Close just doesn’t get it. For the second consecutive night, Alabama’s baseball team could not quite get over the hump against 10th-ranked South Carolina, and for the second straight evening Bama was a two-run loser to the Gamecocks, 4-2.
Alabama had its opportunities, but couldn’t deliver the clutch hit when needed. South Carolina did take advantage of its scoring chances and as a result have won the series, which is the final trio of games in the Southeastern Conference and regular season schools.
The final game in the series, and Bama’s chance to salvage one game against South Carolina, will begin at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
Alabama fell to 31-23, including a 15-14 SEC mark. The Gamecocks improved to 41-13 and 19-9 in the conference.
“Other than (the home runs), I thought Jake was as solid as he’s been all year,” said Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard. “He was around plate. He had a pretty nice pitch count in the middle part of the game, and he wasn’t laboring at all. He did a nice job. That’s just the typical SEC game, you’ve got really good arms out there, and it’s kind of who can scratch for some runs. Certainly, if you can leave the yard a couple times, you’ve got a real advantage to win the game.”
Alabama starter Jake Walters worked seven innings and allowed four runs on eight hits, two of which were home runs. The homers were Walters’ first two allowed during conference play and his first since Feb. 20 against Maryland. Outside of the pair of homers, Walters was sharp, striking out six and allowing one walk. He has now recorded at least five strikeouts in 11 of his 13 starts this season.
South Carolina used three straight two-out singles to make it a 1-0 game after the top of the first.
Georgie Salem tied it up in the bottom of the opening inning with his fifth home run of the season. It is a season-best sixth consecutive game in which the Tide has had at least one homer and extended Salem’s hitting streak to 11 games. He would finish 2-for-5.
Walters retired 10 straight after the two-out single to score the game’s first run, but South Carolina would add a pair in the fifth. A leadoff walk was followed by a two-run home run, the first homer in conference play that Walters has issued, to make it 3-1. A solo homer in the sixth would make it 4-1.
Alabama made it a 4-2 game with one run in the bottom of the eighth. A leadoff double by Chandler Taylor (who was 3-5) and then a one-out walk put two on. One out later, pinch-hitter Connor Short drew a walk to load the bases and then senior Ryan Blanchard followed with a walk of his own to bring one across. The Tide was unable to cross any more in the eighth, and a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth did no damage as Gamecock closer Tyler Johnson locked down his eighth save of the season after recording the final out.
In Saturday’s series finale, Alabama is scheduled to throw senior left-hander Jon Keller, while South Carolina will counter with freshman righty Adam Hill.