Alabama moved into the losers bracket of the double elimination tournament with its one-run loss to Texas A&M on Wednesday, and the Crimson Tide has a tough hill to climb to stay alive in the SEC Tournament at Hoover, but Bama will move on to the Friday round against the loser of the Vanderbilt-A&M game, played later Thursday. Friday’s game will begin at 3 p.m. CDT and will be televised on the SEC Network.
"We've been in a lot of these situations, tournament and regional games, and it's really about having energy," said Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard. "It's easy to come out today after both teams lose tough games yesterday with low energy. I feel like we came out with good energy today. “We got popped a little bit when they scored the two, and then we bounced back. The key today was really simple. Taylor [Guilbeau] gave us a good start, and the bullpen was really good on the back end once we took the lead.
Offensively we did enough. (Casey) Hughston got the big double to get us started, then Cody [Henry] got the big two RBIs to get us going, and then [Will] Haynie hits the bomb. Pretty well played game on both sides. We’re fortunate to keep going and have another day in front of us.”
The Crimson Tide improved to 32-27 while the Tigers fell to 30-28 on the season.
The “H Crew” delivered offensively for Bama in the come-from-behind win that eliminated seventh seed Mizzou Thursday morning. In addition to Haynie’s winning home run, Casey Hughston was 2-4 with a double and an RBI and Cody Henry drove in two runs as he went 1-3. Mikey White scored twice for the Tide.
Hughston had his 23rd multi-hit game of the season. Kyle Overstreet had his 11-game hitting streak snapped as he was 0-4.
Senior Taylor Gilbeau, Alabama’S Friday starter throughout the season, went seven innings allowing six hits and three runs with four strikeouts and three walks. He picked up the win – his first this year against an SEC opponent – as he is now 3-6 on the year. Bama got brilliant relief work from senior Jay Shaw in the eighth and sophomore Thomas Burrows in the ninth, both pitching three-up and three-down ball. Burrows, who struck out two, earned his team-high seventh save of the season.
Gilbeau said, “I feel like I threw the ball really well. It wasn’t my best outing. I just try to go out there and compete for these guys so that they’ll compete back for me. I feel like when I try to throw good pitches my defense will work for me and the hitting will come around. My fastball was working really well today. I didn’t really have control of my changeup much throughout the whole year, but I’ve been working on it in the bullpen and it started to work for me today. I didn’t have good control of my curveball but I got a few good ones when I needed to. The fastball and changeup worked really well for me today.”
Missouri freshman pitcher Tanner Houck went eight innings and struck out eight Bama batters, but took the loss to fall to 8-5.
Haynie said, “He (Houck) kind of got it on my hands the previous two at-bats, so I backed off the plate and I knew he was going to attack with fastballs. I got a good pitch up in the zone and put a good swing on it.”
Haynie’s homer was his team-leading eighth of the season and the 27th of the year for Bama. It was just the ninth at the spacious Hoover Met, where the Tide played its home games this year while Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa is under renovation.
Most believe Alabama must win the tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Although the Tide was the 11th seed in the SEC tourney, Bama has been good of late, having won nine of its last 12 games, including going 2-1 in the conference tournament.
Alabama scored first with White getting a two-out infield single and coming home on Hughston’s double.
Missouri went ahead, 2-1, on a two-run double by Brett Peel in the fifth. The Tigers extended the lead to 3-1 in the sixth when Josh Lester doubled and came home on a single by Trey Harris.
Bama’s two-out magic continued in the bottom of the sixth. White drew a two-out walk, Hughston had an infield single, and the bases were loaded when Mizzou was unable to make a play on Overstreet’s infield grounder. Henry’s single to center scored two and tied the game at 3-3.
In Alabama’s three SEC Tournament games, Bama has recorded 14 of its 25 hits and 10 of its 13 runs with two outs.
Gaspard expects to start junior right-hander Will Carter, who was Bama’s Saturday starter for much of the season, in Friday’s game. “His last three outings have been really good,” Gaspard said. “He’s a big arm that’s going to be in the mid-90s. He was very involved last Saturday in the shutout against Vanderbilt.”