The Crimson Tide baseball team fell behind early, battle back to take the lead, but could not hold on, and lost 5-4 to the Birmingham Blazers on Wednesday night. The game, played in Regions Park in Birmingham, was originally scheduled for Tuesday but weather facilitated a move. The Tide fell to 13-9 while the Blazers improved to 14-5 under first year coach Casey Dunn. (Ed. Note: Dunn, an Auburn alum, came to UAB after seven successful seasons at Samford, and had at one time been mentioned as a dark horse in connection with Alabama’s vacancy.)
Freshman Ben Hess started for the third time this season, and has been slowly working his way back from an injury he suffered over Christmas. After going one inning and two innings in his first two appearances, he pitched two innings in the game. After striking out the lead batter, Hess walked Matthew Golda and then gave up a long home run to Josh Sears to put the Tide in a quick 2-0 hole. On the night, Hess allowed one hit, with two walks and four strikeouts.
In the third, Bama took the lead by scoring three times. Drew Williamson led off the inning by being hit by a pitch. Andrew Pinckney doubled him to third and Bryce Eblin doubled to score both runners. Elblin advanced to third on a fly out and scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by Tommy Seidl. Birmingham tied things up in the fourth. With one out, Brandon Willoughby reached on an infield single off of Jake Leger, advanced to third on a wild pitch and bloop single and then scored on a perfect squeeze bunt by Peyton Puckett, making the scored 3-3.
The Blazer defense saved a run in the fifth. Pinckney started things off with a single and stole second. With two outs Seidl singled in the hole and Birmingham shortstop Matthew Golda was able to dive and knock the ball down to hold Pinckney at third. Zane Denton then lined what looked like a hit, but second baseman John Marc Mullins dove and made the play, throwing out Denton at first.
The Tide recaptured the lead on a long solo blast by Owen Diodati in the top of the sixth. The home run was the 6th of the year for Diodati. Freshman Hagan Banks handled the 5th and 6th on the mound for the Tide and faced six batters with six outs, all on 20 pitches. Another freshman, Luke Holman, was next on the mound for Bama and allowed a lead off single to Joseph Keil. A wild pitch advanced Keil to second. A bunt single by Darryl Buggs pushed him to third. Mullins then pulled off another perfect squeeze play to score pinch runner Logan Brauschewig with the tying run.
In the bottom of the eighth, Sears almost left the yard again, as he banged a double off the top of the wall in right field over the outstretched fingertips of Pinckney, who just missed making the catch on the play. Gavin Lewis entered as a pinch runner for UAB, and later scored on a single by Christian Hall with what turned out to be the winning run. Hunter Hoopes replaced Holman and got the final two outs of the frame.
Trailing 5-4 in the top of the 9th, the Tide could only muster a two-out walk to Eblin off of the Blazers 8th pitcher of the game, Collin Taylor.
Bama finished 8-34 in the game, with one walk, eight strikeouts, and six runners left on base. The Blazers were 9-32 with two walks, 10 strikeouts, and six left on base.
Individually, Eblin was 2-3 with a run, two RBI, a double and the Tide’s lone walk of the game. Pinckney was 2-4 with a double and run scored, while Diodati was 1-4 with his long ball. Seidl drove in the team’s other run, and was 1-3 with a sacrifice fly. On the mound, Hagan Banks was the sharpest of the teams five pitchers on the night.
The Tide’s midweek woes continued, falling to 3-4 in such contests. With the grind of the SEC, Bama needs to win their remaining seven non-conference games to pad their resume. The team still isn't drawing enough walks, and the lack of baserunners has been costly. The only walk in tonights game came with two outs in the ninth inning.
Up next: The Alabama travels to Starkville to take on the defending National Champion Mississippi State Bulldogs. The games are scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. The first two games can be seen on the SEC Network Plus, while Sunday’s will be televised on the SEC Network. The Tide will start Garrett McMillian on Friday, Jacob McNairy on Saturday, and Grayson Hitt on Sunday.
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