The Alabama Crimson Tide opened a four game home stand on Tuesday night by losing to the Birmingham Blazers 7-6. The Blazers swept the season series, winning both games this season. Bama fell to 23-15 on the season while Birmingham improved to 23-13.
Freshman right hander Ben Hess took the mound for the Tide vs Leo Harris for the Blazers. Hess worked around three walks in the first three innings to hold Birmingham scoreless. Meanwhile, the Tide stranded four runners in the first two innings before notching three runs in the third. Tommy Seidl led off with a single, followed by a Drew Williamson single and Zane Denton walk. After a strikeout William Hamiter drew a walk to drive in a run. Andrew Pinckney then laced a two run single to stake the Tide to a 3-0 lead. Two fly outs ended the threat with two men on.
Hess has been steadily improving each week, but he had trouble finding the strike zone in this game. The Blazers struck back in the top of the fourth to take the lead. Hess walked the lead off man then allowed a single and added another walk to load the bases. Light hitting Matthew Golda then blasted a grand slam home run to give Birmingham the lead at 4-3. Golda entered the game batting .239 with one home run. Hess pitched four innings, allowing only two hits, but walked five while striking out seven. The grand slam scored all the runs Hess allowed.
The Tide tied the game up in the bottom half of the inning. Seidl had the third of his four hits on the night with one out, then advanced to second on a ball in the dirt. Williamson then singled Seidl in to tie the game up 4-4. Braylon Myers replaced Hess to start the 5th inning and worked around a bases loaded situation to keep the game knotted at four. The Tide took the lead in the bottom of the 5th when Dominic Tamez, advanced on two walks, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Bryce Eblin.
Myers continued in the 6th (at one point Bama’s Myers was pitching while the Blazers Carson Myers was throwing for his team) and gave up singles to the first two batters of the frame. Golda flew out for out one and after a strikeout for the second out Myers was lifted in favor of Landon Green. Green struggled with his control and walked the first two men he faced, with the second one driving in the tying run, followed by an infield single that added another run. Brock Guffey was brought with a 2-0 count on Christian Hall and preceded to strike out Hall to end the uprising with the Tide down 6-5.
In the 7th the tied pushed a run across when Hamiter scored on a wild pitch. Hamiter singled to start the inning and moved up after Pinckney was hit by a pitch. Eblin laid down a perfect sac bunt to advance the runners, before Hamiter raced home on a wild pitch to tie the game. Guffey continued in the 8th and allowed what turned out to be the winning run. Darryl Buggs singled with one out and moved to third on a single by John Marc Mullins. Logan Braunschweig then hit a ground ball field by Williamson at first base. Williamson chose to try for a 3-6-3 double play rather than a throw to the plate. The lead runner was out at second but Buggs crossed the plate to give the Blazers the 7-6 lead.
Seidl knocked his fourth hit of the game to start the bottom of the 8th. On a ball headed to the left field corner for a double Blazer third baseman Brandon Willoughby got enough of his glove on the ball to hold Seidl to a single. This turned out to be a huge play as Williamson rapped into a double play to clear the bases. The Tide never got another runner on base and went down for the second time this season to Birmingham.
The Tide hit 11-34 (all singles), drew five walks, struck out 10 times and stranded 10 on base. The Blazers hit 8-37 but drew nine walks, struck out 13 times, and left nine men on base. Seidl finished 4-5, stole a base and scored two runs, Williamson had a 2-5 night with a run scored and one driven in. Hamiter was 2-3 with two walks, one run scored, and one driven in. Pinckney drove in two with with 1-2 night with one walk and also reached base twice after being hit by a pitch.
Guffey suffered the loss in is 2.1 innings pitched to fall to 2-1 on the season. Freshman Luke Holman was the only one of the Tide’s five pitchers to not give up a run. Holman pitched the 9th and had a perfect inning with one strikeout. Seidl, Hamiter, and Pinckney reached base four times each, but combined to score only three runs.
Another frustrating midweek loss for the Tide, falling to 6-5 in such games with the losses being to Birmingham (twice), North Alabama, UT-Martin, and Southern Miss. Southern Miss is the only one of that group that will be a NCAA Tournament team. These are games the Tide needed to pad the win column once the post season comes around. With an 8-7 conference record half way through league play the team will be in great shape if they can duplicate the first half of the slate, but extra wins garnered during the week would have been icing on the cake. Of the five SEC series left to play the Tide will face four squads that are currently top 20 teams, staring with number 10 this weekend in Tuscaloosa, the third straight weekend Bama has faced a top 10 team.
The Tide and the Dawgs will square off at 6 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday. Friday and Saturday will be shown on the SEC Network Plus while Sunday’s will be national on ESPN2.