Given the choice of good pitching, good hitting, or good fielding, most baseball experts would opt for pitching. But by itself, that’s not always good enough, particularly when both the hitting and the fielding are below par.
After Alabama had beaten Mississippi State, 4-3, with a ninth-inning rally in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, the Crimson Tide gave back a one-run game to the Bulldogs in the nightcap as Bama batters managed only three hits, and Tide fielders gave up two unearned runs in a 2-1 loss.
The doubleheader was the result of a Friday rainout. Both games had been scheduled for seven innings, but the opener went nine.
The split gave the Bulldogs the series, 2-1. Alabama is now 25-20 overall and 10-11 in Southeastern Conference games. Mississippi State, ranked third in the nation, is now 30-14-1 overall and 13-9 in the conference.
Tide players will not have a midweek game because of final examinations. Alabama will host Auburn in an SEC series beginning Friday.
In the first game Saturday, Alabama used four walks in the ninth to load the bases and tie the game at 3-3, before Vincent lined a single up the middle to bring home Georgie Salem for the win.
The teams had each scored two in the fourth, before going scoreless into the ninth.
Mississippi State used a pair of singles and a triple to take a 2-0 lead in the fourth. Alabama opened its half of the fourth with Chandler Taylor and Vincent getting back-to-back singles and then moving into scoring position on a balk. Keith Holcombe’s groundout brought home a run and Will Haynie’s shot off the wall tied the game at 2-2.
The Bulldogs scored one in the top half of the inning on a sacrifice fly. The Tide then began walking in the home half on its way to a season-high 10 bases on balls.
Vincent led Alabama with two hits as eight of nine batters reached base in the game. Matt Foster (5-3) entered the game in the seventh and allowed just one run on his way to his fifth win of the season. Mississippi State used nine pitchers, but Ryan Cyr (1-1) took the loss.
Crimson Tide starter Jake Walters threw 6 1/3 innings striking out six. He has now struck out five or more batters in eight of his last 11 appearances. Walters allowed two earned runs, matching his last four starts combined. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in all but one start this season.
Speaking of pitching, in the second game Nick Eicholtz was excellent, but had grounds to sue for non-support. Eicholtz (3-2) suffered the loss despite working six innings and allowing four hits and one walk while striking out a season-high-tying five batters. He retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced.
An error in the second inning led to two Mississippi State runs in Bama’s 2-1 loss.
Bama got one back in the sixth. Salem led off the inning with a single to center. Two outs later Vincent scored Salem with a single to center. But Bama left two runners on base.
Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said, “You can’t say enough about the three starters and how well they’ve pitched through the course of SEC play. Nick (Eicholtz) has really come on, as the last three starts have been dynamite for him. Jake (Walters) has really been the same way. In game one, I thought (Matt) Foster did a nice job too.
“On the offensive end, obviously it’s a tough league to hit in to begin with. We are creating a few more opportunities, as I’ve previously said, but we’re just that one hit away. Seems like in a lot of these games, that one hit is the difference between winning and losing. Right now, we just can’t get that one more that we need to kind of get it going.
“Offensively, we’ve got to have more. We’re having to really play just eight or nine guys, and I’d like to see potentially some guys that haven’t played a lot maybe get a few opportunities to just see if we can find some offense. I don’t know if that’s the answer or not, but I don’t think that’s any secret right now that we’re struggling hitting. We’ve got to find a way.
“It’s just tough to win games when you’re scoring one or two runs. We’ve got to find a way to at least get in that four or five mark, and I think we can do that with our pitching. With these tight ones, we’ll start winning more than we’re losing here in the last nine ballgames.”
With Saturday’s sellout (6,644, the seventh of the year), Alabama went over the 100,000 mark in attendance in its 22 home games at Sewell-Thomas. Bama is averaging 4,546 per home game.