The ball was flying out at the Love Shack in Ruston, Louisiana on Sunday afternoon, but the one ball that the Alabama Crimson Tide needed to fly fell just short. The Tide lost a thrilling game to the Bulldogs 10-8, ending their run in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs advanced to face NC State on Sunday night. Alabama finished the season 32-26, while Tech improved to 42-19 with the victory.
La Tech was the designated visitor in Sunday's game and took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first after a one out double by Hunter Wells and an infield single by Steele Netterville. The Tide answered in the bottom half, taking a 2-1 lead on Sam Praytor’s 14th home run of the year, a laser shot that scored William Hamiter in front of him.
Tech’s Jorge Corona led off the top of the second with a single and scored on a long home run by Phillip Matulia off of Tide starter Jacob McNairy. Bama tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the second when Jackson Tate blasted a long drive over the left field wall. McNairy got into trouble in the top of the third by walking the first two batters and giving up a three run blast from Cole McConnell. Alabama once again answered in the bottom half when Praytor walked and scored in front of Zane Denton’s 10th home run of the year.
With the score at 6-5 La Tech added three more in the top of the fourth off of Landon Green. Green had replaced McNairy with no outs in the third. The Bulldogs used a two run home run for Netterville and a run scoring single from Matulia to to make the score 9-5 heading to the bottom of the fourth. For the first time the Tide didn't answer the La Tech score in the frame.
Coach Brad Bohannon called on closer Chase Lee in the fifth to try and stem the wave of Bulldog runs, and the senior did just that. Lee kept the Dog’s scoreless in the fifth and sixth to give the Tide a chance to catch up. The Tide had a great opportunity in the sixth but could only add one run. Denton led off with a walk and advanced on a single by Owen Diodati. Tate grounded into a fielders choice with Denton out at third. Brett Eblin doubled in Diodati with one out, but he and Tate were stranded at second and third on a ground out and fly out to end the inning.
La Tech brought out the home run bat again in the seventh when Manny Garcia touched Lee with a long shot to left center field. Bama went down in order in the seventh and eighth, but showed some fight in the bottom of the ninth.
Eblin led off the ninth with a single. After a strikeout for out one, Jim Jarvis reached on an error by Alex Ray at shortstop. Peyton Wilson walked to load the bases followed by wild pitch that scored Eblin. Hamiter grounded out to second base to push Jarvis across the plate. Praytor strode to the plate with a chance to tie the game, and just missed his second home run of the game when his drive curved just foul down the left field line. Praytor then walked to bring Denton to the plate. The switch hitting Denton, batting left handed, sliced a line drive to left field that missed landing fair by about six inches. A fair ball would have easily scored Wilson and pinch runner Andrew Pinckney. On a 3-1 pitch Denton gave Tide fans hope with a long drive to right field that appeared to have a chance to reach the seats. Right fielder Matulia drifted back and made the catch at the warning track, ending the Bama season about three feet short of continuation.
The Tide finished 7-34 in the game with six walks, five strikeouts, and left five on base. Tate and Eblin had two hits each. and Denton and Praytor drove in two apiece. McNairy fell to 1-1 on the season with the loss. The Bulldogs were 11-39 with seven walks, eight strikeouts, and left 12 runners on base. The Tide continued their late season struggles at the plate in the three games this weekend, finishing 18-91 for a .197 average. Tate continued his late season hot streak, and finished 4-11 with two home runs and a double in the Regional.
Alabama reached some goals that they had not touched over the last few years. Reaching the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2016 and reaching the NCAA Tournament since 2014. There is definitely room for improvement but the die has been cast for the future. With the amount of injuries this years team endured they probably over performed and the future looks bright. Later this week I will do a overview of the season and what players may potentially leave for the draft and who will be back.
Bama Baseball, Catch It