The Alabama Crimson Tide took a must win series from rival Auburn this weekend. After losing 8-4 on Friday the Tide bounced back with a 4-2 win on Saturday and a series clinching 6-1 victory on Sunday. Bama improved to 26-11 overall and 6-9 in the SEC while Auburn fell to 20-15-1 overall and 5-10 in league play. Sewell-Thomas Stadium, The Joe, was fully sold out for the series, the first such occurrence since April of 2016 in a series with Ole Miss. The Tide, with injuries to weekend starting pitchers Ben Hess and Grayson Hitt, had to piece together a rotation and did a good job of doing so in allowing only 11 total runs in the three games.
Game One: Lost 8-4
Sophomore right hander Luke Holman drew the starting assignment on the mound for the Tide, pitted against Auburn lefty Tommy Vail, a grad student. Holman allowed a two out home run in the second inning following a walk. The walk, to Kason Howell, came after a close call on what would have been strike three to end the inning. The Tigers took advantage when Chris Stanfield blasted a long home run to make the score 2-0.
In the meantime Vail was carving the Tide up, despite his ERA that was over five runs per game entering the contest. In the bottom of the third Bama got lead off singles from Andrew Pinckney and Will Hodo. Both hits were dribblers in the infield. Pinckney was cut down trying to steal and a double play ended the threat.
Holman recovered from the 2nd inning and allowed no further damage - or hits - from the 3rd inning through the 6th inning. In the top of the 7th, Holman walked Cooper McMurray with one out, followed by a double by Howell. After Stanfield was walked to load the bases Holman struck out Nate LaRue for out two. Number nine hitter Caden Green lined an 0-2 pitch up the middle to plate two runs, chasing Holman from the game. Hagan Banks entered and induced a fly ball for out three.
In the bottom of the 7th, Vail was lifted with two outs and two runners on via walks. Tanner Bauman was the next man in and allowed a single to Colby Shelton that got knocked down to keep a run from scoring. With the bases loaded a fly out to right field left the bases jammed and prevented the Tide from pulling closer.
Banks walked the leadoff man in the top of the 9th, and after a sacrifice bunt, Jim Jarvis had a throwing error on a ball, only his third miscue of the season. Tiger shortstop Cole Foster then slugged a long home run into the right field plaza for an 8-0 lead. Connor Ball entered for the Tide and closed out the inning, setting up a more exciting than expected bottom of the 9th.
Bauman was still on the hill for the visitors, and opened the inning with strikeout. Seven of the next eight Tide batters reached base. Dominic Tamez began the rally with a single. Shelton was hit by a pitch, followed by a walk to Pinckney to load the bases. Hodo was hit by a pitch to plate the first run and Jarvis lined a single to score the second. After a strikeout for the second out Drew Williamson drew a bases loaded walk to score run three and Ed Johnson was hit by pitch, scoring another and leaving the bases loaded. William Hamiter came to the plate as the tying run, but a pop out to short left was hauled in by Foster at shortstop to end the game.
The game was a story of too little too late for the Tide. After having only seven base runners through the first 8 innings Bama had seven reach in the 9th inning alone. Bama hit 5-30 in the game, drew eight walks, had three hit batters, struck out seven times, and left 10 men on base, while committing two errors. Tamez was 1-2 with two walks and a run, Pinckney finished 1-2 with two walks and a run scored, while Hodo was 1-3 with a run and one RBI. Auburn hit 7-34 in the game, walked four times, had one hit batter, nine strikeouts, and five left on base. Holman was the loser and fell to 5-2 while Vail improved to 3-1 with the victory.
Game Two: Won 4-2
With the bad injury news for the Tide, there was ray of sunshine. Last season’s Friday night starter, Garrett McMillian, was back in a starting role after missing the first 25 games of the year. McMillian got the start for Bama after tuning up with one inning in each of the last two weekend series. Auburn countered with left hander Drew Nelson.
McMillian entered the game on a pitch count, and was sharp from the beginning. The big righty from Tuscaloosa’s Hillcrest High School, breezed through the first inning on 10 pitches, and the second on 15. The Tide took control of the game in the 2nd off of Nelson. Ed Johnson led off with a walk and was followed by a double from Dominic Tamez. Nelson walked William Hamtier to load the bases, and followed up by walking Andrew Pinckney to drive in the first run of the game. Mac Guscette hit a long double to score two runs and place runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Bama couldn't take advantage when a short fly for out one wasn't deep enough to score Pinckney from third. Jim Jarvis was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but a pop up and line out left them that way.
Armed with the 3-0 lead McMillian continued to mow down the Tiger hitters. In the third Kason Howell was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. With Howell off with the pitch, Nate LaRue hit a fly ball to centerfield that Pinckney gathered in and unleashed a laser to first base to double Howell up. The twin killing was the first of five turned by the Tide in the game which tied a school record.
Bama used Tiger wildness on the mound to score their last run of the game in the 4th inning. Jarvis and Tommy Seidl were hit by pitches with one out and Drew Williamson walked to load the bags again. Johnson also walked to drive in run number four. With the bags still jammed Tamez hit a hard shot to second Caden Green that was measured at 105 miles an hour off the bat. Green made a great stab and turned a double play to end the inning.
McMillian cruised through the 5th inning with a no-hitter still intact, before allowing a line drive hit off his glove to Howell to start the 6th frame. At that point with 67 pitches thrown the Tide turned to Zane Probst to replace McMillian. Propst got a fly out for the first out and a slick double play turned by Jarvis ended the inning. Tiger left fielder Bobby Pierce finally put Auburn on the board in the top of the 7th when he hit a ball over the scoreboard to cut the Bama lead to 4-1. Hunter Furtado replaced Propst and allowed a bunt single to Auburn slugger Ike Irish before Green dribbled a ball in front of the plate that Guscette bounced on, throwing to Jarvis at second base who in turn threw to Williamson at first for yet another double play.
The Tide wasted another chance in the bottom of the 8th after Guscette singled and Bryce Eblin walked with one out. Jarvis walked to load the bases. Seidl torched a ball- 106 mph off the bat- that Auburn shortstop Cole Foster dove at, made the snag, glove flipped the ball to Green at second, who then relayed to first to double the speedy Seidl, and end the inning.
Furtado continued for Bama in the 9th, but after allowing a lead off single and going 2-0 on the next batter was pulled favor of freshman left hander Alton Davis II. Davis worked to a full count, but the batter finally walked, bringing the tying run to the plate. Foster blooped a single to cut the score to 4-2. With the go ahead run now at the plate with no outs, Davis reared back and struck out Pierce for out one, and then on a ground ball the Tide turned their fifth double play of the game to preserve the 4-2 win for the home team.
Bama hit 5-27 in the game, had eight walks, three hit batters, five strikeouts, and left 10 runners on base. Guscette was the offensive star with a 2-3 game, two runs driven in, a walk, and two runs driven in. Tamez was 2-4 with a double and run scored. McMillian and Davis were the story on the mound. McMillian was the winner and improved to 1-1 after allowing only one hit with no walks, no runs, and four strikeouts in five innings. Davis flashed his 97 mph fast ball in earning his second save of the year with one scoreless inning with a hit, a walk, and a strikeout. Auburn was 6-28, walked once, had one hit batter, struck out six times, and thanks to the Tide defenses double duty, left only one man on base.
Game Three: Won 6-1
With starting options limited by injuries, coach Brad Bohannon turned to super senior Jacob McNairy to start game three. McNairy started, and won, on Tuesday and was tasked to get the Tide off to a good start and try to give the team at least three innings. He did that and more, lasting 3.2 innings and allowing only one run. Christian Herberholz started for the Tigers.
McNairy made quick work of AU in the first two innings, allowing harmless singles in each frame. In the third a lead off single and one out walk put the Tigers in scoring position, but a ground out and line out ended the threat. Meanwhile Bama couldn't muster any thing off of Herberholz through the first three innings.
Auburn finally scored the first run of the game in the top of the 4th. After two straight strikeouts McNairy walked Chris Stanfield who then stole second base. On a 3-2 pitch to light hitting Nate LaRue (batting average .120), dropped a single to center field to score Stanfield for the 1-0 lead. Freshman right hander Riley Quick replaced McNairy at that point and got the third out on a pop out.
In the bottom of the 5th the Tide finally chased Herberholz from the game. Mac Guscette started the inning with a single and went to second on a walk to Andrew Pinckney. Bryce Eblin popped out attempting to sacrifice bunt for out one. Tiger wildness helped the Tide from there. Jim Jarvis was hit by a pitch to load the bases and a walk to Tommy Seidl drove in the tying run. Drew Williamson then lined a single to score Pinckney and Jarvis and give the Tide some breathing room at 3-1.
Quick worked scoreless innings in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings for Bama. The Tide added a fourth run in the bottom of the 7th. Jarvis singled to start the inning, and moved up on another walk to Seidl. Williamson reached on a fielders choice when Seidl was thrown out at second after originally being called safe. A ground ball to first base was fielded and thrown to Cole Foster covering second base. Foster dropped the ball and Seidl was called safe. Auburn asked for a review, and somehow the call was overturned. With Williamson on first and Jarvis on third with one out the Tide pulled off a beautiful double steal, with Jarvis swiping home by sliding in just ahead of the tag.
Quick began the 8th inning by walking Ike Irish before getting a pop out for the first out. Alton Davis II was called from the bullpen to replace Quick and walked the first batter he faced to bring the tying run to the plate. A pitchers best friend, and the Tide’s this weekend, a slick double play turned by Jarvis doused the rally.
Alabama added insurance in the bottom of the 8th, with all action coming with two outs. On a 2-2 count to Pinckney Auburn thought they had strike three and the catcher rolled the ball back to the mound. Alas the pitch was called ball three and after fouling off five more pitches, Pinckney lined a single to center field. Eblin the doubled to left center to score Pinckney and scored himself on a triple by Jarvis.
The electric Davis took care of the top of the 9th with two strikeouts and a pop out to earn his second save of the weekend and third of the year. Bama hit 9-30 in the game with six walks, one hit batter, had seven strikeouts, and left nine men on base. Jarvis, Guscette, and Pinckney all had two hits and Williamson drove in two runs. Seidl was 0-1 with an RBI and walked four times. Quick was the victor with his 3.2 innings of two hit, no run ball. Quick improved to 1-1 on the season. Davis earned his third save with 1.2 innings with one walk and two strikeouts and no runs scored.
Auburn was 6-30, drew five walks, struck out nine times, and left eight on base. Herberholz fell to 0-3 with the loss. In the series Bama hit 19-87 for a .218 average, walked 21 times, had seven hit batters, struck out 19 times, and left 29 men on base. Auburn hit at even a lower average, with a .206 mark on 19-92 at the plate. Tide pitchers only walked 10 men, struck out 24, and hit two. AU left 14 men on base.
This was a much needed series win for the Tide after entering the weekend with a 4-8 conference record. After winning one and losing two in each of the first four series, a winning weekend was a must. Bama seemed to play flat on Friday, but bounced back with energy and pep in their step on Saturday and Sunday. McMillian and McNairy gave the team a huge boost as older players that grew up in Alabama and have always known about the cross state rivalry with Auburn. With pitching injuries piling up, some young guys had to step up and Quick and Davis did so in a big way. The two Birmingham natives had some ups and downs earlier in the season, but that experience looks to pay off down the stretch for the team.
Offensively the Tide didn't overwhelm, but took 28 free bases that the Tigers gave them. Leaving runners on base, particularly when they were loaded, continues to be a problem. Defensively Bama made only two errors and turned seven double plays. Tide pitching controlled the Tigers’ big four of Cole Foster, Bobby Pierce, Ike Irish, and Bryson Ware for the most part.
With the two wins the Tide sits 8th overall in the SEC standings. The top 12 teams in league standing earn a bid to Hoover for the SEC Tournament.
Who Did What?
- Mac Guscette 4-7, walk, two RBI, double, run
- Andrew Pinckney 3-7, five walks, three runs, RBI
- Dominic Tamez 4-10, two walks, two runs, double
- Jim Jarvis 3-11, two RBI, triple, two HBP, walk, three runs, stole home
- Garrett McMillian W (1-1) 5 innings pitched, one hit, no walks, four strikeouts, no runs
- Alton Davis II 2 Saves (3) 2.2 Innings pitched, one hit, one walk, three strikeouts, no runs
- Riley Quick W (1-1) 3.2 innings pitched, two hits, two walks, two strikeouts, no runs
A Tuesday trip to Regions Park in Birmingham to take on the Blazers at 6 p.m. followed by a trip to CoMo to take on the Missouri Tigers in a three game set. The games are scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday. Tuesday appears to be radio only, Friday can be seen on SEC Network Plus, Saturday on SEC Network, and Sunday again on the app.