Alabama was never out of striking range but couldn’t overcome Vanderbilt in Friday’s series opener. The Commodores (29-9, 10-6 SEC) chipped away and scored in five different innings to beat the Crimson Tide (25-15, 4-12 SEC) 7-4.
The Crimson Tide briefly took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second inning but Vanderbilt tied it at 2-2 in the fourth and took control with three runs in the fifth. Alabama cut the lead to 5-4 with a two-out double from second baseman Morgan McCullough in the bottom of the fifth but couldn’t retake the lead.
“A disappointing loss tonight to a really good team,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “I thought our guys competed well.”
Vanderbilt took advantage of an Alabama error in the top of the sixth to score one more run, then had a leadoff homer in the top of the ninth to build a three-run lead.
Alabama starter Sam Finnerty worked five innings but allowed six runs on nine hits and two walks. He never quite found a rhythm against one of the SEC’s best offenses.
“Your margin for error is pretty slim against a team like that,” Bohannon said. “I thought Finn had some tough luck, gave up a couple of soft contact hits there in the fifth when we gave up the crooked number. I was really disappointed to lose tonight because I thought we played pretty good.”
Vanderbilt’s lineup, which included six lefties, hit Alabama’s pitchers hard. The Commodore lefties were 10-21 against Alabama pitchers. Lefty reliever Brock Guffey had success out of the bullpen, though. He gave up one hit while throwing 1 2/3 innings.
Vanderbilt’s lefties were 9-15 against Alabama’s right handed pitchers.
“That’s something we’ve talked about,” Bohannon said. “Our program is not where it needs to be on the left side of the mound. Brock came in and pitched great tonight. Garret (Rukes) will pitch this weekend and he’ll do a good job. That’s a tough matchup when we play teams that are older, experienced, physical and left-handed like Arkansas and Ole Miss and now Vanderbilt. It’s tough.”
Alabama’s rally in the fifth made sure the Crimson Tide would have a chance. Catcher Johnny Hawk worked a leadoff walk and freshman T.J. Reeves hit a two-out single. McCullough brought both of them home with a double.
“We’re trying to win,” McCullough said. “It doesn’t matter if we lose by 10 or lose by one, we need to win.”
Vanderbilt starter Drake Fellows moved to 8-0 on the season with the win. He went seven innings and gave up four earned runs, the most he had allowed in six starts.
“There’s no time for moral victories,” Bohannon said. “Like Morgan said, we need to win. We need to beat good teams. That’s kind of where we are. We’ll come out tomorrow facing a very talented freshman. Brock Love will give us a good start and we need to be the team that gets the big hit in the middle or towards the end of the game.”
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.