The Crimson Tide baseball team fell just short of setting the school record for victories to begin a season, losing 3-2 on Saturday in the team’s 15th game of the season. Victories on Friday and Sunday gave Bama the series win, and pushed the record to 15-1. After two tight games, a 2-1 win in 13 innings on Friday, and a controversial 3-2 loss on Saturday, the Tide bounced back with a big 14-2 clinching victory on Sunday.
Game One: Won 2-1, 13 innings
The first night game of the season for Bama turned into a pitching duel between the Tide’s sensational freshman, Conner Prielipp and Scott Eglin, a Hoover native, for Lipscomb. Prielipp added to his burgeoning legacy with six more scoreless innings over 75 pitches. The Wisconsin native allowed two weak hits, no walks, and struck out 11 batters, leaving the game with a 1-0 lead. Eglin matched Prielipp with six innings, allowing five hits, one walk, 10 strikeouts, and one unearned run.
The Tide took the lead in the third when Sam Praytor singled in Brett Auerbach, who had singled to lead off the inning. Prielipp was making quick work of the Bisons, allowing just three baserunners, one by hit by pitch, and two weak singles. The hard throwing lefty struck out at least two batters in four of his six innings pitched.
Tyler Ras came on for the Tide to pitch the seventh, but after a walk and an error put runners at second and third, coach Brad Bohannon called on his closer, “The Viper” Chase Lee. The first batter Lee faced sent a bunt between the mound and first base, which Lee fielded and made a wild throw home, allowing the run to score, and leaving runners on first and third. Lee calmly struck out the next three batters. Lee continued to baffle the Bisons through the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and into the 12th inning as the game remained scoreless. After a lead off walk, and a fielders choice force out, junior Brock Guffey got the call. Lee had gone a career high 5.1 innings, allowing no hits, with two walks and a career high eight strikeouts. The runner on base was his responsibility, but Guffey worked around walking the first batter he faced to get a strike out and a ground out to end the threat.
The Tide squandered chances to end the game in the 10th and 11th, stranding five runners on base in the two frames. Guffey worked around two base runners in the 12th and an infield single in the 13th to hold the Bisons at bay, striking out five batters of the seven outs he recorded. Bama won the game in the bottom of the 13th in an unconventional way. Jackson Tate led off the inning with a single, and moved to second on a walk to Jim Jarvis. Jarvis was attempting to sacrifice bunt, but Gavin Grubbs couldn't get a pitch close to the plate. Auerbach was called on to sacrifice next, and did such a good job he beat the bunt out for a hit, loading the bases with no outs. With Owen Diodati at the plate relief pitcher JT Caver uncorked a pitch in the dirt that catcher Chaz Bertolani couldn't handle, and Tate slid head first across the plate with then winning run.
The Tide hit 11-48 in the game, walked six times, struck out a season high 17 times, and stranded a season high 17 runners. The Bisons were just 3-43 on the night, walked just four times, struck out 24 times, and left eight runners on base. Uncharacteristically the Tide committed two errors in the game.
Auerbach was the offensive start, going 4-7 with a stolen base and a run scored. Praytor, Drew Williamson, and TJ Reeves all finished 2-6 on the day. Prielipp, Lee, and Guffey were fantastic on the mound, combining to allow three hits and struck out 24 batters. Guffey moved to 3-0 with the victory.
Game Two: Lost 3-2
This was the game to break the Tide’s season opening winning streak, but they didn't go down without a fight, figuratively, and almost literally. The Bisons used runs in the first, fourth, and fifth off Conner Shamblin to hold on for the win, with a little help from outside sources. Lets just say that the home plate umpire’s strike zone didn’t quite coincide with the one in the rule book, leading to ejections of Alabama left fielder TJ Reeves and head coach Brad Bohannon. When the crowd figured out who the umpire was, a quick Google search led to the realization that he shouldn't have been allowed anywhere near a baseball field, or many other places. To top it off, he was incredibly bad at his job and arrogant, making the game more about him than the teams trying to play ball. Enough about that, the Tide still needed more than the three hits and two runs that they were able to score.
A lead off walk (always!) led to the Bisons taking a 1-0 lead in the first. A single by former Bama player John Shields plated the run. The Tide tied things up in the third when Tyler Gentry doubled to right, scoring Jim Jarvis. Lipscomb used a single, double, and sacrifice fly in the 4th to go back ahead, and a walk, a wild pitch, and a single in the fifth to plate an insurance run. Bama cut into the margin in the sixth scoring a run after four walks, with Jarvis having the run driven in.
William Freeman replaced Shamblin in the sixth and kept the Tide in the game with four scoreless innings, allowing only two hits and striking out a career high seven batters. The Lipscomb bullpen shut down the Tide with out a lot of trouble over the last 3.2 innings to earn the 3-2 win. Auerbach, Gentry , and Kolby Robinson had one hit apiece for Bama. The Tide was 3-29 with eight walks, seven strikeouts, and 10 runners left on base. The Bisons were 8-34 with four walks, 13 strikeouts, and nine runners left on. Shamblin fell to 1-1 with the loss.
Game Three: Won 14-2
With the series tied at one win apiece, Sunday’s rubber match was played at 11 a.m.- to accommodate the SEC Network. After two hard fought, close games, the Tide was set up much better pitching wise than the Bisons. Lipscomb ran through most of their arms in trying to win Friday, and the victory Saturday, while Bama had plenty of fresh arms available.
Freshman Antoine Jean got the nod to start, and had his best outing of his young career. Bama scored three times in the second after a Drew Williamson single, two walks, and a base clearing double off the bat of Brett Auerbach. Jean was touched for one run in the fourth on a single and RBI double, but the Tide plated eight runs in the fourth to blow the game wide open. The eight runs came on only three hits, as the Bisons contributed five walks and a hit batter to the mix. Freshman Peyton Wilson notched a rarity in the inning, lacing a single from the left side of the plate, and a two run double from the right side.
Jean was followed by Dylan Smith, Dylan Oliver, Ryan O’Connell, and Casey Cobb, all throwing one inning each, with the Oliver the only one to give up a run. Bama added one run in the fifth when Auerbach scored after a double, and put two more on the board in the seventh on freshman Owen Diodati’s fifth home run of the season. The long ball tied the Canadian native with Praytor for the team lead with five home runs.
The Tide scored their 14 runs by going 10-32 from the plate with nine walks, six strikeouts, four hit batters and eight runners left on base. Lipscomb was 8-34, drew only one walk, struck out eight times, and left six on base. Auerbach was once again the big gun with a 3-5 day with four runs driven in, two doubles, and two runs scored. Wilson was the only other player with multi hits, finishing 2-5 with two runs drive in and a double. Kolby Robinson walked three times and scored three runs, while Diodati had three runs driven in. Jean improved to 3-0 with the victory.
Stars of the Weekend
- Brett Auerbach 8-17, four RBI, three runs, double, stolen base
- Drew Williamson 3-10, double, three walks, three runs
- Tyler Gentry 2-8, RBI, four walks- three intentional- three hit by pitch
- Connor Prielipp 6 IP 2 H 0 BB 11 K
- Chase Lee 5.1 IP 0 H 2 BB 8 K
- Brock Guffey W 1.2 IP 1 H 1 BB 5 K
- William Freeman 4 IP 2 H 0 BB 7 K
- Antoine Jean W 5 IP 4 H 0 BB 6 K
The Tide just missed recording the best start in school history, which was 15-0 by the 1997 team who were the College World Series runner-ups.
The pitching was outstanding as the staff combined for 45 strikeouts against only eight walks over the three games. Other than Auerbach the offense didn't perform up to expectations. The Bisons kept taking the bat out of the hands of the Tide’s leading hitter, Tyler Gentry, walking him four times, three times intentionally, and hitting him with pitches on three different occasions. Coach Brad Bohannon would gladly have taken a 15-1 start if offered to him prior to the season. With SEC play approaching, the hitters need to get their edge back as the opposing pitchers will be tougher and tougher.
The team plays next on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at Regions Field in Birmingham, as the Birmingham U Blazers (7-8) welcome the Tide to town. SEC play begins at home on Friday with Missouri (9-5) in town for a three game set.
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