Alabama finished off a pitching-weary Troy club 14-5 Sunday night to take the Tuscaloosa Regional title. Kody Valverde had five hits to finish 10-14 for the weekend. That was good enough to earn Regional MVP honors.
This one was put away early with a five run second and three run third. Troy walked eight batters, including three with the bases loaded.
Alabama caught a break in the second inning that led to a big inning. With Ryan Rhoden singled, Spencer Pennington hit a tailor-made double-play ball to shortstop. Just as Troy’s Tommy King closed on the ball, it took a wicked hop past him for a single. Brandon Belcher then scored Rhoden with an RBI single. After a walk loaded the bases, Emeel Salem beat out an infield hit to score a second run. A Matt Downs walk forced in another run and chased starter Steven Morelock.
Last night’s hero Kody Valverde greeted reliever J.J. Whetsel with a single to left scored two more to complete the five run frame.
We are between games in Tuscaloosa. Troy will face Alabama sometime - but we may not start at 6:30 CT tonight. The field is tarped now as we await an impending rainstorm. After being here until 2 a.m. after Friday night's games, you can imagine what the mood in the stadium is like now.
In the ninth, Felix struck out Kevin Coker but walked Jody Blount on four pitches. That brought an exchange of positions as Josh Dew came to the mound and Felix moved to first base. Brian Dozier flied to right. Trey Sutton singled to bring up Marc Maddox. In Friday’s game, Dew struck out Maddox to end the game. This time on a 3-2 pitch, Maddox singled up the middle to score Blount. Dew then coaxed a groundout from Johnson to end it.
Troy second baseman Edgar Ramirez was just ejected after being called out on strikes. In a pitch somewhere near the outside corner, the home plate umpire called Ramirez out. As Ramirez was leaving the box, he drew a line in the dirt with his bat where he felt the ball crossed the box. He was immediately tossed.
That made Troy shuffle their infield since backup second baseman Bryan Madril had already been used as a pinch-hitter.
We go to the bottom of the ninth with Troy leading 6-4.
Troy added a run in the eighth to take a 6-4 lead. They made the move going to Mike Felix. Felix through over 60 pitches last night but will try to set down Southern Miss in the eighth. USM sends their 3,4,5 hitters up
Both teams are getting short on the mound. Southern Miss turned to closer Daniel Best in the top of the eighth.
Troy loaded the bags in the sixth to chase Belanger. Josh Dew drove in a run with a single and Blake Green got another in with a sac fly. After reliever Matt Caire struck out Robinson, Jared Keel tied the game with a bloop RBI single to center. Ian Craze drove in the go-ahead run with a line-drive single to left. That ended Caire’s day in favor of Patrick Ezell.
Troy starter Ryan Ellison has held USM to three hits through five.
Troy has the bags loaded off USM starter Ryan Belanger. There are no outs and batters 4,5,6 up. Josh Dew just singled in a run to make it 4-2 to chase Belanger. Bases still loaded, still no outs, for new Golden Eagle pitcher Matt Caire.
The park is buzzing over the news LSU is without a head coach. Smoke Laval resigned today. The speculation for his successor looks east, although the coaches in question are still playing so we won't know much for awhile.
I see between 75 and 100 college games each season in many venues. This one tonight ranks up there with some of the best like the Thursday Georgia/Kentucky game the last week of the regular season in Athens and the five runs in the 9th comeback by Georgia over Vanderbilt last Saturday in Hoover.
Alabama's Salem reached on an error and Mike Felix walked pinch hitter Kent Matthes on a 3-2 pitch bringing up clean up man Kody Valverde. Valverde had an RBI single off in the fifth and - guess what - he dribbled one through the middle again scoring Salem with the winning run.
David Robertson is the winner with Felix taking the loss.
Tide wins 4-3 on unearned run in the bottom of the ninth. Great game played at a high level.
All tied at 3. Alabama stranded two in the eighth. There is a great crowd here - over 5,000 - and they are seeing a good one. Lots of close calls, exciting fielding and baserunning plays and very good pitching. This would should have been televised.
Alabama shortstop Greg Paiml, who had committed two errors earlier in the game, slammed a leadoff home run to right to tie the game.
We are at 3-3 in the eighth and the game belongs to the bullpen aces Mike Felix and David Robertson. A neat stat on Robertson: he had retired the first batter he faced in 22 appearances. That ended tonight on a bad hop single.
Troy chased Hunter after a leadoff walk in the seventh. UA closer David Robertson surrendered a bad-hop single to Tom King to put runners on the corners with no outs and the middle of the Trojan order at the dish. Robertson struck out Clint Robinson on a low fastball, and got Josh Dew to lift a shallow fly to center. The speedy Craze tested Emeel Salem’s arm and scored as the throw was well offline.
Jared Keel slammed a bullet off the leftfield wall to score a run but he was cut down at second after a great throw from leftfielder Brandon Belcher. Fans might recall Belcher is a top pitcher sitting out this season on the mound after Tommy John surgery. His arm looked fine on that throw from the leftfield wall.
Alabama scored the game's first run and leads 1-0 in the top of the 4th. Lost in the scoring is Tide hitter Matt Down's 13th sacrifice bunt of the season, a beauty that moved two men into scoring position. One scored on a groundout.
Tommy Hunter and Joe Hallahan are both pitching well. Troy just had a leadoff double so they appear ready to know this thing up.
Troy wants this bad. You can see it. This is their chance to knock off the big state school that gets all the attention. The first pitch from Tide starter Tommy Hunter was redirected back for a single. A double play erased that runner but Troy added another hit. We'll see how this battle progresses because Hunter is a bulldog out there.
Southern Miss hit solo homers in the fourth and fifth to grab a 2-1 lead over Jacksonville State. Those homers, by Drew Carson and Brian "Bull" Dozier came off JSU starter Tony Drinkard. Earlier in the game Garrett Bates somered for the Gamecocks so all of the games' scoring has come on solo home runs.
After getting finished with postgame between 1 and 2 AM last night, Jacksonville State is back out on the field again, this time against Southern Miss. Apparently, Garrett Bass got the wakeup call. The JSU DH slugged a solo home run off USM's Cliff Russum to give the Gamecocks an early advantage.
It is a couple of minutes before 1 CT and it is finally over in Tuscaloosa. Alabama won 13-1 outhitting Jacksonville State 16-5. Wade LeBlanc did not allow a hit after a fourth inning home run. He struck out eight in the win improving his mark to 11-0.
Kody Valverde hit a no-doubt grand slam in the sixth inning to extend the Alabama lead to 8-1 and send many of the fans to the exits. It is after all, midnight local time, and with the way Wade LeBlanc is mowing down Gamecock hitters, the fans feel secure their team in headed to the winners' bracket.
After falling behind 1-0, Alabama has bounced back taking a 3-1 lead on two-out RBI hits by Greg Paiml and Emeel Salem. Salem's was a triple, which gave the fans a real treat watching the speedy all-SEC player glide around the bags and dive face-first safely into the bag.
We're not scoreless anymore, as Jacksonville State's Jason Horn just homered over the leftfield wall sending his mother - seated just below the press box - into a hysterical screaming fit closed by, "That's my boy".
Alabama outfielder Ryan Rhoden just fouled off two missiles into the bleachers over first base. After the second one landed a few feet away from where the first one landed, a man stood up and waived his white towel at Rhoden. The surrounding fans followed his lead.
Alabama ace Wade LeBlanc struck out two in the first inning. Alabama got two runners on but Jax State starter Donovan Hand got Evan Bush to ground out. Here are some notes from the game one press conference:
After each team traded two spots, Troy head coach Bobby Pierce turned the ball over to closer Josh Dew. Dew, who is also the DH, will try to slow down the USM rally after Brian Dozier and Toddric Johnson slammed solo home runs. 8-6 Troy in the top of the eighth.
The tarp was pulled after our second rain delay (both were exactly 1 hour and 13 minutes) and play resumed. As soon as play resumed, so did the rain. We are playing in it now, with Troy leading 6-4 in the bottom of the 7th.
On a fashion note, the umpires changed from blue shirts to black shirts during the second delay. Not sure where to designate that on my scorecard.
In the south, we love our nicknames. Whether it is Bear, or Bo, or Shug - mutter those phrases and sports fans know who you are talking about.
Inside the college baseball world, there is Skip and Smoke. Add Corky to the list. I've covered college sports for eight years now and met all kinds of characters. Corky Palmer is one of my favorites. With two bad knees - if he had a third it would undoubtedly be bad too - Corky doesn't move anywhere at a brisk pace. Just watching him walk is painful.