Austen Smith was the ninth inning hero, driving in the final run of a three-run Alabama ninth inning as the Crimson Tide came from behind to defeat Missour1, 7-6, in the final game of the season at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
Alabama went to its final bat trailing by 6-4 after the Tide had a 4-1 lead at the end of six innings.
Chance Vincent’s first hit of the game proved big, as it ignited a ninth inning rally for the Tide. After Riley Colburn came in to pinch run, Roberts reached first on an error to put two on with no outs. After fouling off two straight bunt attempts, Salem took a hack at the two-strike delivery and dropped it into the gap in left center to load the bases. Next, Kyle Overstreet delivered a deep right fly to score Colburn. Then, on an 0-2 count, Ben Moore came up with a game-tying single to left field. From there, Smith hammered the first pitch he saw off Jake Walsh to the wall in left field as Salem scored easily from second base for the game-winning run.
The walk-off RBI-double was the only hit of the day for Smith. Kyle Overstreet accounted for much the Tide’s offense, going 2-for-3 with two singles and three RBI. Ben Moore also had a three-RBI game and finished the day 2-for-5 with the ninth-inning RBI-single and a two-run home run in the fifth.
Alabama won the series with the win and improved to 31-22 overall and 13-13 in Southeastern Conference play. Missouri fell to 16-29 overall and 8-19 in the conference.
Alabama has a tough task to finish regular season play. Bama travels to Nashville to take on the second-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores. Games are a 6:30 p.m. CDT Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard was as ecstatic as anyone following Sunday’s game. “What a game,” he exclaimed. “I thought our guys had a great will about them. We talked about it prior to the game today. This is why you come to Alabama, this is why you play the game –for big games like today. We know our backs were against the wall today and I thought our guys really showed that in the ninth inning. They just continued to give one good at-bat after another to get Austen Smith up there to have the game winner. I’m really proud of our team and the way that they responded in the ninth inning.”
Andrew Miller pitched in a 3-for-4 effort with a trio of singles, Mikey White posted a 2-for-4 game with a pair of singles, to finish the series with a .636 average (7-for-11), and Kenny Roberts added a single, a walk, a stolen base and three runs scored.
Mitch Greer (2-1) threw the final 2 1/3 innings for the Tide and earned the first SEC win of his career. The Prattville native faced eight batters and used a total of 34 pitches to give his team a chance to win. Walsh (1-1) was charged with the loss for the Tigers after lasting 2 1/3 innings and allowing the final three runs on six hits with two strikeouts.
Were it not for the big finish by the offense, the talk would have been of Bama sophomore left-hander Justin Kamplain, who started the game for the Tide and had a career-high 10 strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. He allowed three runs on eight hits. He did not walk a batter (although he hit one) and had career highs of 120 pitches and 29 batters faced.
“What a great start from Justin Kamplain,” Gaspard said. “He gave us a tremendous start. We extended his pitch count a little bit and tried to get him through seven innings. We realize right now we’ve got some work to do. In our bullpen we’ve got some guys that have lost some confidence and are struggling a little bit, and we’ve got to get that corrected in the next two or three days before we head to Vanderbilt. But that doesn’t take away from today’s victory.”
Missouri finished the day with 12 hits against Alabama, as Dillon Everett, Josh Lester, Dane Opel and Scott Sommerfeld all had two hits. Opel had two RBI and scored two runs and Dylan Kelly was 1-for-3 with two RBI. Tigers’ starting pitcher Rob Zastryzny threw six innings, allowing four unearned runs on seven hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
The Tide drew first blood in the bottom of the third. Roberts drew a base on balls and then stole second. Overstreet’s single gave Alabama and early 1-0 lead.
In the top of the fourth, the Tigers tied the score on a sacrifice fly.
The first multiple-run inning came in the fifth, and the Crimson Tide offense was aided by Missouri. Again, Roberts got things started by drawing a walk. He advanced to third when Georgie Salem reached on an error by the first baseman. Overstreet’s sacrifice fly gave him his second RBI of the game and Bama a 2-1 lead. The inning was capped off when Moore blasted a two-run shot over the left field wall for his fourth home run of the season, to give the Tide a 4-1 advantage.
Despite their first two batters being retired, Missouri answered the bell in the seventh frame. Everett reached base first with a triple to right center and Josh Lester singled into center field to bring Everett home. After a Keaton Steele walk, Opel tripled to left center plate both base runners. Two more singles from Sommerfeld and Kelly brought two more home to finish the inning with the Tigers leading 6-4.
After the Tide was blanked in the seventh and eighth innings, UA scored their fourth, fifth and sixth runs of the season in the ninth inning to pull off the walk-off victory. It was the first time this season that Alabama has won a game when trailing after seven innings.