It looked as if it was going to be over in the first inning when Alabama opened its Southeastern Conference baseball series at Texas A&M Friday evening, but instead it took 10 innings as the third-ranked Aggies pulled out a 4-3 win over Bama.
Alabama went meekly in the opening inning while A&M sent eight men to the plate in the bottom of the first to take a 3-0 lead. But the Tide pitching settled down, Alabama had some outstanding defensive plays, and Bama was able to get three runs to tie it by the sixth and send it into the extra inning.
The loss dropped the Tide to 23-16 overall and 8-8 in SEC games, while the Aggies improved to 31-7 and lead the SEC West with an 11-5 mark.
Game two of the series at Blue Bell Park is at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday. Both teams will open with right-handed sophomores, Jake Walters for Alabama and Jace Vines for Texas A&M.
“Our guys absolutely played their butts off all night long and put us in position to win the game,” said Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard. “I thought (Matt) Foster did a great job, and so did Geoffrey (Bramblett). After his three-spot in the first, he really came through by posting zeros. Matt did a great job, and Dylan (Duarte) too; he made them earn it by sticking the ball in the strike zone.”
Geoffrey Bramblett allowed three runs in the first, but pitched five more innings of shutout baseball. The junior allowed a base runner in every inning, but stranded six to keep the Aggies off the board. He finished with two strikeouts while issuing four walks and allowing six hits. He threw 106 pitches. It was Bramblett’s seventh quality start of the season, five of those coming in SEC play.
“We tell our guys to prepare for everything; you’ve got to prepare for a good start, got to prepare for a bad start,” Gaspard said of Bramblett’s outing. “That’s one of those where you blink and it’s 3-0, but Geoffrey really showed a veteran presence there to settle down, keep us in the game by posting zeroes for us. He was outstanding, and I’ve said this many Fridays – that’s what a Friday night guy has to do, he has to keep you in the game, and that’s exactly what he did there.”
The Crimson Tide starter was followed by another impressive performance from Matt Foster, with the junior reliever working 2 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out five. In the ninth, Foster allowed a two-out double and then intentionally walked the next batter to create a lefty-lefty matchup for Dylan Duarte. The freshman came out the bullpen and ended the threat thanks to a diving catch by Hunter Webb in left to save the game and send it to the 10th.
In the bottom of the 10th, A&M would use a leadoff hit-by-pitch and a sacrifice bunt to put one in scoring position. After a walk, a grounder through the left side brought in the winning run for the Aggies.
Texas A&M had taken a 3-0 lead in the first. The Aggies started single, walk, double to make it 1-0, and got two more in on a sacrifice fly and a ground out.
Alabama got a run back in the second without a hit. Chandler Avant reached on an error, stole second, and went to third on an infield groundout. Chance Vincent’s slow roller to the mound wasn’t going to score Avant, but when the Aggies pitcher threw the ball into right field, Avant trotted home to make it 3-1.
Chandler Taylor would even the score up for Alabama in the sixth. Cobie Vance led off the inning with a single to center to put one on, and then one out later Taylor sent a line drive home run out over the fence in right to even up the score at 3-3. The homer was Taylor’s team-leading fifth of the season.
The two teams would remain scoreless from the bottom of the sixth, until the 10th inning saw the Aggies walk it off for the series-opening win.