The University of Alabama and Texas A&M fought for the thinnest of margins on Saturday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
It was a 1-0 Alabama lead for the first six innings. A home run cut from the Aggies made it 3-1 in the seventh.
Alabama pushed back in the bottom of ninth inning to make it 3-2. The tying run fell behind 0-2, but came back to drop a single in. The winning run fell behind 0-2, but worked a walk from a nine-pitch at-bat.
Then a strikeout sealed a 3-2 loss for Alabama (14-22, 2-13 SEC). Texas A&M (26-12, 8-7 SEC) finished its weekend sweep to hand the Crimson Tide its seventh straight SEC loss. Senior Nick Eicholtz threw six shutout innings in his best start of the season, but didn’t factor in the decision.
“I’m proud of the way our guys went out there again today and competed,” head coach Greg Goff said. “Nick started with a tremendous start. Just again, the resilience of these players and what they’re doing. I thought those were the best two-strike at-bats we’ve had all year with Cobie and Chandler. Just came up a little short.”
Alabama’s 1-0 lead held until the top of the seventh. Junior Garrett Suchey, who came in for Eicholtz, gave up a single and a walk with two outs. Texas A&M’s No. 9 hitter, George Janca, homered to left to put the Aggies in control.
The Crimson Tide got a double from Chandler Avant in the ninth, who moved to third on a ground ball and scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-2 with two outs. But it couldn’t push the tying run across after Cobie Vance and Chandler Taylor each reached base. Both trailed 0-2 in the count but found a way to reach base and extend the game. Cody Henry struck out to end the game.
“I thought Cody Henry was fixing to come through and score or walk it off, to be honest with you,” Goff said. “I felt that good all day.”
Eicholtz threw a season-best six innings and 109 pitches. He gave up one hit and four walks while striking out six, the most he’s fanned since 2014.
“These past couple of weeks, I’ve finally been able to get a little bit healthy, get some velocity back and get the command of all the pitches back,” Eicholtz said. “Today, I really worked off the fastball more than I have all year. When I can do that, when I can work off the fastball, I feel like it’s going to be a pretty good day most of the time. These guys behind me played really well. It’s unfortunate we ended up losing, but it’s a good first step.”
Alabama kept pressure on Texas A&M after the scoring in the first inning but never broke through with a big inning. UA had runners on base in eight different innings and had runners in scoring position seven different times, but never capitalized. Alabama was 1-9 with runners in scoring position; the lone hit moved the runner to third.
“There were a bunch of guys we left on,” Goff said. “We’ve got to be able to hit when it matters. We need to get that RBI. That’s the biggest thing for me. We left a lot of guys. Especially our middle-of-the-order guys have left a lot of guys on. I think that’s the biggest difference. We get them on, but we have to get that big, clutch hit.”
Vance went 4-5 to extend his hitting streak to nine straight games. Avant’s double in the ninth extended his hitting streak to 10 games, best on the team this season.
Alabama sits in last place in the SEC at the midway point of the conference schedule. Since winning its conference opener, the Crimson Tide is 1-13 in the league.
“I’m very proud of the fact that those guys are staying committed to what we’re doing,” Goff said. “We’ve got 15 more games in this league. We want to finish strong.”