Alabama didn’t win the last baseball battle against Tennessee, but by the time the third game of the series was played Saturday night, the Crimson Tide had already won the Southeastern Conference series war.
After taking the opening game of the series Friday night, Alabama took care of Tennessee by an 11-2 score in the second game of the series Saturday. Because of inclement weather predicted for Sunday in Tuscaloosa, the third game of the series was pushed back to Saturday evening, and the Vols salvaged the final game of the series, 6-3.
Alabama improved its record to 15-8, and is now 4-2 in SEC games, having won both its opening series at LSU and its home opener against the Vols, 2-1. Tennessee is now 14-9, including 2-4 in the conference.
Alabama next plays Auburn, but it will be a non-conference game, the annual Capital City Classic at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery at 7 p.m. CDT Tuesday. The SEC Network will televise the game. Following the midweek game, the Tide returns to SEC play with a Thursday-Saturday series at Georgia.
Following the Tennessee series, Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard could see good things.
“It’s about winning series in conference play,” said Gaspard. “The biggest takeaway for me is that our pitching continues to really pound the strike zone. That was a really good offense in Tennessee. They’re up top in the league in a lot of offensive categories, and I thought we matched up well on the mound.”
In Saturday’s two games, Alabama pitchers allowed nine runs (six earned) and combined for 14 strikeouts.
Alabama’s offense on Saturday was highlighted by Will Haynie, with the junior catcher collecting three hits, a home run, three RBI, two runs scored, and a walk. Hunter Webb finished the day at .500 (4-8) with a double, three runs scored, and two walks. Connor Short also collected three hits, including a double, with two RBI, one run scored, and a walk.
Here are recaps of the games:
ALABAMA 11, TENNESSEE 3
The offense for Alabama was highlighted by Cody Henry’s 2-for-5 game which included a pair of doubles, a team-high four RBI, and two runs scored. Also adding multiple RBI were Cobie Vance, who finished with three on his 1-for-4 day, and Haynie, who closed out a 1-for-3 game with a home run, three RBI, and a run scored.
Tennessee struck first in game one, plating single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to take a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth. Alabama rallied for four in the sixth and a season-high seven runs in the seventh inning to assure the win.
Down 2-0, Webb, Short, and Chandler Taylor all walked to load the bases for Henry, who unloaded them with a three-run double down the third base line. Chance Vincent’s single scored Henry to make it 4-2, Bama.
The Tide offense erupted for seven runs in the bottom of the seventh to put the game out of reach. A single and a hit-by-pitch put runners on first and second for Henry, who sent his second double of the afternoon to left, scoring the leadoff man. Cobie Vance followed with a single to score one more and then a walk put two on for Georgie Salem. The senior singled to center to score one more and chase the Tennessee reliever.
The new Volunteers pitcher was greeted by Will Haynie, who sent a 2-1 pitch out to left-center to score three and give Alabama the 11-2 lead. Tennessee scored one in the ninth, but left the bases loaded as the Sam Finnerty recorded the final out on a groundout to second.
“It was big right there,” said Gaspard of his team’s ability to rally. “They hit us with the two-spot and took the lead, but we were able to come back. I thought we were really disciplined at the plate today. We were able to get the bases loaded due to the walks, and then we delivered big hits. Cody Henry had the double to clear the bases, and (Chance) Vincent came up with a big one, too. The rally really started from there.”
Kyle Cameron (2-1) earned his second win of the season, working 1 1/3 innings and walking one batter while striking out one. Jake Walters worked another solid start, tossing 5 2/3 innings and allowing two runs (one earned) with four hits, a walk, and five strikeouts.
TENNESSEE 6, ALABAMA 3
Alabama was unable to get the series sweep, giving up three ninth inning runs after the Tide had fought back from a three-run deficit. All nine runs in the game came with two outs.
Tennessee built a 3-0 lead after the first two innings. Alabama went scoreless through the first five innings, but struck in the bottom of the sixth. Taylor had a one-out triple to deep center, and one out later Vance drove home the first Bama run with a single to center.
In the seventh inning, Haynie singled through the left side and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Chandler Avant. Webb followed with a walk, and then Short delivered with a double to bring both runners across and even the game at 3-3.
The two teams went scoreless again until the ninth, when the Vols used a two-out double – a popup to short center than no one could reach -- to start the winning rally. Chandler made a near-perfect throw to the plate on a single to right field, but the runner was barely safe, the eventual winning run rather than the third out. An intentional walk was followed by a line drive that went off the glove of Chandler in right (ruled a triple) and Bama went to its last bat down 6-3.
Alabama’s ninth featured a two-out single but nothing more.
The Tide offense in game two was highlighted by the 1-2-3 hitters in Webb, Short, and Taylor, who finished a combined 6-for-13 with two doubles, a triple, two RBI and two runs scored. Haynie also put together another multi-hit effort, going 2-for-3 with one run.