|Alabama Crimson Tide||0||0||2||2||0||0||0||0||X||4||10||0|
The Diamond Dogs arrived at the ballpark on Friday night tied with Vanderbilt for the league’s longest active winning streak and needing a single triumph to clinch a series victory and ensure themselves of a regular-season record above .500 in SEC play. Alabama, meanwhile, took the field sporting the conference’s worst record and with no chance of qualifying for a spot in Hoover. Despite a respectable performance from starter Michael Palazzone (8 IP, 6 K, 1 BB, 4 ER), Georgia suffered an embarrassing 4-0 setback at the hands of the worst team in the league.
Third baseman Curt Powell led off the top of the first frame with a base hit, and right fielder Hunter Cole was hit by a pitch to put two aboard with one out, but the next two Red and Black batters both stared at called third strikes. The host squad obligingly responded by erasing a pair of one-out singles in the bottom of the inning with a double-play grounder. Only one team would perpetuate that misguided theme of Southern hospitality throughout the contest.
Despite first baseman Colby May’s one-out single in the upper half of the second stanza, the scoreless deadlock persisted until the home half of the third canto, in which a leadoff single, a stolen base, a triple, and a one-out base hit combined to give the Crimson Tide a 2-0 lead. With one out away in the top of the fourth frame, second baseman Levi Hyams sent a single to second base, and center fielder Peter Verdin was plunked, but the next two Bulldog batters flied out to right to strand them.
Alabama picked up where it left off in the bottom of the canto, using a one-out walk, a subsequent single, and a two-out double to stretch the Tide’s edge to 4-0. Powell’s one-out double in the top of the fifth inning was followed by consecutive groundouts, and Hyams’s one-out single in the visitors’ half of the following frame likewise went for naught. Cole drew a one-out walk in the eighth stanza, but he never made it past first; he was the only Bulldog baserunner of the last three innings.
There is no way to characterize this loss as anything other than absolutely shameful. For all the Crimson Tide’s proficiency in several other sports, Alabama fields an atrocious baseball team this season, yet, with everything on the line, the Classic City Canines carded five hits to the Tide’s ten, notched one walk and one extra-base hit while striking out eight times and failing to steal even a single base, and stranded eight. Now it falls to the rubber match on Saturday to settle the series, and to see whether the season can be salvaged.