Alabama opened the SEC Tournament at the Hoover Met in Birmingham Tuesday morning with as 6-1 victory over the Ole Miss Rebels, which puts Bama into the double elimination phase of the tournament Wednesday against Texas A&M. Mississippi is eliminated from the tournament.
Alabama, the 11th seed in the tournament, improved its record to 31-26, while the Rebels, the sixth seed, fell to 30-26.
The Crimson Tide meets the Aggies at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday with television coverage on the SEC Network. Texas A&M is the third seed. Following Tuesday’s games, in which losers were eliminated, the remaining eight teams in the tournament play double elimination for the SEC Tournament championship.
Last Saturday with Alabama preparing to play Vanderbilt in the last regular season game of the year, the Crimson Tide learned that Georgia had lost its game earlier in the day, meaning Bama had earned its way into the SEC Tournament (which includes the top 12 of 14 teams). With that knowledge, Bama Coach Mitch Gaspard pitched Bramblett only one inning against the Commodores, intending to start Bramblett in the SEC Tourney’s first game.
The strategy paid off well. Bramblett went nine innings, giving up just one run, and struck out a career high 10 batters. He scattered nine hits, but did not walk a batter. Bramblett improved to 8-3 on the year.
Bramblett was particularly effective in the bottom of the eighth when Ole Miss threatened with men at second and third and one out. Bramblett struck out Rebels clean-up hitter Sikes Orvis (for the fourth time) and then ended the inning with a strikeout of Austin Knight.
“I thought Geoffrey did a tremendous job,” said Gaspard. “For game one, I don’t think we could have asked for a whole lot more.”
The pitching effort was matched by a clutch hitting effort from the Crimson Tide bats. The offense had 11 total hits, eight of which came with two outs. Alabama was led by multi-hit efforts from Casey Hughston, Mikey White, and J.C. Wilhite. Hughston had a double and a team-high two RBI.
“We had a lot of our key hitters have a nice day today, and we were able to get them off to a good start in the tournament” Gaspard added. “We’ve played pretty good baseball for two and a half weeks, which is encouraging. We got off to a really good start today, and we will prepare for Texas A&M in the morning.”
Alabama’s first run was a bit unusual. With Georgie Salem on first and Chandler Avant at third with two out singles in the fifth inning, White was at bat with two strikes. Salem broke for second, drawing a throw, and when it was bobbled at second, Avant came home for the 1-0 lead. White and Hughston followed with singles to make it 2-0.
Alabama sent 10 men to the plate in the seventh. Although Bama left the bases loaded, the Tide struck for four runs with two outs. The big hit in the inning was the Hughston double, but White, Cody Henry, and J.C. Wilhite also had run-scoring hits in the inning.
The lone run for Ole Miss came in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI single by Errol Robinson.
Scott Weathersby, the first of four Ole Miss pitchers, took the loss.
Alabama scored all of its runs in two innings (two in the fifth and four in the seventh) and all six runs came with two outs.
Alabama is expected to start either freshman Jake Walters or senior Taylor Gilbeau Wednesday against Texas A&M.
Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said, “It doesn’t take a baseball genius to figure out what happened. Alabama just outplayed us.”