The Alabama Crimson Tide baseball team continued their hot play under interim coach Jason Jackson by defeating 19th ranked Auburn 7-4 on Thursday in the SEC Tournament. The win pushed the Tide forward to the next round of the tournament while the defeat sent the Tigers home. Bama improved to 40-18 on the season while Auburn fell to 34-21-1.
The 40-win season is the first for Alabama since the 2010 season, and almost assuredly locks in a spot as a Regional host in the NCAA Tournament. With 40 overall wins, 18 wins over SEC teams, and an RPI of 10, Bama has a strong resume for the committee to look at. If the Tide is chosen as a host, it will be the first time the school has hosted since the 2006 season.
Alabama sent senior right hander Garrett McMillian to the mound to face left hander Konner Copeland for Auburn. McMillian worked a perfect first inning with a strikeout and then was given an early lead in the bottom half. With one out Tommy Seidl blasted his ninth home run of the season. Drew Williamson added a two out double in the frame but was stranded.
Auburn tied the game in the top of the second with a two out rally. After two quick outs the Tigers used a walk and two bloop singles to plate a run. Another walk loaded the bases but McMillian stepped up and struck out Chris Stanfield to strand the bases loaded. Seidl led off the bottom of the third with a hustling, pop fly, double and then advanced to third on a fly out by Andrew Pinckney. Williamson drove Seidl in with a sacrifice fly to right field. Colby Shelton added a single in the inning and the Tide had six hits through three innings, but only two runs to show for them.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Tide chased Copeland from the game. Ed Johnson led off with a double and scored on a one out single by Caden Rose. Jim Jarvis’s ground ball forced Rose out at second and landed Jarvis on first base where he promptly stole second. Seidl then singled to score Jarvis but pulled up with (apparently) some type of lower body injury and had to be replaced by William Hamiter as a pinch runner. Hamiter stole second and scored on a single by Andrew Pinckney to make the score 5-1 in the Tide’s favor.
McMillian ran into trouble in the top of the sixth. Bryson Ware led off with a home run-his 24th of the year- and then Ike Irish smashed a double and eventually scored on a wild pitch to cut the margin to 5-3. McMillian recovered to retire the side and his day was over after six innings.
The Tide bounced back, and added two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. Rose started things with a single and when Jarvis tried to sacrifice bunt Rose over he beat it out for a hit. Hamiter was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Pinckney lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to score Rose and Williamson laced a single to plate Jarvis. With a 7-4 lead the Tide turned to Hagan Banks to replace McMillan. Banks retired two straight batters but then hit a man and walked one before inducing a fly ball to left field to end the inning.
Riley Quick replaced Banks in the top of the eighth, struck out a man and got a fly ball out before walking Kason Howell and allowing a single to Brody Wortham. Quick recovered though, to strike out pinch hitter Mike Bello and stranded two Tigers on base.
Things got dicey again in the top of the ninth for Bama, just a day after blowing a three-run 11th inning lead in a lose to Florida. Stanfield singled to start things, then stole second and third base, and then scored on a single by Cole Foster. Quick struck out Ware before walking Irish to bring the tying run to the plate.
Coach Jackson went to the mound and brought Hunter Hoopes in to clean things up. Hoopes struck out Justin Kirby and got Cooper McMurray to pop out to Jarvis at shortstop to secure the 7-4 victory for the Tide.
The Tide hit 14-35 in the game, walked only one time, had one hit batter, struck out three times, had three doubles, a home run, two sacrifice flies, two stolen bases. and left eight men on base. Before leaving with his injury Seidl was 3-3 with a home run, double, two RBI, and two runs scored. Rose heated up with his 3-4 game with an RBI and run and a drive that just missed leaving the park. Williamson hit 2-3 with a double, sacrifice fly, and two runs driven in. Johnson was 2-4 with a double and run scored and Pinckney drove in two with a 1-4 game and a sacrifice fly. McMillian improved to 4-2 with the win, allowing five hits and three runs with three walks and eight strikeouts in six innings pitched. Hoopes earned his first save with his clutch 0.2 innings.
Auburn was held to 7-34 with seven walks, 13 strikeouts, one double, one home run, one hit batters, three stolen bases, and 11 men left on base. Wortham was the only Tiger with multiple hits with his 2-4 game. Copeland was tagged for the loss pitching 3.1 innings allowing eight hits and four runs. Copeland fell to 4-2 on the season.
Another gritty win for the Tide, who improved to 10-3 under Jackson and is now 3-1 against Auburn this season. This group has become one of the fans all-time favorite teams.
Bama certainly should have secured a host spot in next week’s NCAA Tournament. Baseball America, D 1 Baseball, and most of the other pundits have Bama locked in as a host as anywhere from the 11th to the 14th overall seed, and that could even improve given the rest of the weekend’s play.
The top 16 host the first round where four teams will vie to advance to the Super Regionals, where two teams play best two out of three to reach the College World Series.
Something to monitor over the next few days are the extent of Seidl’s injury, and the health of some of the pitchers’ arms. Seidl is having a magnificent season, leading the team in hitting with a .364 average and has had added nine home runs, nine doubles, 42 runs driven in and has eight stolen bases, while playing outstanding defense in left field.
Tomorrow, at approximately 6:30 PM CDT, the Tide will face 4th seeded Vanderbilt in an all-or-nothing game to advance to the semis.
Bama Baseball Fever — Catch it!