Southeastern Conference baseball series ordinarily begin on Friday. Perhaps that explains Alabama not really being ready to play when the Crimson Tide started this week’s SEC three-game series against third-ranked Mississippi State on Thursday.
“We haven’t had too many openers like that,” Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said following his team’s 12-5 loss to Mississippi State at Sewell-Thomas Stadium Thursday. The Crimson Tide found itself in an early hole, dug out to within a run and threatening for more, and then collapsed towards the finish. The Bulldogs had a pair of five-run innings, the third and the ninth.
Maybe Bama will be ready to go on Friday when the teams resume the series at 7 p.m. CDT. Alabama will send sophomore right-hander Jake Walters to the mound, while State counters with junior right-hander Austin Sexton.
Alabama fell to 24-19 overall and 9-10 in SEC play while the Bulldogs improved to 29-13-1 overall, 11-8 in the conference.
Alabama rallied from an early 6-2 deficit to make it a 6-5 contest after six. The Crimson Tide scored single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, but Mississippi State scored one in the seventh and five in the ninth to nail down the win.
Gaspard said. “I thought offensively, in the middle part of the game we did a good job off (Dakota) Hudson to get to the bullpen. We got ourselves back in the game at 6-5 going into the seventh. We mishandled the pickoff, and I thought that was a really big play at that time. From there in the ninth inning, they were able to have some at-bats and really stretch it out.”
Crimson Tide starter Geoffrey Bramblett (3-3) suffered the loss, working five innings and allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Bramblett gave up five in the third, but bounced back to retire nine of the next 10 batters before exiting the game.
Jon Keller took over in relief and allowed one unearned run in two innings with two walks and a season-high tying four strikeouts. He also had a costly throwing error on a pickoff attempt.
Two singles and a sacrifice fly gave the visitors a first-inning 1-0 lead, but Bama answered to take the lead in the bottom of the first. Hunter Webb had a leadoff single and was followed by a walk to Georgie Salem. A groundout moved both runners up and Chandler Taylor drove them home with a hard hit to right.
In the top of the third, Mississippi State put up five runs on two errors and a pair of hits, including a two-run home run, to move its lead to 6-2. The leadoff man reached on an error and then a triple brought him around before a stolen base and a throwing error allowed everyone to move up one base, crossing the second run. An infield groundout moved a third run across, and then a walk was followed by a home run.
The Crimson Tide chipped away at the lead with one run apiece in the bottom of the fourth and fifth. In the fourth, Cody Henry reached on an error with one down before Keith Holcombe delivered his first double of the season, a grounder down the left field line to bring Henry in. Alabama added one more in the bottom of the fifth, using a leadoff single from Webb and a triple from Taylor to score Webb and make it 6-4 through five.
The Bulldogs lead was cut to one in the sixth, with the Tide adding one more to make it a 6-5 game. Henry led off the inning with a double and then advanced to third on a wild pitch. One batter later, Will Haynie recorded an RBI-single to center, narrowing the gap to one run.
State widened its lead to 7-5 in the top of the seventh when an errant pickoff attempt at first went into right field and allowed a man to score. In the ninth, Mississippi State put it away with its second five-run inning.