The Alabama baseball team traveled to the plains to take on instate rival Auburn this weekend in a three game series. The Tide had won the last three series in Auburn leading up to this year, including winning eight straight games. With Tiger ace, Tanner Burns, out with a shoulder injury, the Tide looked to extend that streak. Bama Friday night pitcher Sam Finnerty was coming off six scoreless innings last week in beating LSU. Those plans were waylaid quickly when Finnerty had to leave the game after just one inning, and the Tide lost the opener 5-1. Game two was a thrilling 7-6 victory for Bama, setting up the rubber game of the series on Sunday. A close, hard fought game got out of hand late and the Tide was spanked to the tune of 17-7. Alabama equalled their victory total from last season, and is now 27-21 overall and 6-18 in the SEC. The Tigers are 29-18, 12-12 in league.
Game One- Lost 5-1
Sam Finnerty got his normal Friday night start for the Tide, and was coming off a victory over LSU where he pitched six scoreless innings last week. The Tigers All American, Tanner Burns, wasn’t available with a sore shoulder, setting up a good match up for the Tide. Unfortunately Finnerty tweaked something in the first inning, and never looked comfortable. The Tigers used three hits, a walk, and a sacrifice fly, to score two runs in the first. Finnerty was pulled after the first, which threw the weekend bullpen plans into disarray.
Casey Cobb replaced Finnerty in the second, much earlier than expected. Finnerty averages over six innings per outing, an important thing on Friday nights. The Tide cut the lead in half in the fourth, scoring Tyler Gentry on an RBI single by Kolby Robinson. Gentry had singled and stolen second base. Drew Williamson doubled off the center field wall in the inning as well. Cobb ran into trouble in the fourth after a hit batter and a walk put two on base. Davis Vainer replaced him and gave up a double (which just as easily could have been called an error), to score both runs. Vainer and Tyler Ras went the final 3.2 innings with Ras giving up a two out run in the eighth for the final margin, 5-1.
Once again the Tide had trouble bringing home runners that were in scoring position. Bases loaded in the second with out pushing a run across was especially costly. The Tide finished with seven hits, three walks, one hit batter, five strikeouts, and seven runners left on base. The Tigers had 10 hits, five walks, one hit batter, struck out nine times, and stranded 11 runners on base. Gentry was the only Tide player with a multi hit game, at 2-4 with a run scored. Robinson drove the only run in for Bama. Finnerty fell to 6-6 with the loss, while Auburn’s Jake Owen improved to 4-0 on the year.
Game Two- Won 7-6
After a ninety minute rain delay Brock Love took the Saturday start for the Tide and pitched a very impressive 5.1 innings to put Bama in position to win the game. The Tide got on the board first when Drew Williamson drew a bases loaded walk to score Brett Auerbach, who led off the game with a single. Bama added to the lead in the second. Tyler Ras drew the start at DH and doubled to lead off the frame. Auerbach later drove him home with a fielders choice ground ball.
Auburn used a double and two bunts, and a throwing error to cut the lead in half in the third. Entering the fourth inning the Tide had already stranded seven base runners, five in scoring position. In the fifth Morgan McCullough and Tyler Gentry both singled to start the inning. Williamson doubled to score one, and Joe Breaux drove in another with a ground out. The Tide added another run in the top of the sixth after Auerbach singled, stole second, and scored on a McCullough single.
Love gave up a lead off single in the sixth to Ryan Bliss, who later scored after a bizarre play. With the Tide in shift formation, with third baseman Kobe Morris the only player on the left side, Bliss stole second. Morris had to cover second and Bliss slide in, barely beating the throw. When Morris tossed the ball back to Love, with no one covering third, Bliss took off, just beating a hustling Love to the bag. After two lengthy reviews Bliss was called safe, and awarded two stolen bases on one play. Conor Davis then singled to score him, cutting the lead to 5-2.
At this point the Tide was simply dominating the game, but had wasted several opportunities to bury the Tigers. Chase Lee and Brock Guffey relieved Love and bridged the gap to Tide closer Jeremy Randolph. Randolph had been a perfect 7-7 in save situations when he entered in the eighth. However the Tigers took advantage of some uncharacteristic wildness by the grad transfer. Two walks, a hit batter, a single, and a double, gave Auburn a 6-5 lead entering the ninth inning.
The Tigers went to their closer, Cody Greenhill, to slam the door on the Tide. McCullough singled to start the inning, his third hit of the night. Gentry hit what should have been a double play ball, but the Tiger first baseman dropped the ball on the relay throw. With two outs Joe Breaux rifled a single to score Gentry and tie the game. After Kolby Robinson walked, Ras lined a single to the opposite field to score Breaux with the go ahead run. Deacon Medders was brought in and got three ground ball outs in the ninth to earn his first save of the year.
The Tide had 11 hits, drew six walks, had one hit batter, struck out eight times. and stranded 11 runners on base. The Tigers had 10 hits, drew four walks, had one hit batter, struck out nine times and stranded eight on base.
McCullough and Ras both had three hits in the game, and the red hot Auerbach added two. Williamson and Breaux both drove in two runs. Randolph was the winning pitcher, and Greenhill took the loss. The win by Bama set up the rubber game to be played Sunday at 3 p.m.
Game Three- Lost 17-7
A close, hard fought game, got out of hand late, and the Tigers ran away with a 17-7 victory by scoring one run in the sixty, four in the seventh, and nine in the eighth. Garret Rukes got the start on a day when the Tide planned on using multiple pitchers.
The Tide got on the board in the first inning when T.J.Reeves blasted a ball over the center field fence for his eighth home run of the season. With one on and one out in the second, Rukes was pulled in favor of Chase Lee. The Tigers used three hits, a walk, and a sacrifice bunt to score three times to take the lead. Morgan McCullough and Drew Williamson both had RBI singles in the third to tie the game at 3-3.
Brock Guffey replaced Lee with two outs in the fourth and kept the Tigers off the board until the sixth inning when the scored the go ahead run on a single by Brody Moore. Auburn scored four times in the seventh on four hits and a walk to take a comfortable 8-3 lead. The Tide battled back in the eighth, scoring three times, and having the tying run at the plate. Brett Auerbach had a two out, two run single, and Williamson scored on a wild pitch in the inning.
Any thought of a comeback went out the window when the Tigers abused three Tide pitchers for eight hits, including two long home runs, and nine runs. AU used a Baltimore chopper that was lost in the sun, an infield single, and a bunt single to jump start the inning, with three balls that were not hard hit at all, but well placed. With a 17-6 deficit in the ninth McCullough led off with a long blast over the right field wall, his fourth hit of the game. Tyler Gentry followed with a double, but alas, the 11 run comeback was not to be, and the Tide fell by a count of 17-7.
The Tide had 14 hits, walked three times. struck out seven times, and stranded 10 runners on base. The Tigers had 19 hits, drew three walks, struck out only once, and stranded only five runners. McCullough had four hits, Auerbach three, and Gentry and Ras two apiece. Guffey was the loser and Bailey Horn earned the victory.
The Tide had won the last three series in Auburn prior to this weekend, including eight in a row prior to Friday. Bama hit much better , 32-106 (.301) this weekend, but could not overcome the loss of Finnerty so early on Friday night. Finnerty not pitching deep into the game as his norm put stress on the bullpen that couldn't be recovered from. When things spiraled out of control on Sunday it was like a snow ball rolling down a hill. A game that was a toss up quickly became a runaway. However, the recovery process for the program is a slow one that needs to be kept in perspective, The roster coach Brad Bohannon inherited had many holes, that can't be filled in one recruiting year. You may have to look closely if you aren't around the program day by day, ( yes, 50, I mean you).
With 27 victories the Tide has already reached last years total. With eight games remaining, and a very real possibility of making the SEC Tournament, the total should be added to. After a 19-34-1 record with an RPI of 175 in 2017, the team improved to 27-29 with a 62 RPI in 2018. In 2019 the record stands at 27-21 with a RPI of 51. With the other six members of the SEC West ranked in the top 18, you have to be one of the top 17 teams in the country to get out of the basement. That will not happen overnight. Use Georgia as a guide, coach Scott Stricklin is in his sixth season in Athens, and had a losing record the first four seasons. This year the Dogs have been ranked as high as number three in the country. That kind of patience is needed in Tuscaloosa. although it looks that Bohannon will have a winning recored in just his second season. The players that have signed for next year will add more talent and depth to the roster, although two or more of them will probably never make it on campus because the will sign professional contracts.
Who Did What ?
Morgan McCullough- 8-13, two runs, three RBI, Home Run, two stolen bases
Brett Auerbach 6-13, three runs, three RBI, stolen base. Raised his average over 50 points in the last 12 games, (21-52, .403).
Tyler Gentry 5-12, three runs, double, BB, HBP, stolen base
Tyler Ras 5-10 , double, two runs, game winning RBI, stolen base
Whats Next ?
A road trip to Troy to try and avenge the teams only mid week loss of the year. The game will be on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The weekend will bring the 15th ranked Texas A&M Aggies to Tuscaloosa for three games, scheduled for 6 p.m., 2 p.m., and 2 p.m. Friday and Sunday will be on the SEC Network Plus, while Saturday’s game will be on the SEC Network.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch it
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