Alabama had a dramatic ninth inning against fourth-ranked South Carolina in Columbia Saturday evening, but the Gamecocks had an answer for it and pulled out a 10-inning 6-5 win over the Crimson Tide.
The series is now even at 1-1 with the Sunday rubber game having been moved up to Noon EDT (11 a.m. central time). The time change was made to accommodate South Carolina fans wanting to watch the Gamecocks basketball team in the NCAA Tournament.
Trailing 4-3 going to the top of the ninth, Alabama tied it in a hurry, leadoff hitter Chandler Taylor sending his second home run of the series over the right field fence.
It would get better as the Tide added a go-ahead run. Connor Short followed Taylor’s homer with a double to right and a bunt single by Gene Wood moved Short to third. Chandler Avant grounded into a double play, but Short was home with the marker to make it 5-4 Bama going to the bottom of the ninth.
It may be that Alabama went to the bullpen well once too often. Dylan Duarte had started the game and went into the sixth inning having given up four runs (two earned). Sam Finnerty went 2 1/3 innings and didn’t allow a run before being replaced by Mike Oczypok to get the final out of the eighth inning.
Freshman Davis Rainer was brought in to pitch for Oczypok in the bottom of the ninth, and Rainer had his problems. He walked the first batter he faced on four pitches, but then got two outs. Two wild pitches, though, put a runner on third. A third wild pitch enabled the Gamecocks to tie the game at 5-5 and send it to extra innings.
The Tide had a chance in the top of the 10th.
Cobie Vance led off with a walk, but was picked off first base. Cody Henry followed with a single and Alex Webb sacrificed him to second with Bama’s second out and Bama was unable to score.
In the bottom of the 10th, the Gamecocks got started with a four-pitch walk, a single, and a wild pitch that put runners on second and third. Following a strikeout and another base on balls, Justin Row – who had been inserted into the game in the top of the 10th for defensive purposes -- singled to left to end the game.
Rainer took the loss with 1 1/3 innings pitched.
Alabama got two hits each from Taylor (who had his team-leading seventh homer of the season), Wood, and Hunter Alexander. Taylor, Alexander, Cody Henry, and Connor Short had runs batted in.
Alabama is now 12-11 overall and 1-4 in Southeastern Conference games. South Carolina improved to 16-6, including 4-1 in the conference.
Josh Reagan gave up three earned runs in 3 1/3 innings of relief work, but got the win for South Carolina.
Bama had been in a hole in trying to win the series on the first two days.
After three scoreless innings, South Carolina took advantage of an error on a fielder’s choice to put together a three-hit, three-run inning (two of the runs unearned).
South Carolina made it 4-0 in the sixth on two singles, a walk, and a fielder’s choice.
Alabama got on the board in the seventh inning. Henry walked and reached second on a wild pitch. Alexander’s single to left brought Henry home. Taylor followed with a double to left center, putting runners at second and third. Short’s sacrifice fly pulled the Tide to within 4-2.
In the eighth, Bama got a leadoff single from Chandler Avant and a single from Kyle Kaufman. Cobie Vance moved them into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt and Henry scored Avant with a sacrifice fly. It was 4-3 going to the ninth.
Alabama is expected to pitch senior right-hander Nick Eicholtz and South Carolina plans to go with junior right-hander Clarke Schmidt in Sunday’s game.