The Alabama Crimson Tide went to Knoxville this weekend on a seven game winning streak to face the number one ranked Tennessee Volunteers. Bama stretched their streak to eight straight with a 6-3 win on Friday before dropping the next two games by scores of 9-2 and 15-4. The Friday loss was the first in conference play for the Vols. Alabama is now 23-14 overall and 8-7 in the SEC. Tennessee improved to 33-3 and 14-1 in league play.
Game One- Won 6-3
Garrett McMillian took his Friday night start for the Tide facing Chase Burns of Tennessee. McMillian walked lead off man Jared Dickey in the bottom of the first but got a double play from the next hitter, Seth Stephenson. However, trouble soon followed with four straight hits: a single, an RBI triple, an RBI single and a double. A strikeout ended the inning with the Vols ahead 2-0. The Tide cut the lead in half in the second when Owen Diodati hit a solo home run.
McMillian worked around a lot of traffic in the bottom of the second after walking three men. A fielder’s choice and two fly outs stranded the bases loaded. McMillian had already thrown 59 pitches after the first two innings. Bama tied the game in the top of the third when Jim Jarvis blasted a home run over the outstretched glove of right fielder Jordan Beck. McMillian allowed two singles in the third but got out of the inning with only 15 pitches.
Alabama took control of the game in the 4th. Diodati gave the team the lead with his second solo home run of the game. Andrew Pinckney followed with a single and was balked to second. Bryce Eblin walked to put two men on with no outs. Dominic Tamez hit a tailor made double play ball at shortstop Cortland Lawson who let the ball roll through his legs, scoring Pinckney. Jarvis then beat out a bunt for a single to load the bases. Drew Williamson lifted a sacrifice fly to center for the fourth run of the inning. A double play ended the uprising with the Tide ahead 5-2.
McMillian had a perfect 4th and 5th before giving up a one out home run in the 6th to Jorel Ortega. At that point Hunter Hoopes was called in from the pen and sandwiched a strikeout and a pop out around a single. Hoopes walked Drew Gilbert with one out in the 7th and then struck out Trey Lipscomb for out two. Brock Guffey entered and forced a pop out to end the inning. Guffey got the first out of the 8th before being replaced by closer Dylan Ray. Ray got two quick outs to move the game to the 9th.
The Tide added an insurance run in the 9th. Tamez just missed a home run and ended up with a double. With two outs Williamson hit a long drive that hit the top of the wall and turned into an RBI triple for the big first baseman. Ray allowed an infield single to start the bottom of the 9th to Dickey. A strikeout, ground out, and pop out ended the game with the Tide on top 6-3.
Bama hit 11-37 on the game with one walk and six runners left on base. Tennessee finished 9-35, drew three walks, struck out eight times and left 10 on base. Diodati was 2-4 with his two home runs, Williamson was 2-4 with two runs driven in, a triple, and a sacrifice fly. Jarvis hit 2-5 with a home run, RBI, and run scored. Zane Denton made it a quartet of two hit players going 2-5 on the night. McMillian improved to 4-2 with the win, pitching 5.1 innings, allowing seven hits, walking four, and striking out five. Ray earned his fourth save with his 1.2 scoreless innings.
Game Two- Lost 9-2
Jacob McNairy started for the Tide against Chase Dollander for the Vols in a game that had all sort of drama and intrigue. Dollander struck out the first two batters before Zane Denton came to the plate. Denton lined the first pitch he saw up the middle off the left shoulder of Dollander. The ball carromed to first baseman Luc Lipcius who retired Denton. That is when the fireworks began.
UT pitching coach Frank Anderson charged out of the dugout to confront umpire crew chief Jeffery Macias. Speculation of the reason for his explosion ranged from angry over the loss from Friday when Macias was behind the plate, that the Alabama players were laughing in the dugout after the ball hit Dollander, that the Tide was stealing the Vols’ signals, or that a step out of the box by Williamson somehow caused the injury. Anderson was quickly tossed from the game which brought known hot head and Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello sprinting on to the field, heading straight to Macias.
It didn't take long for Macias to throw Vitello out of the game. The fiery 5th year coach was not happy with the expulsion and turned and sprinted back at Macias, launched himself at the umpire and hit him with a significant chest bump. The melee, of course, brought out the worst in the Volunteer players and fans and the atmosphere was testy for the rest of the night. The Tennessee dugout received several warnings throughout the game for their chirping and over the top celebrations. Tide first base coach Matt Reida joined Anderson and Vitello when he was ejected after the top of the 4th inning for a confrontation with the UT dugout.
Back to actual baseball. McNairy struggled in the 1st, allowing a two run home run to Jordan Beck after a single by Jorel Ortega. After a scoreless 2nd the home team added a run on a triple by Ortega and sacrifice fly from Drew Gilbert. McNairy tossed a scoreless 4th and 5th to keep the Tide within striking distance. In the top of the 6th Drew Williamson lined a one out single and trotted up on a line drive home run from Denton, cutting the lead to 3-2.
Hunter Furtado took over in the 6th for the Tide and gave up a home run on Beck with the first pitch he threw. Luc Lipcius added a solo blast of his own and a throwing error by catcher Dominic Tamez on an attempted steal of third brought another run across. With the lead now 6-2 Bama was not able to do any damage to a trio of Volunteer pitchers. Tennessee plated three more run in the 8th, two on overthrows of third base by Tamez on attempted steals.
Alabama hit 7-32 with two walks, nine strikeouts, three errors, and left five on base. The Volunteers were 9-29 with four walks, five strikeouts, and three runners left on base. Williamson was 2-4 and Tamez hit 2-3. Denton’s 10th home run of the season was his only hit and notched the teams only runs driven in. McNairy allowed four hits and three runs in his five innings of work and fell to 4-1 on the season.
Game Three- Lost 15-4
Game three was highlighted by great pitching by Drew Beam for Tennessee and a big day at the plate from their third baseman, Trey Lipscomb. Grayson Hitt toed the rubber for the Tide against Beam in the rubber game of the series.
Lipscomb made himself known early in the game when Jim Jarvis led off the top of the first with a scorcher down the third base line that was destined for extra bases. Lipscomb made an outstanding play to backhand the ball and a strong throw to nip the speedy Jarvis. Drew Williamson then hit a 2-1 pitch into the Volunteer bullpen in right field for a quick 1-0 Tide lead, that could have been two runs if Jarvis had reached.
Tennessee used some two out magic to take the lead in the 2nd. After retiring the first two batters of the frame Hitt walked Evan Russell. A bloop single fell just out of the reach of Bama fielders to put two runners on. A walk and a two run ground rule double by Cortland Lawson tied the game. Hitt then allowed two infield singles that scored two more runs to make the score 4-1. Jarvis launched his second home run of the weekend in the top of the third to make the score 4-2
Jorel Ortega was a thorn in the side of the Tide all weekend and drilled a three run home run off of Hitt in the bottom off the 4th, again with two outs. At this point all seven Volunteer runs had been scored after innings started with two out and no one on base. Jake Leger took over from Hitt and allow three runs over his two innings pitched, including a solo home run by Lipscomb. In the top of the 6th Zane Denton hit a mammoth solo home run . UT got two runners on the in the 6th on singles before Hunter Hoopes replaced Leger with two outs. Lipscomb greeted Hoopes with his second home run of the game, this one good for three runs and an 11-3 lead.
Tennessee added four more in the 8th on three walks, a single, double, and home run off of Brock Guffey. Freshman Hagan Banks earned his first SEC action on the mound and got the final two outs of the inning. The Tide loaded the bases in the top of the 9th but scored only once, on a double play ball to end the game on the wrong end of a 15-4 game.
The Tide hit 6-32, drew two walks, struck out 14 times, and left four on base. Tennessee hit 15-36, drew eight walks, struck out just four times, and left six on base. Jarvis, Williamson, and Denton all had solo home runs for the Tide. Will Hodo and Caden Rose had pinch hit singles in the 9th and a single by Tommy Seidl were the only other Bama hits in the game.
Who did what?
*Drew Williamson 5-12, home run, triple, sac fly, 3 RBI, run
*Zane Denton 4-13, 2 home runs, 3 RBI, 2 runs
*Jim Jarvis 3-13, 2 home runs, 2 runs, 2 RBI
*Owen Diodati 2-11, 2 home runs, 2 RBI, 2 runs
*Dominic Tamez 3-10, double, run
*Garrett McMillian W- (4-2) 5.1 IP 7 H 3 ER 4 BB 5 K 110 pitches
*Dylan Ray S (4) 1.2 ip. 1 H, 0 R 0 BB 1 K
Overall the Tide hit 24-101 for the weekend for a .237 average and hit seven home runs good for eight runs, six solo and one two run shot. Tennessee, who leads the nation in home runs by a wide margin, hit 33-105 for a .314 average and hit eight home runs that plated 13 runs.
Over the last two weeks the Tide has put themselves in good position in the conference standing as well as for the NCAA Tournament. Winning eight games in a row, including a sweep at then #7 Ole Miss and winning Friday’s contest against current #1 Tennessee has helped boost the teams RPI up to 30. With the Friday win Alabama had won five straight games against top 10 teams- the series finale with Florida, the three at Ole Miss, and the one at Tennessee. The Volunteers are a team on a mission and have been steamrolling the competition all season. Each Friday night McMillian has given the Tide a chance to win the game by his ability to go deep in the game and at the same time keep the game within striking distance. The shock of the loss on Friday and the coaches shenanigans on Saturday seemed to wake up the Volunteer bats and arms for the final two games.
Winning four of the six games was probably above expectations and now the team returns home for four games this week. A Tuesday game with the Birmingham Blazers and a weekend visit from the Georgia Bulldogs. UGA is also a highly ranked team. The Tuesday game is scheduled for 6 p.m. while Friday’s tile with the Bulldogs is set for 6 p.m. The Saturday contest is set for 2 p.m. and Sunday’s is a 1 p.m. affair. The first three can be seen on the SEC Network Plus and Sunday’s game will be shown on ESPN2.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch it