Nick Eicholtz worked a 1-2-3 inning to start Sunday’s finale against Florida. Chandler Avant hit a leadoff triple and scored on a fly ball to give the University of Alabama a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the inning. It was a rare start for Alabama in its final home game of the season.
The ending was still the same.
Florida took the lead in the top of the second, scored in each of the next four innings after that and squelched Alabama’s (19-32, 5-22 SEC) late comeback attempt. The No. 5 Gators (38-14, 19-8) completed the sweep with a 10-5 win over the Crimson Tide.
“Our hat’s off to Florida,” head coach Greg Goff said. “I don’t want to take anything from them. Those guys just absolutely beat us this weekend.”
The loss, along with Georgia’s win over Mississippi State earlier in the day, eliminates any chance of the Crimson Tide making the SEC tournament. Its season will end next week with a three-game series at Vanderbilt.
Alabama finished the season 14-21 at home, including 1-14 in SEC play at home.
Eicholtz slogged through his final home start. He threw 105 pitches to get through 4 2/3 innings. After pitching a clean first inning, he gave up six runs, five of which were earned on seven hits and five walks.
“You can’t give them anything,” Goff said. “Two of the first three runs got on by walks, and then we made a couple errors behind him. You can’t give a good team freebies: walks, errors, hit by pitches. I thought early on they took advantage of us doing that. You can’t give much up to good teams.”
Florida scored in the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings to build a 7-1 lead. Florida starter Jackson Kowar breezed through the middle innings before running into trouble his third time through the order.
He went 6 2/3 innings allowing four hits and six walks while striking out three. Most of the damage to his stat line was done in the seventh when Alabama went on the attack to pull within two runs.
Kowar gave up a walk, a double and hit a batter to load the bases then. Second baseman Cobie Vance hit a double to drive in all three runs. Vance made it 7-5 when he stole third and the throw to the bag sailed high, bringing him home.
Then the middle of Florida’s lineup responded. Catcher JJ Schwarz hit a two-run homer to left field, his second of the weekend. Right fielder Nelson Maldonado followed that up with a solo home run to push the lead to 10-5.
“Those guys had answers for everything,” Vance said. “That’s how we like to play. They just got it back every time.”
Alabama honored seniors Mike Oczypok, Taylor Poe, Tanner DeVinny and Eicholtz before the game. It could also be the final home game for several draft-eligible juniors and sophomores. All four threw out a ceremonial first pitch to their mothers to celebrate Mother’s Day before the game.
“I’m just so appreciative of our seniors and those guys, what they’ve done in my first year,” Goff said. “It’s made my transition easy by being great guys, going to class and having great grades. Didn’t have one problem with these seniors. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to be a coach in their life for one year.”
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.