Alabama Baseball Falls in Back-and-Forth Battle with Fourth-Ranked Florida, 5-4
Alabama baseball’s run in the 2016 SEC Tournament came to an end on Thursday afternoon, as the Crimson Tide fell, 5-4, to No. 4 Florida. With the loss, UA’s record sits at 32-26 overall and finished at 1-2 in the conference’s postseason tourney.
“Jake (Walters) has been so good for us all year, but he just didn’t have the command today that he’s had throughout the course of the season,” said Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard. “With that being said, the offense was able to put together a good inning (in the third) and take the lead. (Matt Foster) was tremendous and gave us a chance throughout the course of the game, but we just couldn’t muster up any offense. Florida is obviously one of the top-ranked teams in the country, and they proved that today.”
The two teams changed leads or went even on five different occasions across the nine innings of play, with Florida coming out on top in the end. The Crimson Tide pitching effort was highlighted by Matt Foster, who worked a career-high 5.0 innings of scoreless baseball, allowing three hits and issuing two walks while punching out three hitters.
The Gators plated one in the top of the first to start the day’s scoring, using a leadoff walk to get one aboard. The runner moved to second and then third before a one-out groundout to third brought across the game’s first run to make it 1-0 in favor of Florida.
Alabama answered with a three-spot in the bottom of the second to take the lead. The rally began with a one-out single from Will Haynie, before a Chance Vincent single one out later moved runners to the corners. Daniel Cucjen capitalized on the RBI opportunity, sending a double past the third base bag to score both runners and give UA the lead. Hunter Webb followed with a double of his own to bring in the third run and continue his hot streak in the tournament, giving Alabama the 3-1 advantage after two full innings.
Florida bounced right back to even things up in the top of the third, chase Jake Walters and then retake the lead. The Gators scored a pair using two walks and then a single through the left side bring in the inning’s first run. The very next batter sent a single another single through the left side, evening the score at 3-3 and ending Walters’ day. Foster entered the game, allowing a third consecutive single and then a fielder’s choice to bring in the go-ahead run, making it a 4-3 game in favor of the Gators.
The Crimson Tide would tie it up in the seventh, scoring one to make it 4-4. Cody Henry drew a leadoff walk and was followed by Gene Wood, who was hit by a pitch, to put two on and force a Florida pitching change. Two outs later, the Gators went to their bullpen again, but pinch-hitter Connor Short got to the new arm with a single through the right side to even it up after seven full.
In the top of the eighth, a leadoff single, a sacrifice bunt and then a double to center brought across the go-ahead run for Florida to make it 5-4, the eventual final.
The loss ended Alabama’s run in the conference tournament. The Crimson Tide will now await a possible postseason berth in an NCAA Regional, with the seedings being announced on Monday.