What is the difference between the baseball team with the worst record in the Southeastern Conference and one of the SEC teams knocking on the door of top ten in the nation? This weekend it was one run per game. Alabama went to Mississippi State with the SEC’s worst record and came back with three one-run losses to the Bulldogs, ranked 11th in the nation last week.
The teams moved up a Saturday game to make it a doubleheader Friday, but after the second game went an Alabama record five hours and 43 minutes, it didn’t end until early Saturday morning.
The Crimson Tide fell to the Bulldogs by 4-3 in the first game Friday before taking 13 innings to lose a 13-12 game in the nightcap. The series had begun on Thursday with Bama dropping a 6-5 decision.
Alabama fell to 15-25 overall and 2-16 in SEC games. Mississippi State improved to 28-14, including 13-5 in the conference.
Alabama will return to the diamond on Tuesday for a midweek matchup with in-state foe Jacksonville State. First pitch of the contest is set for 6 p.m. CDT at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Earlier this season Jacksonville State defeated Alabama 2-1 in 10 innings.
The Crimson Tide had nice leads in both games before losing. Bama was up by 3-0 early in the first game, but couldn’t score again. In the second game, Alabama had a 6-1 lead going to the bottom of the sixth inning, but gave up nine runs to the Bulldogs in that frame.
That second game was tied at 9-9 when it went to extra innings. The loss has to be one of the most disheartening of the season considering the Tide first game away a three-run lead, and then seemed to have the game taken away.
With Bama leading 12-9 going to the bottom of the 11th, the Bulldogs loaded the bases with one out. A wild pitch scored one run and a sacrifice fly brought in the second. With two outs a wild pitch moved a runner to third. A popup in the infield fell for an error to allow the game to be tied.
In the bottom of the 13th State again loaded the bases. With one-out it looked like a ground ball could end the inning, but instead of a double play the ball appeared to hit a Mississippi State baserunner and carom into center field, bringing in the winning run.
Here are the game recaps:
Game one of the day finished in favor of the Bulldogs, as Mississippi State edged Alabama, 4-3. The Crimson Tide built an early 3-0 lead heading to the bottom of the third, but State would collect one in the third, two in the fourth and one in the fifth to secure the win and the series victory.
Crimson Tide starter Nick Eicholtz (1-1) worked 4 1/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out two. The senior starter then handed it over to Sam Finnerty, with Finnerty tossing 3 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball and striking out a career-high seven batters.
The Alabama offense was highlighted by Chandler Taylor, who reached base in all four plate appearances with a 3-for-3 day that included a walk and one run scored. Also contributing a multi-hit effort was Cody Henry, with the Tide first baseman finishing 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI.
Alabama got on the board first, plating three in the top of the third. Walker McCleney began the inning with a walk before Chandler Avant drew a free pass of his own to put men at first and second. Both Tide runners moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt before a fielder’s choice from Cobie Vance resulted in the inning’s first run. Taylor then singled to center to move Vance to second with two down for Henry. The Alabama first baseman capitalized on his opportunity, sending a double into the corner in right to clear the bases and make it a 3-0 affair.
The Bulldogs came back with their first run of the game in the bottom of the third, using a pair of two-out hits. State first notched a double to center before a single in the next at-bat scored the man from second to narrow the gap to 3-1 after three full innings of play. Mississippi State added two more in the fourth to set things even. A leadoff walk and a one-out single put runners on the corners before a single through the right side scored the first run of the inning and placed Bulldogs at first and third again. One more single followed, scoring the man from third for a 3-3 game through four.
Mississippi State took the 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth, and would not relinquish the advantage. A leadoff single and a stolen base put the runner at second. The Bulldogs sacrificed the leadoff man over to third before a double down the line in left plated the go-ahead run.
The Tide had a pair of runners in scoring position in the sixth, but was unable to capitalize on the opportunity. Alabama would go quietly the rest of the way, as both team’s relievers shut down the opposing offense over the final four innings.
The Crimson Tide fell, 13-12, in a 13 inning contest that extended into Saturday morning. The game totaled 5:43, marking the longest game in Alabama baseball history.
The two teams maintained large leads, with the Tide going up by five heading into the bottom of the sixth before the Bulldogs plated nine runs in that inning. Alabama then tallied two runs apiece in the seventh and eighth innings to even things up and send it to extras. In the 11th, each team scored three before Mississippi State secured the win in the bottom of the 13th.
Alabama did not waste time in building an advantage in game two, putting up a three-spot in the top of the first. A pair of one-out walks to Kyle Kaufman and Vance put a pair aboard. One out later, Henry continued his hot hitting, sending a single to left-center to score the inning’s first run. One batter later, Finnerty sent a double over the center fielder’s head to clear the bases and make it 3-0 after a half inning of play.
The Tide added one more in the top of the fourth, beginning with a leadoff double from Alex Webb. One out later, McCleney was set to sacrifice himself, but a perfect bunt combined with his speed forced an errant throw by the State shortstop. The ball went into right field, allowing Webb to score the unearned run and move the Tide advantage to 4-0. Alabama added one more in the sixth as Finnerty drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a balk. A sac bunt moved him to third before a sacrifice fly deep made it a 5-0 lead for UA.
Mississippi State erupted with a nine run bottom of the sixth, using seven hits, three walks and a pair of errors to set the score at 9-5 in favor of the Bulldogs. MSU collected three doubles and a home run to highlight the inning.
Alabama would not give up, cutting the State lead in half with a two-run seventh. The bases were loaded with three consecutive singles from Kaufman, Vance and Taylor to start the inning. One out later, Finnerty singled through the right side to score a pair and put the Tide behind by two at 9-7.
In the eighth, Alabama knotted things up at 9-9, starting with an Avant single and a walk from Kaufman. On a wild pitch, the State catcher attempted to cut down Kaufman at second but no one covered, as the ball went into center and gave Avant the chance to score while Kaufman moved up to third. In that same at-bat, Vance sent a 2-2 pitch through the left side to tie things up.
The two teams would remain scoreless in regulation to send it to extras. Alabama took the lead in the top of the 11th, scoring three runs off a combination of three MSU pitchers. Taylor led off the inning with a ground-rule double to center to start the rally and then moved to third on a sac bunt from Henry. Finnerty followed with a hit-by-pitch to put runners on the corners for Alabama before another hit-by-pitch followed, this one to Taylor Poe, loaded the bases.
State called time to bring in the left fielder as a fifth infielder, but the tactic did not work as Short found open space in left field for a two-RBI double to give Alabama the lead. Logan Carey drew a walk to load the bases once again and one out later, Zack Coker collected a free pass to push a run across with nowhere to put him, setting the score at 12-9.
The game was not over, however, as Mississippi State matched the Tide with three of their own in the bottom of the 11th. A pair of singles to begin the inning followed by a one-out single loaded the bases for MSU. In the next at-bat, a wild pitch went to the backstop to score the inning’s first run. A sac fly went for out No. 2, but also crossed the second run of the inning and then a wild pitch moved the man from second to third, before a popup on the infield fell for an error to allow the man from third to tie things up and send the game forward.
In the 13th, the Bulldogs loaded the bases with one down. Alabama was able to get a ground ball that looked like a tailor-made double play, but the ball ricocheted off what appeared to be the baserunner, heading into center field to end the game in favor of the Bulldogs.