and began the seventh inning with a 2-0 lead. Cam Blake hit a leadoff triple, and then scored on a ground ball to shortstop. Love then got a strikeout for out two before allowing a single. Catcher Brett Auerbach gunned down the baserunner trying to steal to end the inning.
Aggie starter, Asa Lacy, walked Reeves with one out in the fifth, and strongly disagreed with home plate umpire Ryan Broussard. Lacy had been chirping at the umpiring crew all game about their ball-strike calls, and went to far this time. Broussard sent the sophomore lefty to the showers, trailing 2-1. Chandler Jozwiak replaced Lacy, and picked two Tide runners off of first base to end the inning.
Casey Cobb came on for Love to begin the eighth and had a perfect inning. The Tide had a chance for an insurance run in the eighth, but Tyler Gentry was thrown out at the plate when trying to score on a passed ball.
Cobb got the first hitter in the ninth, before giving up a single. A fielders choice for out two brought closer Jeremy Randolph in to secure the victory. Randolph threw two pitches, both for strikes, and on the second one Cam Blake attempted to steal second base. Brett Auerbach gunned him out on a perfect throw to Morgan McCullough at second base. The Aggies challenged the play, and after a five minute review, the call was upheld, and the Tide had the 2-1 victory.
The Tide had six hits, walked six times, struck out 11 times, and stranded eight runners on base. The Aggies had seven hits, walked once, struck out three times, and stranded four runners. Tyler Gentry had two hits, including a double, while Reeves and Ras drove in and scored one run apiece with their solo home runs. Love improved to 5-4 on the season and Randolph earned his ninth save of the year.
Game Three: Lost 6-5
Game three was like a three act play: a bad opening for the Tide, a great second act, and a disappointing finale. Bama outplayed the Aggies through out most of the game, but ended up on the wrong end of the 6-5 score.
Regular Friday night starter Sam Finnerty was pushed back to Sunday after suffering a first inning injury in his start against Auburn last week. Finnerty has been the work horse of the staff this year, and the Tide felt good about their chances for the series victory with him on the hill on Sunday.
The first pitch of the game was lifted to deep left field by Braden Shewmake where T. J. Reeves seemed to have it in his sights. Reeves got turned around and was unable to make the play, resulting in a three base error. A single scored Shewmake, followed by a hit batter and a sacrifice bunt. A two run single, and a two run home run to right put the Tide in an early 5-0 hole after the top of the first inning.
Aggie starter Christian Roa, struck out the first two batters in the bottom of the first before running into trouble. Morgan McCullough blasted a triple to deep center field. Tyler Gentry laced a single to score McCullough, followed by a double from Drew Williamson. As has been the case all season, the runners were stranded at second and third after the third strikeout of the inning.
Finnerty settled down and retired 14 of the next 16 batters to get through five innings. Meanwhile the Tide was trying to scratch their way back into the game. Bama added one run in the fourth, despite four players reaching base in the inning, on an RBI single by Kolby Robinson. Tyler Gentry singled in Reeves, who had singled and stolen second base, in the fifth to shrink the margin to 5-3. McCullough led off the seventh with a single, and came all the way around on a Williamson single, and an error by the A&M centerfielder. With the Aggie infield drawn in Tyler Ras hit what looked like a game tying single up the middle, but Shewmake dove, made the stop, held the runner at third, and threw out Ras at first. A ground out to the mound ended the threat with the score now 5-4.
Texas A&M got a much needed insurance run in the eighth after a walk, a ground out to advance the runner, and a bloop single to right where the runner just beat the throw to the plate, giving TAM a 6-4 lead. Deacon Medders stranded two Aggie runners in the ninth, setting up a possible dramatic bottom of the ninth for the Tide.
Reeves led off the Bama ninth with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After a fly out to deep center field by McCullough, Gentry very nearly tied the game. His double, high off the center field wall, scored Reeves, cutting the lead to 6-5. Williamson drew a walk, putting the winning run on base. With Ras at the plate with a 1-2 count the bottom fell out, facilitating a 45 minute rain delay, hence act three.
After the rain stopped the Tide players, coaches, and grounds crew worked diligently to get the field in playing shape, while the Aggies were able to hang out in their dugout and watch. No less than 100 bags of field dry where hauled out and spread on the field by the Bama team.
Aggie closer Kasey Kalich remained in the game after the delay, and needed just one pitch to dispatch of Ras with a strikeout, and five more to strike out Breaux and end the game with the tying and winning runs on base. The Tide had 13 hits, walked four times, struck out 11 times, and stranded 11 runners. TAM had eight hits, walked three times, struck out five times, and stranded seven runners on base. Finnerty suffered the loss, following to 6-7 on the year. Gentry had three hits, including a double, and drove in three runs. Williamson had three hits with a double as well. Reeves, McCullough, and Robinson added two hits each.
Overview and outlook
The Tide outplayed the Aggies across the three game series, but couldn't come up with the big plays when the needed to. As has been the problem all year, situational hitting cost the team runs. Often just needing almost any type of contact, the team was unable to advance or score runners. In 52 games the team has left 474 runners on base. On the bright side of things, the Tide has improved their win total by one with at least four games left to play.
If the season ended today the team would be in the SEC Tournament as the 12th seed. Currently the Tide has an RPI of 38 and a strength of schedule of 22. Alabama, South Carolina, and Kentucky, are all 7-20 in conference play right now. However with a road trip to Georgia next week, things could change. Kentucky host Vanderbilt, and South Carolina goes to Mississippi State. It appears Bama will need to win at least one, with Kentucky getting swept by Vanderbilt, and South Carolina winning no more than one game in Starkville.
Who Did What?
- The Tide hit .252 over the weekend, 25-99, while the Aggies hit only .206, 20-97.
- Morgan McCullough 6-12, triple, BB, two runs
- Tyler Gentry 6-11, two doubles, three RBI, two BB, Run
- Drew Williamson 4-11, double, BB, RBI
The final home game, Tuesday night vs Samford, and a road trip to UGA to end the regular season, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, games are all at 6 p.m. and Saturday is a 1 p.m. first pitch. The Friday night game will be on the SEC Network, and the other three can be seen on the SEC Network Plus.
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