Small Ball and Singles Seal a Tide Victory Over the Aggies
After the game looked like it would be a full-on pitching duel through the first three and a half innings, the Alabama Crimson Tide broke it open in the bottom of the fourth inning and the Texas A&M Aggies followed suit. In the battle of the bats, that raged from the fourth inning on, Alabama ended up victorious. The Tide beat Texas A&M with a final score of 10-9.
After the top of the fourth inning, Texas A&M had a small lead, up just 1-0 after a single by catcher Troy Claunch scored left fielder Dylan Rock. That was until Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon had an idea to change up Alabama's game on offense.
"You know we haven't been great with runners in scoring position, I tell my coaching buddies you know our kryptonite if you want to beat Alabama just load the bases every inning..." said Bohannon post-game, "We had a couple times early to score and we had some bad at-bats, then I just decided that I was just going to get crazy and start doing stuff that made no sense. So we just started bunting like crazy, and credit to the kids for executing some of those and what do ya know, then the bats get going."
Alabama started its scoring in the fourth with a sequence you wouldn't expect: a bunt by left fielder Tommy Seidl, a throwing error advancing Seidl from first to second, another bunt by first baseman Drew Williamson to put runners on third and first, and finally, scoring Seidl from third on another groundball turned error by right fielder Andrew Pinckney.
That's right. Small ball was the strategy coach Bohannon and the Crimson Tide took on at the plate starting in the bottom of the fourth. This led to the parade of bunts, errors, and singles which scored four runs in the fourth. Second baseman Bryce Eblin walked directly after the first run scored, followed by a single by center fielder Caden Rose, then a single by shortstop Jim Jarvis, and a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Eric Foggo. The Tide would head to the fifth inning up 4-1.
Alabama carried this strategy through the rest of the game, forcing Texas A&M to either make a play or make a mistake. And the Aggies made plenty of mistakes, finishing the game with four errors. Only five of Alabama's 10 runs were earned because of the number of errors forced.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Tide scored three more runs. Seidl walked and was content to go base-to-base as Williamson laid down his second bunt of the game and advanced Seidl to third. Pinckney reached on a fielder's choice which scored Seidl and was brought home himself following singles by Eblin and Rose. Eblin scored the Tide's third run of the inning on the Rose single. Alabama then had the 7-1 lead over Texas A&M.
This deficit, however, didn't stop the Aggies' offense from coming to life in the sixth inning against Alabama starting pitcher Jacob McNairy. Texas A&M scored seven runs in the top of the sixth, coming off a two-run home run by first baseman Jack Moss, a bases-loaded walk by third baseman Ryan Targac, a single by designated hitter Jordan Thompson which scored three of the runs, and an RBI groundout by shortstop Kole Kaler. The Aggies now had the one-run lead over Alabama, but in the true nature of this back and forth game, not for long.
In the bottom of the seventh, Alabama would string together another single by Eblin which scored Williamson who reached on an error, a walk by both Rose and Jarvis, and a two-RBI single by designated hitter William Hamiter, who was brought in to replace Foggo in the sixth. This was Hamiter's first hit in just three at-bats since returning from breaking his foot during the Texas series back at the end of February.
"Feeling good, and feeling even better to get back out there. I missed playing, you don't realize how much you miss it till you can't do it. But having the support of the guys behind me is what gave me all the confidence and everything," said Hamiter of his return, "Those guys you know when they're behind you...there is nothing that can keep you from staying the course... It's just awesome man, glad to be back."
The lead was once again the Tide's as it was up on the Aggies 10-8. The Tide went on to secure the win, 10-9, despite giving up another run in the top of the eighth on an RBI single by Targac, cutting it close.
McNairy's final line in this game was five innings pitched, seven hits, three earned runs, one walk, and six strikeouts with one hit by pitch. He was pulled after he allowed the two-run homer and loaded the bases in the sixth and replaced with left-handed pitcher Antoine Jean.
Jean ended up with the win decision, two innings pitched, one hit, two runs, zero earned, one walk, and one strikeout. Right-handed pitcher Dylan Ray came in to close out the game and secure his third save of the season, finishing with two innings pitched, four hits, one run, one earned run, zero walks, and five strikeouts.
"I thought Jacob McNairy gave us a great start, just had a little bit of bad luck there in the sixth, and hit a wall but I thought his first five innings were outstanding. Antoine did a good job of holding it and Ray did a good job of closing it out," said Bohannon of the pitchers' performances today.
Only three of 10 Alabama hitters didn't make it on base today, as the team went 11-for-34 with only one extra-base hit. From batter to batter, base to base, and error by error, Alabama secured its third SEC win.