Alabama falls in extra innings at South Carolina

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – Alabama baseball suffered a 6-5, extra-innings loss to seventh-ranked South Carolina on Saturday afternoon in front of a sold-out crowd at Founders Park. With the loss, the Tide moves to 12-11 on the season, 1-4 in Southeastern Conference play.

"I’m really proud of the way our guys fought and competed against a really good team today,” said head coach Greg Goff. “On the weekends in SEC play, you have to play clean, and I think we had some mental mistakes that cost us the game. Those kind of things are my job to correct.”

South Carolina staked itself to a four-run lead through six innings, scoring three in the fourth and one in the sixth, but Alabama would not sit idly by. The Crimson Tide scored two in the seventh, one in the eighth and two in the ninth to take the lead into the bottom of nine. In the final half inning of regulation, SC scored one run to even things up before plating the game-winning run in the bottom of the 10th.

Crimson Tide starter Dylan Duarte tossed 5.1 innings, allowing four runs – two earned – on seven hits and three walks with a pair of strikeouts. The two unearned runs would prove the difference in Saturday’s contest, as the Tide bullpen did not allow a run until the final half inning of regulation and the 10th and final frame.

All nine of Alabama’s starters reached base in Saturday’s affair, with eight of the nine recording at least one hit. The offensive effort was highlighted by multi-hit efforts from Chandler Taylor, Hunter Alexander and Gene Wood. Each of the three finished 2-for-4, with Alexander and Taylor each contributing an RBI and a run scored, while Taylor notched his seventh home run of the season and his second of the weekend. Also notable on the offensive side was Connor Short’s 1-for-3 day that included a double, an RBI and a run scored, to extend his hitting streak to eight games, matching the season-long by a member of the Crimson Tide.

An error in the fourth helped South Carolina score its first runs of the day. The Gamecocks led off the frame with a single, but a fielding miscue on what looked to be a double play in the next at-bat sent both runners into scoring position with none down. SC capitalized on the Tide’s mistake with a single to left to score the inning’s first run, followed by another single to load the bases. A 6-4 fielder’s choice spelled the first out of the inning, but crossed the second run of the game and put runners on the corners. A sacrifice fly to left in the next at-bat scored the final tally of the fourth, making it a 3-0 South Carolina advantage.

The Gamecocks added another run in the sixth, loading the bases to end Duarte’s day before a fielder’s choice crossed one to make it 4-0. Alabama would rally for a pair of runs in the next half inning, making it a 4-2 game heading to the stretch.

Cody Henry led off the seventh inning with a walk, moving to second in the next at-bat on a wild pitch. The extra 90 feet worked in the Tide’s favor, as Alexander sent a single off the wall in left to score the man from second. Taylor followed with a double to left-center to give UA a pair in scoring position before a Short sac fly to center scored Alexander from third to make it 4-2.

Alabama scored one more in the top of the eighth to set the tally at 4-3, starting off the frame with a pair of singles from Chandler Avant and Kyle Kaufman. A sac bunt by Cobie Vance put both runners in scoring position before Henry’s sac fly to left crossed Avant. Tanner DeVinny walked in the next at-bat, but a strikeout swinging ended the inning and Alabama’s run-scoring rally.

The Tide rallied for a pair in the ninth to take a 5-4 lead, its first of the day. Taylor sent a 2-0 pitch into the bullpen in right for his second homer of the weekend, making it a 4-4 game. Short followed with a double and Wood dropped a bunt down that stayed in the lines to place runners on the corners. In the next at-bat, Avant sent a ball to short that resulted in a double play, but brought in the go-ahead run to move the game to the bottom of the ninth.

South Carolina tied things up in the ninth with one run. A leadoff walk started the sequence before a wild pitch with two down moved the runner to second. Another wild pitch moved the Gamecock runner to third before one more wild pitch brought the tying run across, making it 5-5, and sending Saturday’s game into extra innings. In the bottom of the 10th, SC claimed the win with a bases-loaded single to left that evened the series up heading into Sunday.

Alabama will go for the series win over No. 7 South Carolina on Sunday in the rubber match of the series. The Crimson Tide will look to senior right-hander Nick Eicholtz, while the Gamecocks will counter with righty Clarke Schmidt, a junior. The weekend’s finale is set for an 11 a.m. CT first pitch, adjusted from the original 12:30 p.m. CT start, and can be seen on SEC Network+.