TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Sometimes a perfectly-timed rain delay can rejuvenate, giving a team a much-needed break and allowing it to come back swinging.
Sunday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, the rain delay could not have come at a worse time for the Alabama baseball team.
A ninth-inning rally was stifled by Mother Nature with two outs remaining. When play resumed, Alabama couldn't complete its comeback and dropped the game and the series against No. 18 Texas A&M, 6-5.
”I really felt like we outplayed them seven or eight of the nine innings,” Alabama coach Brad Bohannon said. “The kids battled back. They do a good job of just coming out there and playing.
”Really unfortunate that we outhit them by five and lose the game.”
Texas A&M started the game strong, scoring five runs in the top of the first to take the early lead. Two of those runs came off of a home run by sophomore first baseman Will Frizzell.
Alabama scored a run of its own in the bottom of the first, and added one run in the fourth, fifth, and seventh innings.
The Aggies added to their lead in the top of the eighth, which turned out to be the game-winning run.
Down 6-4 in the ninth, Alabama freshman left fielder T.J. Reeves led off with a single and scored on a one -one double by sophomore right fielder Tyler Gentry.
A walk later the rain began and quickly made the conditions playable. The umpires held off the delay as long as possible, but the game was still forced into an intermission.
After a 48-minute delay, play resumed. Texas A&M made quick work of Alabama, with both freshman designated hitter Tyler Ras and senior center fielder Joe Breaux going down on strikes.
In one-run games this season, Alabama fell to 5-5.
”It’s the third week in a row we’ve really really competed well and you’re still looking at 3-6,” Bohannon said. “We’re making progress, but we’ve still got to play better.”
Senior starting pitcher Sam Finnerty (6-7) took the loss, going five innings and allowing five runs off of five hits with three strikeouts.
”I thought [Finnerty] was really good once he settled in,” Bohannon said. “He wasn’t crisp out of the gate, which is certainly to be expected. Once he settled down he was outstanding and everybody out the pen was great.”
For Texas A&M, freshman Chris Webber (4-0) picked up the win, pitching one inning, allowed no runs off of two hits, and recording one strikeout. Kasey Kalich (12) was credited with the save.
Alabama dropped to 29-23 on the season, and is 7-20 in SEC play. Texas A&M moves to 34-18, and is 14-12-1 in the SEC.
Due to Kentucky’s win over South Carolina Sunday, the race for the last SEC Tournament spot remains tied between the Crimson Tide, Wildcats, and Gamecocks.
All three teams have tough SEC weekends to end the regular season coming this weekend. Alabama faces off against No. 8 Georgia, Kentucky against No. 3 Vanderbilt, and South Carolina against No. 5 Mississippi State. Both Alabama and South Carolina travel to face their opponents, while Kentucky will be hosting the Commodores.
If all three teams are swept next weekend, Alabama will win the tie-breaker over South Carolina, which is easy enough to determine. Against Kentucky, though, a tie-breaker becomes more complicated.
Alabama’s best bet is to pick up a win against Georgia in Athens, and avoid a tie-breaker altogether. However, if they are tied at season’s end, it will go to whichever team had a better record against the top-ranked team in the SEC.
At this point, the top-ranked team is Vanderbilt, who the Wildcats play next weekend. Being swept by the Wildcats would mean it would go to the second-highest ranked SEC opponent, which as of right now is Arkansas. Both the Crimson Tide and the Wildcats have one win, so it would go to the next opponent, and so on and so forth until the tie is broken.
However, it won't be known who will be the true winner of the SEC until conference play is completed next weekend. Arkansas is only one game behind Vanderbilt, so the league title is still up for grabs.
”We’ve got to get better,” Bohannon said. “I’ve used the term more efficient offensively. Part of that is scoring runners from third with less than two outs or sometimes when you get two on someone’s got to whack it in the gap.
”We just haven’t done enough of that, and if we don’t start doing more of it it’s going to be a challenge to win in Athens.”
Alabama hosts its last non-conference game of the regular season when the Samford Bulldogs come to Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT (SEC Network+).