One of the toughest places to play baseball in the Southeastern Conference is at Mississippi State. On Thursday night, Alabama played its toughest, but the Crimson Tide was unable to get over the Bulldogs at Dudy Noble Field. Mississippi State took a 6-5 win with Alabama leaving the tying and go-ahead runs on base on the top of the ninth.
With the threat of severe weather on Saturday, Alabama and Mississippi State will now play a doubleheader with a pair of nine-inning games on Friday to conclude the series. The two teams will begin the first game of the day at 4 p.m. CDT with game two starting approximately 30 minutes after the final out of game one.
The two teams were originally scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start on Friday with a 2 p.m. CDT first pitch in Saturday’s contest, but were forced to change with rain coming in on Saturday.
Tickets for both the Friday and Saturday games can both be used for admission to Dudy Noble Field during the doubleheader, with Saturday reserved tickets to only be valid for general admission seating on Friday.
Alabama fell to 15-23 overall and 2-14 in SEC play while 11th-ranked Mississippi State improved to 26-14, including 11-5 in the conference.
Thursday’s contest featured four lead changes and two ties as the Tide and Bulldogs exchanged runs from the second through the top of the fourth. Mississippi State’s three-run fifth inning made it a tough hurdle for Bama. Alabama was able to push across two runs in the fifth and left two runners on base, and could get no closer as the final three innings were scoreless for both teams.
The Alabama offense was led by Sam Finnerty, who finished 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a team-high two runs scored. Cody Henry also contributed a multi-hit effort, going 2-for-5 with one run scored. Chandler Avant and Chandler Taylor each extended their hitting streaks with one knock apiece, as Avant’s streak moved to 12 games overall and nine straight in SEC play, while Taylor’s overall streak was extended to eight straight.
Taylor put Alabama on the board early in Thursday’s matchup, sending the first pitch he saw over the wall in straightaway center to lead off the second inning. The homer was Taylor’s team-leading 10th of the season. The Bulldogs tied it up in the bottom of the second with a walk, sacrifice bunt, and a single.
Alabama regained the lead again in the top of the third. Finnerty started the inning with a leadoff single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. A fielding error and a hit-by-pitch in the next two at-bats loaded them up for the Tide before a 5-3 groundout from Cobie Vance scored Finnerty. As would be the case several times, Bama was unable to get any more runs from the baserunners.
Mississippi State plated two runs in the bottom of the third to take its first lead of the day at 3-2. The Bulldogs drew a one-out walk to get things started. Pitcher Dylan Duarte fielded the ball and overthrew the first baseman, allowing the tying run to score and the batter to advance to second. A single and sacrifice fly got the go-ahead run for the Dogs.
Things were evened up again in the top of the fourth, as Alabama made it a 3-3 contest. The Tide half inning began with a leadoff single from Cody Henry. A wild pitch one out later moved him into scoring position, and Finnerty brought Henry across with an RBI-double to the corner in right.
Mississippi State opened things up with a three-run fifth, using four hits and an throwing error by Taylor to take the lead. The inning began with a single to left-center before a two-out walk forced an Alabama pitching change. The Bulldogs greeted reliever Garrett Suchey with a single to right. There was a play at the plate, but the throw bounced away from home for no play on the lead runner and allowed one more to cross. The next State hitter doubled in the frame’s final run, making it a 6-3 game after five innings of play.
The Crimson Tide cut into the Bulldogs’ three-run lead in the sixth, posting a two-spot. Connor Short drew a one-out walk to begin the sequence before Finnerty collected his third hit of the night, a single to center, to put two on. One out later, Avant singled through the left side to score Short for the inning’s first run. Kyle Kaufman drew a walk in the next at-bat to load them up for the Tide before a wild pitch moved everyone 90 feet, including Finnerty, who came across to make it 6-5.
Bama had one more opportunity in the ninth. Vance recorded a one-out single and then moved into scoring position on Henry’s two-out single to right. The Bulldogs were able to record the final out on a grounder to first, stranding the tying and winning runs on base to close out the night.
Duarte took the loss and is now 2-4. He went 4 2/3 innings and was charged with allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 5 hits and 4 walks. He struck out 2. Suchey went 2 2/3 allowing 1 run on 4 hits and struck out 4, walked none. Mike Oczypok got the final two outs.