Walk-Off Homer For Tide Victory

Good karma was better than bad karma Saturday for Alabama baseball at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The good was that it was Saturday, and the Crimson Tide had won its two previous Saturday home games with walk-off home runs. The bad was that Austen Smith was at bat and Bama trailed Vanderbilt 6-5.

Smith had not homered for Alabama this season. His last home run had come in the opening game of the NCAA Regional Tournament last June.

But Saturday he took a two-out,1-1 pitch over the wall in left to bring in three runs and give the Crimson Tide its dramatic come-from-behind 8-6 win over Vanderbilt. Bama scored four runs in the dramatic comeback.

"With this being our third Saturday (at home) in a row with a walk-off homer, something I don't think I've seen in 24 years of coaching, this is certainly a win we'll take," UA Coach Mitch Gaspard said.

Brett Booth's two-run walk-off effort on March 24 earned the Tide a 3-2 victory over Mississippi, while Taylor Dugas' two-run walk-off home run on April 7 versus Auburn gave Alabama a 4-3 win.

With Saturday's win, the Crimson Tide improves to 16-24 and 6-11 in Southeastern Conference play, while the Commodores fall to 17-22 and 6-11 in the SEC.

Alabama will try to complete its second SEC series sweep of the season in game three of the series versus the Commodores, slated for Sunday at 1:05 p.m. from Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Tide is expected to start freshman left-hander Jon Keller (1-2, 4.19) while Vanderbilt will counter with sophomore lefty Kevin Ziomek (3-6, 4.91).

Bama's only SEC three-game series sweep this year came against Auburn.

James Tullidge led off the ninth with an infield single, before advancing to third on a single by Dugas. With runners at the corners and no outs, Hunter Gregory's sacrifice fly to deep left field allowed Tullidge to score, plating the first run of the inning. After an out and a walk, Smith sent the fans at Sewell-Thomas Stadium into a frenzy with his two-out, game-winning dinger, the first walk-off hit of his UA career.

Smith was 2-for-5 with three RBI and one run scored. Ben Moore registered a 3-for-4, two run, one RBI performance, that included a two-out walk in the ninth right before Smith's game-winner. Gregory, Jared Reaves and Dugas all contributed one run and one hit on the afternoon as well, with Tullidge adding a hit and two runs.

Reliever Trey Pilkington (2-3) earned the victory for Alabama, pitching two innings of relief, allowing one run on two hits. Tide starter Taylor Guilbeau lasted six innings, giving up two runs on just one hit while striking out a career-high seven. Will Clinard took the loss for Vandy, surrendering four runs on three hits, including Smith's game-winning, walk-off home run, in the ninth.

"I thought Taylor Guilbeau gave us his best start of the year through his six innings," Gaspard said. "We kind of ran into a little trouble there in the seventh inning, we threw a lot of pitches, but we were able to minimize the damage. The walks bit us again in the back end of the game; we walked too many guys and gave up the lead. I thought that Pilkington was serviceable in the back end of the game; he did a good job in the eighth and kept the game close in the ninth. That really set the stage for another good job by our offense in the ninth inning, when our guys just continued to battle. It took a lot of quality at-bats to get Austen Smith to that situation where he could get his home run."

Alabama jumped on top of the Commodores in the first frame for the second consecutive day, plating a run in the bottom half of the inning. Gregory scored from third on a wild pitch by Vanderbilt starter Tyler Beede to give the Tide the early lead.

The Commodores tied it at 1-1 in the top of the fourth inning on Anthony Gomez's RBI-double, then took a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth, scoring on a two-out passed ball. Guilbeau avoided further damage in the sixth, striking out Conner Harell to end the inning with two runners aboard.

Alabama answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 3-2 lead. Reaves led off with a walk, before coming all the way around to score on Moore's RBI double, tying the game at 2-2. From there, Moore advanced to third on a fielder's choice then scored on a Booth sacrifice fly.

The lead was brief, as Vanderbilt plated three runs in the top of the seventh to reclaim the advantage. The Commodores scored their first run of the inning on a bases-loaded walk, before a two-RBI single by Spencer Navin pushed the Vandy lead to 5-3.

Alabama struck back with a run in the bottom half of the inning on Reaves' two-out RBI single, scoring Tullidge from second base to cut the score to 5-4 before the ninth inning karma kicked in.

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