Alabama gave its best effort in a comeback attempt against Texas A&M Saturday, but the Crimson Tide couldn’t get the tying (and winning) run in the bottom of the ninth and the Aggies swept Bama with a 3-2 win Saturday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
Alabama’s failures at the plate and from the bullpen wasted a fine performance by Crimson Tide starting pitcher Nick Eicholtz. The senior right-hander threw six innings of one-hit, scoreless baseball and left the game with a 1-0 lead.
By the time the game reached the bottom of the ninth, Alabama was down 3-1, but the Crimson Tide made a good effort. Chandler Avant got one-out double to start the rally. After advancing to third on a groundout, Avant came home on a wild pitch to pull Bama to within a run. Cobie Vance extended the inning with a single – his fourth hit of the game – and Chandler Taylor walked to put runners at first and second. But a strikeout by Aggies reliever Mitchel Kilkenny ended the game.
The Crimson Tide sits at 14-22 overall for the season and 2-13 in conference play. Texas A&M improved to 26-11, 8-7 in the conference.
“I'm really proud of the way or guys went out there today and competed,” said Alabama Coach Greg Goff. “I love the resiliency of these players and what they're doing. I thought those were the best two-strike at-bats (in the ninth inning) we've had all year with Cobie (Vance) and Chandler (Taylor)."
Eicholtz threw a career-high 109 pitches in his six-inning sting, striking out a season-high six and giving up four walks. Eicholtz cruised through the middle innings, retiring 12 in order and recording 13 consecutive outs at one point before working himself out of a jam in the sixth to close out his afternoon. In that sixth inning, Eicholtz had runners on the corners with one down before getting a huge strikeout followed by a lineout to end the A&M threat.
“Nick’s start today was a big plus for us,” Goff said. “He's fought through some injuries and hasn't had the start to this season that he wanted to, but he told me last week that he was going to finish strong. I'm just really proud of the way he continues to go out there, compete and give our team the chance to win."
Alabama struck first in Saturday’s series finale, using a two-out rally to plate one in the bottom of the first. Vance started things, sending a single to left, before coming across to score in the next at-bat thanks to an RBI-double from Chandler Taylor, giving UA an early 1-0 advantage.
Both teams went scoreless for the next five frames as the two starting pitchers battled. The Aggies Stephen Kolex went 5 2/3 innings. He allowed eight hits, but only one run and struck out seven without issuing a walk.
Texas A&M grabbed the lead in the top of the seventh with a three-run inning. A two-out single followed by a walk placed runners on first and second for the Aggies before a three-run home run by George Janca put A&M in front, 3-1, heading to the stretch.
The Tide added one in the ninth to make it a one-run game, but would come no closer, as the tying and winning runs were stranded on base.
Alabama out-hit the Aggies, 11-5, but the Tide stranded 12 runners to A&M’s 6.
Garrett Suchey worked the final three innings for Bama and took the loss, giving up four hits and three earned runs.
Alabama’s offense had eight of the nine starters record at least one hit, as the Tide finished with 11 total hits on the afternoon. Vance led UA once again, contributing a career-high tying four hits in five at-bats, including one double, and adding a run scored. Avant finished 1-for-4 with his double in the ninth, as both he and Vance each extended their hitting streaks. Avant has now hit safely in 10 consecutive contests overall and eight straight SEC pairings, while Vance is right behind with a hit in nine straight games and seven SEC contests.
Next up for Alabama is a midweek matchup with Alcorn State at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Tuesday. First pitch of the contest between the Crimson Tide and Braves is set for 6 p.m. CDT.