Alabama still has 10 Southeastern Conference baseball games to play, and it’s possible for the Crimson Tide to take a nosedive. But when Bama clinched its series against Texas A&M Saturday with the Tide’s second consecutive 3-2 win over the Aggies, it improved the Bama record to 27-18, and 11-9 in SEC games. That looks very good coming off the 2012 record of 21-34, including 9-21 conference mark.
The book on Alabama coming into the season that the Crimson Tide would have good pitching. It hasn’t always been good enough, but it was Saturday as Bama downed Texas A&M, 3-2, at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
Alabama got a 7 1/3-inning, two-run performance from Justin Kamplain and shutout pitching from the bullpen.
Weather permitting (and the outlook is not great), the Tide finishes up its series with the Aggies looking for the sweep on Sunday. First pitch on Sunday is at 1:05 p.m. CDT. Alabama will throw right-hander Spencer Turnbull (4-1, 2.26) and the Aggies will counter with righty Rafael Pineda (3-4, 3.67).
Saturday’s loss dropped A&M to 22-22 overall and 7-13 in conference play. With the series win, the Crimson Tide has four SEC series wins through 20 conference games.
“I thought that the start on the mound today that Justin Kamplain gave us was just a really good start,” Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. Kamplain pitched into the eighth inning, giving up a walk, a hit, and a two-run double before being lifted. In hindsight, Gaspard said, “We liked the matchup on the pinch-hitter with the breaking ball, [but] we probably should have taken him a hitter or two earlier. He was up on his pitch count, but Keaton Haack comes in and bails us out – does a great job and gets the hold in the eighth inning. Then Ray Castillo comes in and does the same in the ninth. I thought it was a tremendous job on the mound all day. And really we made the most of our hits today.”
Kamplain, a sophomore left-hander, earned his first win of the season (he is 1-0) as he turned in the longest start of his career, striking out five in 7 1/3 innings of work and allowing two runs on five hits and one walk. Kamplain faced 27 batters and had a career-high 112 pitches, the first time that he has thrown over 100 pitches. Freshman right-hander Keaton Haack struck out both batters he faced in relief of Kamplain in the eighth. Freshman righty Ray Castillo pitched a scoreless, hitless final inning with one walk and a strikeout to record his eighth save of the year, remaining perfect in save opportunities this season.
Texas A&M’s Parker Ray (0-1) was charged with the loss in his first start of the season for the Aggies, after allowing three runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.
“We executed well,” Gaspard said. “I thought our bunt game was pretty good to move guys over. We just found a way to use the middle of the field to get a couple of extra runs here and there. Today we swung the bat pretty good – it was one of those bad days to hit with the wind blowing straight in. Kenny Roberts hit the ball on the nose, Ben (Moore), Georgie (Salem) – there were multiple guys that really hit some balls hard that didn’t get anything to show for it. I like the energy that we are playing with, we have a lot of confidence right now, and the more you can win the close ball games like that, the more the confidence starts to elevate.”
Sophomore right fielder Ben Moore registered his 17th multi-hit game and has hit in five straight games with a 2-for-4 performance, that included a single, a double, and a run scored. Senior third baseman Kenny Roberts had an RBI double for his only hit of the game. Freshman shortstop Mikey White was 1-for-2 with a double, an RBI. and a run scored and freshman second baseman Kyle Overstreet posted his 11th multi-hit game of the season, going 2-for-4 with two singles and a run scored.
The Tide opened up the scoring for the second straight game, this time scoring once in the bottom of the third inning. White led off the inning with a double to deep left center and advanced over to third on an Andrew Miller sacrifice bunt. After the next batter was retired, Roberts stroked the second pitch delivered to him down the left field line to score White and give the Tide an early 1-0 advantage.
The scoring continued in the fourth inning, kicked off by an Overstreet single to center field. Moore followed up ripping the first pitch he saw deep down the left field line for a stand-up double. After working the count full, Smith grounded out to short, but Overstreet was able to cross home plate to add another run. After a Brett Booth walk, White grounded out to short to drive home Moore for a 3-0 lead.
The Aggies put up a rally in the eighth to pull within a run. Hunter Melton and Jonathan Moroney got things started with a walk and single, respectively, to set up runners on first and second. Mitchell Nau came through in his pinch-hitting appearance, stroking a double down the right field line to drive in each of the base runners to cut the lead to 3-2. After the Aggies’ runs, Kamplain was pulled in favor of Haack who struck out the two batters he faced before giving the ball to Castillo for the ninth inning.