Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban was a very good baseball player in his youth, though he has said he was not a good pitcher. Nevertheless, he is called on once a year to throw out the first pitch for an Alabama baseball came, and did so Friday night after conducting his first practice of the spring earlier in the day.
As it turned out, the Crimson Tide baseball team failed to live up to a Saban dictum to “Finish.”
In a pitchers’ duel of top 25 teams, No. 23 Alabama gave up two ninth inning runs and fell to No. 21 Houston, 3-1, at a rain-soaked Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
The two teams return to the diamond at 2 p.m. CST Saturday for game two of the weekend series. Alabama will call on sophomore right-hander Jake Walters to even the series.
On Friday, Houston’s Andrew Lantrip (2-2) worked eight innings of one-run baseball, allowing six hits while not issuing a walk. The junior right-hander also recorded 13 strikeouts. His one mistake was giving up a home run to Chandler Taylor for Bama’s lone run in the seventh inning.
“A lot of credit goes to Lantrip,” said Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard. “I thought he pitched well. He pitched us the same way, as he climbed the ladder and we chased the ball up. Offensively tonight, our performance was just not enough.”
Alabama pitchers matched the Houston staff until the top of the ninth. Crimson Tide starter Geoffrey Bramblett allowed only a solo home run in the fifth. Bramblett gave up four hits and four walks, but struck out four in his 4 1/3 innings. Following the Tide starter was freshman Kyle Cameron, who pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
The game was decided in the ninth, when a one-out walk and a single put Cougars on the corners for Joe Davis. The Houston first baseman sent a 1-2 pitch from Matt Foster (1-1) off the wall in left to bring two runners across and give Houston the 3-1 advantage.
Davis had all three Houston RBI as he led off the fifth inning with a solo home run.
Alabama answered in the seventh as Chandler Taylor sent a 3-2 pitch over the wall in right center.
Bama’s last chance in the ninth started with a base on balls, but the Tide was unable to capitalize.