Alabama Survives Bullpen Collapse

The Alabama lineup put up two runs in the first inning and exploded for seven in the seventh and the Crimson Tide held on defeat the Missouri Tigers, 9-7, Friday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. With the win, Alabama improves to 30-21 overall and gets back to .500 in the SEC with a 12-12 mark. Missouri's loss drops them to 15-30 overall and 7-19 in conference action.

After Alabama scored seven runs in the seventh inning to take a 9-0 lead, the Tigers responded with a five-run eighth inning to cut the Tide lead to 9-5. The Tigers continued to battle in the ninth inning, scoring two runs off reliever Tucker Hawley and had the tying run at second base before Ray Castillo struck out Josh Lester to end the game and pick up his ninth save of the season.

"We certainly made that a little more interesting there at the end than what we'd like, but I think overall you've got to look at the full nine innings," UA Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "I thought Sullivan gave us a really solid start for seven innings, and the bullpen let us down. And they've got to do a better job. That's two weekends in a row that they have come in and have not been very sharp, so we've got to get that cleaned up immediately. But on the bright side, it's a win and sometimes when you play 56 games you've got to win all types of games. Every now and then there's one like that and at the end of the day you've got to win it, and we found a way."

Starting pitcher Charley Sullivan (5-4) shined in his team-leading fifth win and final appearance at home, dealing seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. Castillo allowed two walks in the ninth inning and allowed two of the inherited runners to score, but struck out each of the three batters to get his ninth save in 10 chances.

"Offensively we got off to the good start that we wanted and again, hit some balls really well and drove a couple balls out of the park," Gaspard said.

Kyle Overstreet posted a 3-for-5 effort with a trio of singles, two RBI and a couple of runs scored. Freshman shortstop Mikey White recorded a 2-for-3 performance with a duo of singles as well as a bases-loaded walk that plated a runner, Austen Smith registered a 2-for-4 night with a double, an RBI single, a walk and a run scored and Ben Moore turned in his team-leading 20th multi-hit game of the season with an RBI double, a single, and a run scored.

Kenny Roberts sparked a nine-run 14-hit outburst as he stroked his fourth home run of the season to open the game for the Tide. The solo shot marked the first leadoff home run for the Tide this season and first since Taylor Dugas did it against Alcorn State on February 19, 2011. Roberts scored twice. Brett Booth carded his sixth home run of the year, a two run shot, as well as a walk and tied Austen Smith for the team-lead in home runs, as well as for eighth in the SEC.

Missouri starter Eric Anderson (0-3) was charged with the loss after allowing two runs on seven hits in five innings pitched. He had three strikeouts and walked two. Scott Sommerfeld came off the bench to post a 2-for-2 night with two runs scored, and right fielder Dane Open was 2-for-4 with a run scored. Dillon Everett was 3-for-3 with two runs scored and Lester was 2-for-5 with a time-high two RBI.

Roberts continued his hot play en route to igniting big first inning. After fouling off the first few pitches he was delivered, Roberts hit a 0-2 pitch over the left field wall, the first leadoff home run from the Alabama lineup this season. After getting hits from Overstreet and Moore and a walk from Booth, White drew a walk to force in a run and cap off the inning with a 2-0 edge.

The Tide erupted in the seventh inning for a seven spot, kicked off with an Andrew Miller walk on four pitches. Steven Cole laid down a sacrifice bunt and reached on a fielder's choice, and then Georgie Salem followed with a walk to load the bases. Ryan Blanchard, who pinch ran for Cole, scored in the next at-bat on a balk to open the floodgates. Overstreet then dropped a single into center to score the two and reached second on an error by the center fielder. Moore lined his 12th double of the season into left center to drive in a run, then scored on the next at-bat when Smith singled. The frame was finished off with a display of fireworks, as Booth sent a shot off the scoreboard to make the score 9-0.

The Tigers battled back late with an eighth inning rally, as Alabama went to the bullpen for lefty Jon Keller. Everett led off the frame with a single and pinch hitter Scott Sommerfeld followed with a single as well. After Opel walked to load the bases, pinch hitter Michael McGraw was hit by a pitch to score the first run and erase Alabama's shutout bid. Jake Ivory, the Tigers' third pinch hitter of the inning, followed with a single to plate another. After the next two batters were retired, another run came in courtesy of a balk. Missouri's inning was punctuated with a Lester single to right to score two more runners to go to the bottom of the frame with a 9-5 score. Alabama went to the bullpen and Tucker Hawley got the final out of the inning.

Hawley struggled in the ninth, as Missouri loaded the bases on two singles and an error. Castillo replaced Hawley with no outs and the bases loaded. After a strikeout, a wild pitch allowed the first run to score. Castillo struck out Michael McGraw then a walk and a single cut Alabama's lead to 9-7 with the tying run at second, before Castillo struck out Lester to end the game. "Ray kind-of tightened the belt there at the end, made some pitches, and got the W, and that's the most important thing tonight," Gaspard said.

The Alabama Crimson Tide returns to Sewell-Thomas Stadium Saturday at 1:05 p.m. CT for the second game of their series with the Missouri Tigers. Sophomore righty Spencer Turnbull (4-2, 3.28) will get the call in his first Saturday start of the season for Alabama, and the Tigers will counter with sophomore right-hander Brett Graves (1-5, 3.94).

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