The backbone of Alabama’s recent hot stretch has been its pitching. Each starter fed off the other’s competitiveness, whether it be on the mound or in side games in the clubhouse. The result was a string of quality starts that’s boosted the Crimson Tide’s postseason hopes.
Vanderbilt reversed that trend on Friday night. Alabama’s 9-2 loss to the Commodores was the second in the SEC tournament and brought an end to the Tide’s week at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
Vanderbilt ambushed Alabama starter Jacob McNairy for five runs before the Tide had a chance to swing a bat. The big blow was a three-run home run by RJ Austin that sent a couple of UA relievers from the dugout to their bullpen as a precaution. And though Alabama’s bats mounted a few chances, it wasn’t enough to compensate for the early deficit.
As it did a year ago, Alabama finished with a 2-2 record in the conference tournament. But unlike last season, a 10-4 finish in SEC play likely did enough to secure a host seed in the NCAA regionals. It’ll find out the value of beating Kentucky and Auburn on Monday for the selection show.
The most pressing question for Alabama is the health of Tommy Seidl. The senior outfielder didn’t play against Vanderbilt after being taken out of Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury. Seidl leads UA with a .364 batting average and had 11 RBI in his last seven games.
His absence was felt in the bottom of the first inning as Alabama loaded the bases and couldn’t bring a run in and again in the fourth in the same scenario. Overall, UA went one-for-five with runners in scoring position and left nine on base. Entering the day, Alabama had the most hits of any team in the tournament.
Junior Andrew Pinckney helped the Tide chip away in the third inning with a two-run home run. But Vanderbilt answered back with a two-RBI single by Matthew Polkin the fifth. And when Alan Espinal’s single rolled past Pinckney in center field, the Commodores took advantage for its eighth run and largest lead of the game.
Alabama’s staff struggled with walks all night, granting eight base runners a free pass. There were a few complaints about home plate umpire Derek Mollica’s strike zone but no one from the Tide dugout was ejected.
Vanderbilt will rematch one-seed Florida tomorrow after 10-seed Texas A&M and three-seed LSU start the day at noon. The Gators beat the Commodores, 6-4, on Thursday.
About an hour before first pitch, Sports Illustrated reportedly identified the bettor who was linked to former Tide coach Brad Bohannon in a gambling probe that’s led to firings at UA and the University of Cincinnati.
Nick Alvarez is a reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @nick_a_alvarez or email him at [email protected].