The Alabama Crimson Tide entered their three game series with Georgia in a three way tie for the 12th and final spot in the SEC Tournament with Kentucky and South Carolina. The Tide held the tie breaker over USCe by virtue of beating them in two out of three games earlier in the year. Alabama and Kentucky didn't play this season, but the Cats held most of the tie breakers over the Tide. UK played regular season champion Vanderbilt, while the Gamecocks squared off with Mississippi State. With all three teams that were scrambling for the final spot playing top five teams, it basically was going to be a war of attrition. If any team could grab one win, they would likely grab the spot. Bama finished 30-26, 7-23, while the Bulldogs improved to 42-14, 21-9.
The fifth ranked Georgia team, with one of the top pitching staffs in the country, disposed of the Tide in all three games, by scores of 9-4, 12-2, and 9-1, snuffing out any chance Bama had of making the SEC tournament for the first time in four years. Mitch Gaspard’s last Tide team, 2016, was the last one to make the field of 12 in Hoover. South Carolina won game three against State, while Bama and Kentucky both got swept, putting the Gamecocks in to Hoover.
Game One: Lost 9-4
Freshman Tyler Ras was the first of seven Tide pitchers in the game, and absorbed the loss, going 2.2 innings, allowing five hits, and four earned runs. The Tide got on the board first, by scoring in the top of the second on a Brett Auerbach sacrifice fly. Justin King scored after singling and advancing on a single by Kolby Robinson and a sacrifice bunt from Kobe Morris.
Bulldog shortstop Cam Shepherd tied things up in the bottom half with a solo home run. UGA used two singles, a walk, a hit batter, an error, and a sacrifice fly to plate three runs in the third for a 4-1 lead. Morris closed the gap in the fifth with a solo home run, his first in a Bama uniform. The Tide cut into the lead further in the sixth, and had a chance to tie or take the lead. Morgan McCullough singled and scored on a single by Joe Breaux, making the score 4-3. Bama stranded two runners on base to end the inning.
The Dogs got a two run, pinch hit double, from Connor Tate in the bottom of the sixth to double the Tide up, 6-3. Tyler Gentry blasted a home run in the eighth to keep the Tide within striking distance, but as good teams do, the Bulldogs answered in a big way, putting the game away with three runs in the bottom of the eighth. The Tide went down in order in the ninth, losing by the final of 9-4.
Alabama had six hits, walked three times, struck out 10 times, and stranded five runners on base. The Dogs had 15 hits, walked four times, struck out five times, and stranded 11 runners on base. No Tide player had more than one hit, with Gentry’s and Morris’s home runs being the big blows.
Game Two: Lost 12-2
Brock Love faced off with Tony Locey in Friday’s game two. Love allowed six hits and four earned runs in 3.2 innings in getting tagged for the loss. The Dogs scored two runs in six different innings, the second, third, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth, while collecting 17 hits.
The Dogs used two singles and a double to jump out ahead 2-0 after two innings. The Tide cut the lead in half when Tyler Gentry hit his second home run of the weekend, and 13th of the year, in the third. That was as close as the Tide would get, as UGA used a Riley King two run shot in the bottom half to extend the lead.
Aaron Schunk added two run home runs in both the seventh and eighth inning to extend the lead to blow out status. The Tide could cross the plate only one more time during the game. In the eighth inning Drew Williamson walked, advanced to third on a T.J. Reeves double, and scored on a wild pitch. Bama used four pitchers with none pitching over 3.2 innings, or giving up less than two runs.
Bama finished with six hits, walked six times, struck out eight times, and left nine runners on base. The Bulldogs raked for 17 hits, walked five times, struck out 10 times, and stranded 13 runners on base. The six Tide hits were spread among six hitters, and Gentry’s home run was the big blow. Love fell to 5-5 on the season, while Locey improved to 10-1.
Game Three: Lost 9-1
Senior right hander Sam Finnerty took the mound for the last time in a Tide uniform for Saturday’s game three. Finnerty has been Bama’s game one starter for the past two seasons, but after an injury in the Auburn game he has been pushed back to the third game the past two weeks. Georgia sent their ace, Emerson Hancock, to the mound to face the Tide. Hancock is a sophomore who could very possibly be the number one pick in the draft next season when he is eligible. He entered Saturday’s game with an ERA of 1.31 and a WHIP of .73, both incredible numbers in any era.
Lead off man Brett Auerbach lined a single to right to start the first for the Tide off of Emerson. Tyler Gentry beat out a slow roller for a one out infield single, but Auerbach couldn't advance. Drew Williamson hit a sharp ground ball to first, with Auerbach and Gentry moving up 90 feet each. T.J. Reeves grounded a ball up the middle that short stop Cam Shepherd dove and smothered, but couldn't make a play anywhere. Auerbach scored on the hit by Reeves. On the first pitch to Joe Breaux, Reeves broke for second to steal the bag, Dog catcher Mason Meadows threw to third to try and catch Gentry napping, and the ball got away. Gentry attempted to score and was thrown out at the plate. The Tide had the play reviewed, and after a long delay, the call was upheld.
The old baseball adage is that when you have a great pitcher on the ropes early, you better cash in, because you don't get many chances to score on them. Hancock lived up to his reputation, and completely shut the Tide down after the first. In seven innings he allowed six hits, two of the infield variety, didn't walk a better, and struck out 10.
Georgia got to Finnerty in the third, using a walk and three singles to score two runs, all they would need. Patrick Sullivan led off the bottom of the third with a home run, followed by a single and a walk. At that point, Bama coach Brad Bohannon made the decision to pull the senior, ending his Tide career. Pitching coach Jason Jackson always makes the mound visits and pitching changes, but Bohannon chose to take this one. Finnerty is special to Boahnnon and they shared a hug and a few tears as the senior leader left the mound. (GIF credit: Griffin Smith)
UGA scored one in the fifth, and added two in the seventh and eighth to pour more gasoline on the fire. The Tide got a double from Gentry and a single from Breaux in the ninth, but could not score, ending the game on the short end of a 9-1 score.
Bama had eight hits, walked one time, struck out 11 times, and stranded six runners. For the third time the Dogs had 15 hits, walked five times, struck out five times, and stranded 11 runners. UGA had at least 15 hits in each of the three games, and finished the weekend 37-117 on the weekend and scoring 30 runs. Auerbach, Gentry, and Breaux all had two hits for the Tide. Finnerty fell to 6-8 on the year while Hancock improved to 8-2.
Who Did What ?
- Tyler Gentry 4-10, two home runs, double, two RBI, two runs
- Joe Breaxu 4-11, BB, RBI
- The Tide was 20-95 for the weekend.
Recruit, Recruit, Recruit That is the bottom line.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch It
I will have a story next week about the season, and what the future looks like.