Alabama Baseball Coach Mitch Gaspard recognized the situation. Houston’s starting pitchers are very, very good. And so when the Crimson Tide finally got to the Cougars’ bullpen in the eighth inning with Bama down a run, things seemed to be going Alabama’s way.
Unfortunately, having the bases loaded with only one out and trailing by a run came to nothing as Alabama was unable to get anyone home and Houston took its second consecutive low-scoring win over the Tide, 3-2, Saturday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Cougars had won Friday night’s game by a 3-1 score.
Sunday’s series finale is scheduled for a 1 p.m. CDT (remember to set clocks ahead an hour tonight) start at Sewell-Thomas. The Crimson Tide has not determined a starter, while Houston will throw junior left-hander John King.
The pivotal eighth started with Alabama getting a runner aboard on a Houston error after one was out. Chance Vincent followed with a single and Chandler Taylor earned a base on balls to load the bases. Houston relief pitching did its job, forcing a ground out and a pop fly in foul territory to end the Alabama threat.
“When you face arms (like Houston’s starters), you’re typically going to get one or two opportunities,” Gaspard said. “We had our shot in the eighth. We just didn’t deliver.
“We just didn’t do the job that we needed to when we got to their bullpen. We felt like that was an area where we could do some damage in the back of the game, and, really, the opportunity presented itself just as we thought in the eighth inning. We just weren’t able to deliver in that spot.”
Alabama, ranked 23rd in the nation, fell to 10-4 with the loss, while No. 21 Houston improved to 8-5.
Jake Walters (1-2) suffered the loss despite another strong outing. The sophomore went five innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits with one walk and six strikeouts. Crimson Tide relievers did their job with freshmen Brock Love and Sam Finnerty combining to throw four scoreless innings and striking out four.
Houston took a 1-0 lead in the third, loading the bases with two outs on a pair of singles and a hit-by-pitch. An infield single scored the run. An attempted double steal by the Cougars in the fourth benefitted by a throwing error into left field that allowed a second run to score, and a single to center scored the third run.
Alabama came back with a pair of runs in the fifth. Hunter Webb had a one-out double, followed by a run-scoring single from Keith Holcombe. Holcombe went to second on the throw in and tagged to third on a fly out. A wild pitch scored Holcombe as the Tide pulled to within 3-2.
Holcombe, who also had a ninth-inning single in the comeback effort, was 2-5 with an RBI and run scored. Connor Short and Chance Vincent each had a pair of hits in three at-bats.
Both teams left nine men on base. Houston had a 9-7 advantage in hits, the Tide got three bases on balls to Houston’s one, but the Cougars also got a base runner via hit by pitch. Bama committed three errors, Houston one.
Starting pitcher Seth Romero got the win for Houston to move to 2-0.
“It’s a long season,” Gaspard said. “We’ve got some nice qualities as a team, but we’ve just go to continue to get better as we approach (Southeastern) Conference play, because the competition is only going to increase in the next few weeks.”