Even the most ardent Crimson Tide baseball fans were hoping for one win at most this weekend in a series at 2nd ranked Vanderbilt. With Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter expected to be the first and second, or second and first, picks in this summers MLB draft the Commodore pitching staff is loaded. Despite the Tide rocking Rocker for six earned runs in only five innings, and Leiter being held out of his start, Vandy still won both games, 9-6 and 6-2. Sunday’s game was moved from 1 p.m. to 11 a.m. to try to get it played despite there not being a chance by looking at the radar. One scoreless inning was played before a lengthy delay and then the cancellation. The big question is why wasn't there a push for a Saturday doubleheader with virtually no chance of the Sunday game making it to completion. The Tide fell to 28-17 overall and 11-12 in SEC play while the Commodores improved to 34-10 and 16-7 in league play.
Game One: Lost 9-6
Kumar Rocker has reached legendary status during his time in Nashville, especially after throwing a no hitter with 19 strikeouts as a freshman in Regional play against Duke. The son of former Auburn All American defensive lineman has had scouts salivating since. Rocker started off on fire, striking out four batters in the first inning, William Hamiter reached on a wild pitch on strike three, and three in the second for seven consecutive strikeouts. Tyler Ras allowed only a lead off walk in the first to Vanderbilt through two innings.
The Tide took the lead in the third inning. Jim Jarvis was the first Tide player to put the ball in play and did so in a big way, hitting a drive to dead center field that bounced over the 400 foot sign for a ground rule double. Caden Rose then beat out a bunt to put runners on first and third with no outs. Peyton Wilson lined a run scoring single, then stole second base. With one out Zane Denton slapped a two run double and the Tide led 3-0. Rocker bounced back to strike out the side, pushing his total to 10 in only three innings.
As great teams do, Vanderbilt answered the Tide’s three runs with four of their own in the bottom of the third. The sensational freshman, Enriquie Bradfield, singled in the first run and scored on a home run by Carter Young. Dominic Keegan then slapped a long home run of his own to give the Dores a 4-3 lead after three innings.
The Tide remained hot in the fourth inning, scoring three more runs. Drew Williamson walked and scored on a drive by TJ Reeves that hit the very top of the Little Green Monster in left field, and became an RBI double. Reeves advanced on a wild pitch, and scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Wilson. Hamiter singled in Jarvis for the third run of the frame, and 6-4 Bama lead.
Again the Commodores answered, scoring four times in the bottom of the fourth. A three run home run by Bradfield and a second solo shot by Young plated the runs and Vandy took an 8-6 lead into the fifth. Little did we know the Tide was finished scoring in the game. Rocker walked the bases loaded in the top of the fifth, but Bama couldn't capitalize. The Tide chased Rocker after only five innings pitched where he allowed six hits, five walks, six earned runs, and struck out 13.
William Freeman followed Ras for the Tide and threw 2.2 innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking out three. Freshman Jake Eddington finished the last 1.1 innings and didn't allow a run while allowing two hits, walking one, and striking out one. This was by far the highest leverage situation Eddington had been in for the Tide, and acquitted himself well.
Vanderbilt followed Rocker with Luke Murphy and Nick Maldonado and they combined for four scoreless innings, allowing a combined three hits with two walks and three more strikeouts. Rocker improved to 11-1 with the victory while Ras fell to 6-2. Maldonado secured his fourth save of the season.
The Tide finished 9-36, walked seven times, struck out 16 times, and left 11 on base. The Dores were 13-36, drew two walks, struck out six times, and left six runners on base. Denton had the only multi hit game for Bama with his 2-4 game with a walk, a double, and two driven in. Wilson drove in two and Jarvis scored twice. Bradfield was 4-4 with a walk for Vandy, driving in five runs, scoring two and stealing three bases. Bradfield increased his stolen base total to 37 on the season.
Game Two: Lost 6-2
With Jack Leiter not starting on the mound for Vanderbilt, coach Tim Corbin turned to true freshman Patrick Reilly for game two. The Tide countered with Dylan Smith in his regular rotation spot.
It was hard to tell if there was a drop-off as Reilly struck out the first five batters he faced. This time Vanderbilt took the early lead. Enrique Bradfield led off the bottom of the first with a single, stole second, went to third on a throwing error on the steal attempt, and scored on a ground out to first base. Carter Young walked and scored on a seeing eye, pop fly, double by catcher CJ Rodriguez. VU outfielder Troy LaNeve hit a solo home run in the second to raise their lead to 3-0 after two innings.
Davis Heller was thrust into a starting spot at first base for the Tide when Drew Williamson was unavailable with a wrist injury. Heller drew a two out walk in the fifth and scored on a double by Jim Jarvis, cutting the margin to 3-1. As they tend to do, Vanderbilt answered with two runs in the bottom half of the fifth on a two run home run by Young, his third in two games.
The Tide got a solo home run from Owen Diodati in the top of the seventh, and once again the Commodores answered in the bottom half on a two out run scoring double by Parker Noland. Reilly finished with seven inning pitched allowing only two hits with two walks, nine strikeouts, and two runs. Chris McElvain pitched the final two frame. Smith went six innings for the Tide, striking out seven and allowing five earned runs. Connor Shamblin allowed on run in his two inning stint.
Bama finished 3-30 with two walks, struck out 10 times, and left three on base. Vandy finished 10-31, walked four times, struck out seven times, and left six on base. Diodati, Jarvis, and Zane Denton had the only hits for the Tide. Reilly improved to 4-1 while Smith fell to 1-6 on the season.
Game Three: One inning played, rained out
The Tide got singles from William Hamiter and Zane Denton in the first but couldn't score. Landon Green started on the mound for the Tide and after a lead off walk got a ground ball double play and strikeout to end the inning, and the game after a long delay. The stats nor results of the game will count in any statistics.
Overall, Bama finished 12-66 for a .181 batting average, walked nine times, struck out 26 times, and left 14 on base. Vanderbilt hit 23-67 for a .343 mark, walked six times, struck out 13 times, and left 12 on base.
Who Did What? Only three players had more than one hit on the weekend.
*Zane Denton 3-8, two RBI, BB, double
*Owen Diodati 2-8, Home run (11), BB, run, RBI
*Jim Jarvis 2-6, two doubles, two runs, stolen base, RBI
The Tide travels to Baton Rouge to take on LSU next weekend. Friday’s game is at 7 p.m. , Saturday’s at 2 p.m. and Sunday’s at 2 p.m. Friday and Sunday will be on SEC Network Plus, and Saturday will be on the SEC Network. The last series of the year will be a home matchup with third ranked Mississippi State. With an 11-12 SEC record the Tide probably needs to reach 13 to 14 SEC wins prior to the SEC Tournament to have a chance to reach the NCAA field. The teams strength of schedule and RPI are both very good, which combined with three or four more wins, including the SEC Tournament, would bode well for the team. All American pitcher Connor Prieilpp continued to be out for the Tide, and has only pitched six innings all year. Antoine Jean has been out for six weeks as well, leaving the Tide without their Friday and Sunday starters for the majority of the season. Several other pitchers have missed multiple weeks this season, and Bama doesn't have the depth to overcome their absences, so to be were they are is a testament to the team and the coaching staff.
As of now the Tide is 8th overall in the SEC, ahead of Kentucky, Georgia, LSU, Texas A@M, Auburn, and Missouri, and hold the tied breaker over TAM, AU, and Mizzou, so they have clinched a spot in Hoover for the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2016. Baby steps folks.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch it