There have not been many frustrating days at the ballpark in the first three weeks of Alabama baseball’s 2020 season.
One of those days came on Saturday, and while the Crimson Tide had a chance to win until the final out, its frustrations boiled over well before then.
UA head coach Brad Bohannon and left fielder T.J. Reeves were ejected in Alabama’s 3-2 loss to Lipscomb, snapping its 14-game winning streak to start the season. It will go down as the second-best start to a season in UA history, one behind the 1997 team’s 15-game streak.
“I hope they show up (Sunday) ready to win a series, because that’s the ultimate goal, to come out and win a series,” pitching coach Jason Jackson said. Jackson took Bohannon’s place in the postgame press conference after Bohannon’s ejection. “Start anew. We have a new streak starting tomorrow.
“We were having fun with it, talking about and the guys were enjoying it. It happens. Now we pick it up, move on tomorrow and try to win a series tomorrow. Not so much on the streak, but trying to win a series, get better and grow as a team.”
The frustrations stemmed from the Friday game, in which the strike zone was debated at times. That carried over to Saturday and hit a breaking point in the fourth inning. Reeves took a third strike looking and ran his bat across the line of the batter’s box; home plate umpire Justin Beam ejected him as Reeves was turning around to go back to the dugout.
“I think it’s just kind of an unwritten thing: he drew a line with the bat, it looked like, and for a lot of umpires that’s just it,” Jackson said. “It looked like he did something with the bat, the umpire interpreted it as him drawing a line and usually that’s it.
“He didn’t say anything. He was frustrated, but he didn’t say anything.”
The strike zone was debated in the innings that followed, including earlier in the at-bat that would be Bohannon’s last: Owen Diodati’s strikeout to end the seventh. After strike calls Diodati did not agree with, he and Bohannon were adamant the third strike was actually fouled off by Diodati. Beam called Diodati out, met with the other umpires and stuck with the call. Bohannon’s ensuing argument with Beam ended in his own ejection.
“I know he was arguing with the umpire, but I don’t know what it was that got him ejected,” Jackson said.
Diodati was in the game as Reeves’ replacement in left field, and he may have to do the same in Sunday’s game. Reeves’ ejection comes with a one-game suspension for the series finale; Bohannon is not required to serve such a suspension.
UA was subject to a maddening day outside of its brushes with umpiring. In the fifth inning, a strikeout from Sam Praytor left two runners on base, the runner on first representing the tying run. It was the continuation of a troubling trend for the weekend: issuing an intentional walk to Tyler Gentry and retiring Praytor thereafter. This was the third instance of it working in Lipscomb’s (9-4) favor, including two from the Friday game.
In the next inning, catcher Brett Auerbach popped up to strand the bases loaded. He was still responsible for one of UA’s three hits on the day, alongside Gentry and shortstop Kolby Robinson.
In the face of that frustration, UA kept coming. Two of its three batted balls in the ninth inning were corralled in the outfield. In the eighth, UA got the tying run on second and the go-ahead run on first before a double play ended the rally.
“We have so much confidence in ourselves, we almost feel like we can win no matter what the score is, no matter how things have been going,” Gentry said. “We have that much confidence in ourselves.”
If that confidence is impacted by its first loss will be determined starting 11 a.m. on Sunday, when the two play their rubber match. Gentry has a vision in mind.
“I hope it’s a little bit motivated, taking some of the frustrations from this game and turning it into positive energy and overall energy tomorrow.”