Alabama battled the 9th ranked Florida Gators for three games over the weekend and came away with one win on a walk off single by Zane Denton in Sunday’s finale by a score of 8-7. Florida took Friday’s opener 6-4 and pulled away late to win on Saturday 13-6. The Tide is now 13-8, 1-2 on the year while the Gators are 15-5, 2-1 in conference. The powerful team from Gainesville hit 10 home runs over the three game set.
Game One: Lost 6-4
Florida left hander Hunter Barco is expected to be a first round draft pick in this summer’s MLB draft and showed why on Friday night. Alabama countered with right hander Garrett McMillian on the mound.
The Gators jumped on McMillian for four runs in the second. After two singles and a sac bunt to start the frame, Florida third baseman Deric Fabian lined a single to score two runs. His brother, Jud, brought him home with a two run home run to stake UF a 4-0 lead. The Tide got an infield single from Jim Jarvis to lead off the bottom of the first, but through three innings that was the only base runner they could muster. Florida added to the lead in the third on a long home run off the bat of BT Riopelle for a 5-0 margin.
Meanwhile, Alabama only managed a Tommy Seidl single in the fourth and a single by Andrew Pinckney in the fifth over the next four innings. The Gators scored their last run of the game in the seventh after a lead off walk and a two out error by Bryce Eblin at second base. The Tide finally got on the board in the 8th off of Barco as Pinckney hit a nuke of a home run to lead off the inning.
McMillian gutted his way through five innings and gave way to Brock Guffey. The super senior left hander pitched three big innings allowing only one unearned run to keep the Tide in the contest. Freshman Luke Holman pitched a perfect ninth for Bama.
After throwing 106 pitches, Barco was lifted to start the 9th in favor of Nick Ficarrotta. Zane Denton started the inning with a single and advanced when Seidl was hit by a pitch. After a pop out for out one Will Hodo knocked a pinch hit single to load the bases. Owen Diodati then singled to score one run while another raced home on a throwing error by second baseman Colby Halter. Eblin got a run batted in when he hit into a fielder’s choice, allowing Hodo to score. With the tying and go ahead runs on base, Jarvis hit a ball sharply toward shortstop Josh Rivera that he turned into a double play. A few inches either way and the tying, and possibly winning runs, could have scored. Instead the twin killing preserved the Gators 6-4 win.
Bama finished 7-35 on the night, drew zero walks, struck out 10 times, left six on base, and committed one error. Florida was 12-37 with four walks, nine strikeouts, left 10 on base and had two fielding errors. Pinckney was the only Tide player with multiple hits at 2-3 with a run and RBI on his second home run of the year. McMillian got the loss and fell to 2-1 on the year.
Game Two: Lost 13-6
Junior Antoine Jean was called on for the Tide to battle against Brandon Sproat of the Gators. Florida jumped out early, scoring three times in the first on the back of two mammoth home runs, a two run job by Wyatt Langford, and a solo blast from BT Riopelle.
The Tide got one back in the second. Owen Diodati hit a one out double off the wall and moved up on a single by Eric Foggo and walk to Bryce Eblin. With the bases loaded, Jim Jarvis got an RBI with a walk of his own. Florida answered in the third on a walk, single, and two ground balls to push the lead to 4-1. Bama got two in the third to cut into the lead on an RBI single by Drew Williamson and a double play that scored a run.
In the fourth, the Gators used three singles to score again and bring in Hunter Furtado to replace Jean on the mound. In the bottom of the 4th, the Tide tied things up. Foggo singled to start things, which chased Sproat off the mound in favor of Ryan Slater. Eblin singled followed by a Jarvis single to load the bases. Dominic Tamez hit into a fielders choice to score one run and a Zane Denton sacrifice fly scored another to tie the game at 5-5.
Florida battered Furtado for eight hits, including three home runs, and six runs over his 2.1 innings pitched. Diodati drilled a line drive home run into the right field plaza in the seventh for Bama, but the Gators answered with three straight doubles off of Jake Leger to score two more runs. The Tide went mildly in the 8th and 9th and Florida took the series clinching win by the 13-6 score.
Alabama finished 10-35 with five walks, 10 strikeouts, one hit batter, and nine men left on base. The Gators racked up 18 hits in 45 at bats, drew four walks, struck out nine times, and stranded nine runners. Tamez finished 3-5 with a double and RBI, Diodati was 2-4 with two runs scored, and an RBI on his home run. Foggo also added two hits in four at bats. Furtado got the loss to fall to 2-2.
Game Three: Won 8-7
There in nothing like a walk off victory to wrap up the weekend. The Tide took game three in dramatic fashion by scoring twice in the bottom of the ninth to win by the score of 8-7.
Sophomore left-hander Grayson Hitt drew the starting assignment for Bama, matched up with Florida’s Timmy Manning. The Gators started hot again scoring twice in the top of the first. After two quick outs Hitt was touched by back to back doubles by Strerlin Thompson and Wyatt Langford to score one run. With two outs a Tide error allowed Langford to cross the plate also.
The Tide drew even in the second without the benefit of a hit. Manning walked Owen Diodati, Eric Foggo, and Drew Williamson back to back to back with one out. Manning was lifted for Garrett Milchin who induced a ground ball from Andrew Pinckney to second base. Williamson was forced out at second but Pinckney beat the throw to allow Diodati to score and when the ball was thrown away Foggo also found his way home.
The tie game lasted until the fourth when Thompson and Langford blasted long solo home runs off of Hitt for a 4-2 lead. In the bottom half, Tommy Seidl walked to start the inning and jogged home in front of a home run from his roommate Diodati. In the bottom of the fifth the Tide took their first lead of the weekend. Bryce Eblin lead off with a double and scored on an RBI single from Zane Denton to make the score 5-4 in favor of the home team.
Hitt pitched five innings allowing six hits, four runs with three earned, didn't walk a batter and struck out four. Dylan Ray followed Hitt and pitched scoreless innings in the sixth and the seventh. A lead off walk in the top of the 8th got Ray in trouble when Jud Fabian followed with a no-doubt two run home run to retake the lead for the Gators. Jacob McNairy came in to pitch with one out and allowed a run on an infield single, stolen base, and a run scoring single to give UF a 7-5 lead.
Denton led off the bottom of the 8th with a solo, opposite field, home run to pull the Tide within one at 7-6, setting up his own dramatics for the bottom of the ninth. McNairy disposed of the Gators in three up three down fashion in the top of the 9th. Bama’s winning rally started with one out. Pinckney reached base with one out when he was hit by a pitch. Eblin then lined a single to push Pinckney to third base. With the tying run 90 feet away coach Brad Bohannon called for a squeeze bunt which Jim Jarvis executed perfectly, playing Pinckney with the tying run, and reaching base himself with his bunt single. Dominic Tamez singled to load the bases with one out and bringing Denton to the dish. Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan called in his right fielder to give his team five infielders to try to keep the winning run from scoring. Needing just a fly ball to win Denton instead lined a single through the drawn in infield to score Eblin with the winning run.
Bama finished 10-34, walked four times, had one hit batter, struck out only one time, committed four errors and stranded six runners. The Gators were 11-37 with one walk, eight strikeouts, two errors, and left four on base. Denton was the hero and was 3-5 with three runs driven in, and his seventh home run. Diodati was 2-3 with two runs scored, two driven in, and his fifth home run of the season. Eblin added a 2-4 game with two runs scored. McNairy improved to 4-0 with the victory.
Who Did What?
*Owen Diodati- 5-11, 2 home runs, 1 double, 4 RBI, 4 runs, 2 walks
*Zane Denton-4-12, 4 RBI, 1 home run, Sac fly, 3 runs, 1 double
*Dominic Tamez 4-14, 1 RBI, 1 double
*Andrew Pinckney 3-10, 2 RBI, 2 HBP, 2 runs, 1 home run
*Bryce Eblin 3-11, 3 runs, 1 double, 1 RBI
*Jim Jarvis 3-13, 2 RBI, 2 walks
For the weekend the Tide hit 27-104 for an average of .259, walked nine times, struck out 21 times, hit four home runs, left 21 runners on base, and committed five errors. Florida was 41-119 for a gaudy .344 average, walked nine times, struck out 26 times, left 23 on base and mashed 10 home runs.
Sunday’s victory could be a season saving win. Starting the SEC in a 0-3 hole at home would not have been ideal. The Tide battled all weekend and had a legitimate chance to win two of the three games. Even on Saturday, the team battled back to tie the game before things went off the rails. Pitching has been a strength of Bama but the staff got hit around pretty good this weekend. The Gators can really swing the bat as evident by their 10 home runs this weekend, giving them 41 on the year. In contrast Alabama has socked 26 long balls on the season. Diodati and Denton being hot at the same time is huge for the Tide as they are the teams two best power hitters. Seidl and Williamson cooled off a bit over the weekend. Tamez is hitting for average but can defiantly offer more power going forward. The team still isn't walking enough, only 61 times in 21 games, but also have been hit 20 times.
The Tide is scheduled to play Birmingham U on Tuesday night at Regions Field in the Magic City. Weather may have something to say about that however. Bama travels to Starkville to play the defending National Champions over the weekend. Games are scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday.