The Alabama Crimson Tide traveled two hours up the road to Huntsville to play the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in a neutral site game on Tuesday night. The Tide used two big innings and stellar relief pitching to take a victory by the score of 10-4. Bama improved to 20-6 on the season while the Raiders fell to 11-13. The game was played at Toyota Field in Madison, home of the Huntsville Trash Pandas of the Double A Southern League.
Jacob McNairy drew the starting assignment for the Tide and for three innings looked untouchable. Through the first three frames McNairy faced the minimum of nine batters and struck out six of them. Meanwhile Middle Tennessee pitcher Jalen Wirtz also kept the Tide off the scoreboard in the first three innings. Bama did get a first inning leadoff single from Jim Jarvis, but he was erased on a double play. In the second the tied got two out singles for Ed Johnson and Andrew Pinckney, but when Pinckney stole second base Johnson was cut down at the plate to end the inning. Colby Shelton walked with two outs in the third but was stranded.
Things changed in the fourth. In the top half JT Mabry lead off with a single. With Brett Coker at the plate, Mabry broke for second and the Raiders executed the perfect hit and run play to put runners at the corners. Coker shot the ball right through where Johnson had vacated to cover second base. MTU designated hitter Jeremiah Boyd then drove a pitch some 400 feet for a three run home run and the lead. After a fly out for the first out, three straight singles plated a fourth run in the inning. A ground ball back to McNairy on the mound was turned into a double play to stop the bleeding.
The Tide answered in the bottom half. With one out Jarvis singled and scored on a long triple off the bat of William Hamiter. Johnson singled in Hamiter before Pinckney singled to put runners on the corners. Tommy Seidl blasted a double to right center to score Johnson and put Pinckney on third base. Mac Guscette hit a sacrifice fly to center to score the fourth run of the inning and tie the game up.
Zane Probst took over on the mound for the Tide in the fifth and struck out the first two batters he faced before hitting Coker. A ground ball to Jarvis ended the inning. Bama finally took the lead in the bottom half when Pinckney hit a rocket in the Rocket City that cleared the center field fence. The third round tripper was the third of the year for Pinckney and put the Tide ahead for good at 5-4.
Probst continued in the 6th and allowed a two out walk to DJ Wright. Wright was thrown out trying to steal on a perfect throw from Guscette. Aidan Moza took over on the mound for Bama in the 7th and pitched a scoreless, hitless, inning with one walk, but turned a double play on a ball back to the mound to end the inning. The 8th inning brought Riley Quick to the hill and he made quick work of the Raiders in a perfect inning with one strikeout.
With a precarious one run lead headed to the bottom of the 8th, the Tide put a five spot on the board to stretch the lead. Hamiter started things with a walk and Johnson also reached on a fielders choice when the Raiders tried, and failed, to throw Hamiter out at second base. Pinckney laid down a sacrifice bunt and reached when again the defense couldn't cut Hamiter down, this time at third base. Guscette hit a dribbler in front of the plate that scored Hamiter, and was also safe when the pitcher fumbled the ball. Shelton added an RBI with a bases loaded walk, as did Will Hodo and Drew Williamson, both on ground outs to the second baseman- or short right fielder as you will- that was playing 20 feet or more out on the grass. Once the carnage was over Bama held a 10-4 lead and would only need three outs to secure the victory.
Alton Davis II made quick work of Middle in the 9th despite allowing a leadoff single. After a fly out for the first out, Davis slickly fielded a ground ball up the middle and turned, threw to Jarvis, and Jarvis on to Williamson, for the Tide’s third such double play of the game.
Bama hit 13-35 in the game, walked three times, had one hit batter, struck out four times, left seven on base, stole one base, had two sac bunts, and one sacrifice fly. Among the 13 hits were a double, a triple, and a home run. Pinckney led the way with a 3-3 game, a sac bunt, a stolen base, three runs, one home run, and one RBI. Seidl continued his assault on mid-week pitchers with with 3-4 game with a double, two RBI and a run scored. Seidl now 19-41 in OOC play for a .463 average. Johnson finished 2-4 with two runs and one driven in. Jarvis continued his hot hitting with a 2-4 night with one run scored. Jarvis has a seven game hitting streak, 10-26, with five walks and two hit by pitches over the span.
Middle Tennessee had seven hits in 30 tries, walked twice, had one hit batter, struck out nine times, and left only two men on base because of a caught stealing and three double plays turned by the Tide. Probst was the winning pitcher for the Tide and improved to 2-0 on the year while Jack Julian took the loss and is now 0-1.
Another solid mid-week win for the Tide as they stay undefeated on Tuesday and Wednesdays so far this season. Tonight four relief pitchers combined to pitch five scoreless innings while allowing only one hit and two walks with three strikeouts. The final three innings, pitched by Moza, Quick, and Davis, took only 23 pitches from the hurlers. The 6th, 7th, and 8th hitters for Bama combined for eight hits, six runs, and five RBI. Every starter contribute either a hit, and RBI, or both in the game. Starting centerfielder Caden Rose, a Huntsville native, missed his third straight game and hopefully will be able to return to the lineup soon. The junior was a big star at Bob Jones High School in Huntsville and the home folks were looking forward to getting to see him live.
The crowd at Toyota Field was electric, a near sellout of mostly Tide fans rocked and rolled all night- as the Pandas staff put on a fantastic event. I would expect Bama will probably return in the future for more contests.
Up next is a road trip to Fayetteville to take on the 6th ranked Arkansas Razorbacks. It never gets any easier as seemingly every SEC series is against a highly ranked opponent. The games are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday, and again at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The first two games can be seen on the SEC Network Plus while Sunday’s affair will be a SEC Networks broadcast.
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