Blunders Aplenty In Baseball Loss

A whole lot more folks showed up for Alabama's second appearance of the season at Hoover's Regions Park. Spring weather as opposed to brutal cold will do that. Most of the fans on hand wore the crimson of the visiting Tide, but they went home shaking their heads in disappointment, for a combination of base-running blunders and men left on proved costly in a 6-4 win by the host UAB Blazers.

Alabama left ten men on base for the evening, and fell to 17-7 for the season. The Tide wasted a four-hit performance by shortstop Josh Rutledge in defeat.

"Disappointing, on our half," said Tide Coach Mitch Gaspard. "We had our opportunities. We're just in a bad play mode right now. We have some power in the middle of our lineup, but we haven't hit a home run in a week and a half."

GAME STORY: With one gone in the first, DH John Kelton was hit by a Benji Waite pitch, and went to third on a Rutledge single. Rutledge, who now sports a 19-game hitting streak, cost the Tide a shot a run when he was caught off first, and Kelton tried to score but was gunned down.

Rutledge fell victim to the old "fake to third, throw to first" pick-off play, which rarely works but did this time, as Bama ran itself out of the inning.

UAB (15-8) got on the board first on Luke Stewart's blast to deep right in the home half of the second off Tide second-time starter Tucker Hawley. One out later, Ryan Ussery blasted a Hawley offering to center, over the 405-foot sign. After two complete, the Blazers led 2-0.

Rutledge stayed hot by leading off the fourth with a double. After Ross Wilson walked, Clay Jones continued his Regions Park rampage with an RBI single to center. After Jake Smith hit into a fielder's choice, Andrew Miller grounded into a rally-killing double play.

With Bama trailing 4-1, Kelton led off the sixth with a walk, and he stole second. However, Kelton again ran his team out of the inning by trying to take third on a Rutledge grounder to short.

Wilson then singled to left, and after Jones grounded out, backup third baseman Cal Tinsley (who replaced the injured Smith) flew out to end the threat with two on.

Said Tide Gaspard, when asked about Kelton‘s base-running decisions: "Good question Just a gaffe. The ball was right there in front of him. I really don't have an answer for that."

Miller got the Bama seventh started with an opposite-field double over the third base bag. After Miller took third on a wild pitch, pinch-hitter Brandt Hendricks drilled an RBI single over the shortstop's head to cut the UAB lead in half. Catcher Brock Bennett grounded into a double play, and Dugas grounded to first to end the frame.

In the eighth, Rutledge got his third hit of his torrid night with one gone. However, Wilson struck out and Jones walked, Tinsley drove in Rutledge to pull the Tide to within a run. When Miller was batting, both runners moved up on a wild pitch, and UAB Coach Brian Shoop brought in closer Nick Graffeo, who inherited a 2-0 count, walked Miller to load the bases. Hendricks battled with a 1-2 count, worked it full, and whiffed.

With the help of some wild pitches, the Blazers tacked on two more runs in the eighth.

Here's how Alabama's ninth went: Pinch-hitter Brett Whitaker went down swinging. Dugas walked on a full count, and Kelton was hit by a pitch. Rutledge came through again, with a run-scoring single to center. Wilson just beat out a potential double play ball to give the Tide runners on the corners with two out. Jones worked Graffeo for a 2-2 count, but was called out to end the game on a pitch on the outside corner (in the ump's eyes.)

Alabama will host Auburn Friday night, with the first pitch set for 6:05 p.m. The Saturday game starts at 4:05 p.m., and on Easter Sunday the series finale begins at 2:05 p.m.

OTHER NOTES: Third baseman Smith left the game with an injury in the fifth.

Best moment in the press box came pre-game with an appearance by UAB's newest associate athletic director, Darren Boatright. "Boat" is a former Tide director of basketball operations.

Also welcome news in the box came when word got out that former Tide catcher Alex Avilla had officially made the Detroit Tigers roster. Former hurler Tommy Hunter is battling a strained oblique muscle and will likely start his season at AAA for the Rangers. And, arguably Alabama's best player ever, Andy Phillips, is plying his trade in Japan these days.

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