The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida Gators played a classic on Wednesday night in the SEC Tournament. In an extremely exciting, tense, well-played game, the Gators took victory from the jaws of defeat, and won 7-6 in 11 innings.
Alabama, ranked 24th, fell to 39-18 and 2nd ranked Florida improved to 43-13. The Tide will play the loser of the Auburn-Vanderbilt game in the second game (approximately 1 p.m.) on Thursday, while the Gators will take on LSU.
Sophomore right hander Luke Holman started on the mound for Bama against Hurston Waldrep for the Gators. Waldrep made quick work of the Tide in the first with two strikeouts and a ground out. Holman looked to match Waldrep, striking out the first two batters in the bottom half. However a bloop single by Jac Caglianone was followed by a blast over the left field wall by Josh Rivera, his 15th of the season.
Armed with a 2-0 lead Waldrep faced only six batters, thanks to a line drive double play, through the second and third inning. Holman escaped trouble in the bottom of the second when the Gators had runners on first and third with no outs, but a pop out, ground out, and strikeout kept the score at 2-0.
The Tide finally broke through in the top of the third. With two out, Drew Williamson legged-out an infield single then advanced when Andrew Pinckney was hit by a pitch. Colby Shelton lined a sharp single to plate Williamson and cut the deficit in half.
Bama tied the game in the top of the fifth with the help of some small ball. Ed Johnson started the frame by drawing a walk and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Mac Guscette. Caden Rose singled to put runners on second and third, and Jim Jarvis lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to score Johnson and tie the game at two apiece.
Holman allowed a single to Dale Thomas in the bottom of the fifth, and after a pop out on a bunt attempt, got a strike-them-out-throw-them-out double play on a strikeout and a perfect throw to second by Guscette.
The Tide took the lead in the top of the sixth when freshman phenom Shelton blasted a two-out dinger, his 21st of the season. Bama missed out on building their lead — stranding Dominic Tamez after a walk, and Johnson, who had singled.
In the bottom of the sixth, Holman retired the first two batters but was lifted after walking Rivera. Aidan Moza was called in from the bullpen. On the second pitch Moza threw Rivera attempted to steal second but was gunned down by Guscette.
The Tide had a quick top of the seventh as did the Gators in the bottom half. In the eighth Pinckney walked with one out and stole second base but was stranded. Moza remained on the hill for Bama and allowed the tying run with out the aid of a hit. Thomas walked to start the inning, and when Michael Robertson bunted to advance him, Moza fielded the ball and threw toward first, hitting Robertson in the back.
When the dust settled Thomas had scored and Robertson ended up at third base. Tide coach Jason Jackson was upset with Robertson running inside the baseline. After a review which predictably went the Gators way, (thanks Birmingham!) the game was tied, with the go-ahead run on at third and no outs.
A fly out for out one followed before Wyatt Langford was walked intentionally. Langford stole second but Moza then struck out Caglianone and Rivera back to back in a clutch performance to keep the game tied.
The ninth inning was uneventful for both teams, moving the game to extras. Bama got a one out single from Tommy Seidl and a two out walk to Pinckney to threaten, but a strikeout stranded them both. Moza allowed a single to lead off the inning to Thomas but he was cut down trying to steal by Guscette. Moza punctuated the inning with a strikeout sending the game to the eleventh inning.
Dominic Tamez led off the top of the eleventh with a single and Camden Hayslip entered as a pinch runner. Johnson singled to chase Hayslip to third and set up an attempted squeeze bunt by Guscette. The Tide catcher got the bunt down perfectly but when the throw to first base hit him in the back and caromed away the Gators asked for a review. Guscette was ruled out for a running lane violation and the runners had to return to their bases. Jarvis was intentionally walked to load the bases for Seidl. The Harvard transfer lined a double over Langford’s head in right field to clear the bases with a double.
Moza returned to the mound in the bottom of the eleventh armed with a 6-3 lead. A bloop single by Langford just alluded a diving try by Johnson at second base to lead off the inning. After 4.1 innings and 59 pitches, both career highs, Moza was replaced by closer Alton Davis II. Davis pithed two innings in the Tide’s victory over Kentucky on Tuesday and was called in to back to back games for the first time this season. Caglianone also hit a blooper that turned into a single. Rivera then hit a sharp single to left field to cut the lead to 6-4, bringing BT Riopelle to the plate. On a 0-2 pitch the Gator catcher broke the Tide’s heart with a long blast over the centerfield wall for the 7-6 walk-off win.
Bama hit 10-40 in the game with five walks, one hit batter, 14 strikeouts, one sac bunt, one sac fly, two stolen bases, one costly error, one double, one home run, and nine men left on base. Seidl led the way with his 2-6 night with three RBI, followed by Shelton going 2-5 with his home run and two runs driven in. Johnson also had multiple hits at 2-4 with a walk, two runs scored, and a stolen base. Davis was the loser and fell to 0-2. Holman had a quality start with 5.2 innings pitched, four hits allowed, three walks, five strikeouts, and two runs-both earned.
Florida hits 9-35, drew five walks, struck out nine times, had two home runs, one sacrifice bunt, one stolen base, and left four men on base. Rivera and Riopelle both drove in three runs. The fifth UF pitcher of the night, Cade Fisher improved to 5-0 with the win. Fisher pitched all of 1⁄3 of an inning and threw four pitches.
Just a gut-punch loss for the Tide.
A win over Florida would have made hosting a regional a no-doubt decision. Most still feel Bama will grab one of the top 16 seeds and be playing in Tuscaloosa next weekend. The game was one of the better baseball games one could watch. Every pitch was important and both teams played their hearts out.
The Gators two home runs accounted for five runs, while the Tide had one long ball, a solo shot. Florida stood up when the chips were down late, and for that they deserve credit, and that is one of the reasons they have been a top five team all season.
At the writing of this report, Vanderbilt is leading Auburn 3-2 in the seventh inning. The Tide will await the loser tomorrow and try again to notch their 40th win of the season.
Tough loss, tough team, look for them to bounce back and give themselves a chance to win on Thursday.
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