Stuart McNair

Series continues Friday night as Alabama hosts South Carolina baseball

Cobie Vance had two-run home run in Alabama comeback try

It is painfully obvious that the nation’s 10th-ranked baseball team does not need any help, as demonstrated by Alabama in its 6-4 loss to South Carolina to start a Southeastern Conference series in Tuscaloosa Thursday night.

Alabama gave the Gamecocks two runs on a two-out error by left fielder Keith Holcombe and then had a mental lapse that allowed South Carolina another run. The Crimson Tide offense made a game comeback try, but came up short.

Alabama and South Carolina play the second game of the series at 7 p.m. CDT Friday in Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Crimson Tide will start sophomore right-hander Jake Walters, while the Gamecocks call on freshman righty Braden Webb.

Bama is now 31-22 overall and 15-13 in SEC games. SC improved to 40-13, including 18-9 in the conference.

Alabama baseball fell behind early and battled back, but would eventually come up short in the comeback effort, suffering the 6-4 loss to 10th-ranked South Carolina on Thursday evening at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Following the series opener, the Crimson Tide is now 31-22 overall and 15-13 in Southeastern Conference play.

“I thought we played too poorly in the front part of the game,” said Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard. “Geoff (Bramblett) wasn’t as sharp as he’s been, and then we certainly didn’t help him much on the defensive end. We basically kind of gave them three runs there where they didn’t have to do a whole lot to get them. The guys responded well on the offensive end, as they came back and scored four. We had an opportunity a couple more times to add to that.”

Bramblett went five innings, allowing seven hits, four runs (two earned), walking three and striking out three. Ray Castillo, who took the loss, went two-thirds of an inning, allowing one hit and two earned runs. Matt Foster went 3 1/3 innings, allowing no hits or runs and striking out five, walking only one.

Bramblett has gone at least five innings in all 10 of his Southeastern Conference starts this season.

The Crimson Tide went down 4-0 early, but rallied to put together a four-run fifth to make things even. South Carolina notched a pair of runs in the sixth to take a 6-4 lead, the eventual final.

South Carolina struck first with one run in the second. A leadoff single followed by a double put two in scoring position before a sacrifice fly to center made it a 1-0 game. SC added two more in the fourth, using a two-out error to bring across a pair. The Gamecocks collected one more in the fifth with a leadoff single, walk and then another single to make it 4-0 heading to the bottom of the fifth.

The score went even in the bottom of the fifth, as the Crimson Tide evened things up with a huge four-run frame. Keith Holcombe drew a one-out walk before Cobie Vance brought him around with a two-run home run to left. Georgie Salem was then hit by a pitch and then a Chandler Taylor double moved both runners into scoring position. One out later, Cody Henry came through with the clutch, two-run single to make it a 4-4 game.

The Gamecocks countered with two in the top of the sixth to regain the lead. A two-out single to left with the bases loaded brought a pair in to make it 6-4 in favor of SC. Alabama had the bases loaded in the sixth with an opportunity to tie or go ahead, but was unable to capitalize on the opportunity.

Salem extended his hitting streak to 10 games. He has batted .378 (14-37 in that time) with two doubles, two home runs, 10 RBI, and 10 runs scored. Will Haynie increased his hitting streak to eight games, in which he is 13-33 (.394) with five homers, 11 RBI, and six runs. Holcombe extended his hitting streak to seven games in which he is 9-21 (.429) with a double and seven runs.

Taylor has reached base in 16 consecutive SEC games and 25 of 27 conference contests.

This series ends with a game at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday, which will close out regular season play. Bama will participate in the SEC Tournament at Hoover next week.

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