Alabama got its first SEC series win against Kentucky this weekend. But Sunday’s finish left the Crimson Tide wanting a little more.
The Wildcats won the series finale 5-2 after Alabama won the first two games, coming back after trailing 2-0 in the first inning. Alabama missed its chance for a sweep over a top-10 team and a Sunday win to capitalize on its momentum from the first two games of the series.
“I was a little disappointed in our club today,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “I thought we came out and played a little satisfied after winning the first two days. I don’t think we really played with as much energy as we have the first two days of the series.”
Kentucky starter Justin Lewis threw 7 1/3 innings, allowing five hits. Bohannon recruited him to Lexington when he was an assistant for the Wildcats.
Alabama’s only offense almost felt like an accident. Right fielder Chandler Taylor hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the first, but appeared to think it was a routine fly ball. He threw his bat to the ground as he left the batter’s box and the Kentucky outfielder drifted back to catch the ball. Instead, the ball went over his head and out of the park to left field.
“I thought I mishit it a little bit,” Taylor said. “I guess a little bit of wind gave it some help. Coach Bennett at first base was telling me that (the outfielder) had lost it and to sprint to second. So I would have been standing on second either way. Then I saw the umpire point for a home run as I was rounding second. Kind of a little Easter bunny present.”
Kentucky rebounded from that with a solo home run in the top of the second. The Wildcats tied the game in the sixth, then took a 4-2 lead with two runs in the seventh. They got an insurance run in the top of the ninth after Alabama stranded two runners in the eighth.
Starter Garret Rukes got just three outs and was lifted after giving up a home run to lead off the second inning. He struggled with control, throwing just nine strikes on 22 pitches.
Redshirt sophomore Kyle Cameron came on to throw a career-high 4 1/3 innings. He stayed clean until the top of the sixth, when he gave up hits to three consecutive batters to tie the game and end his afternoon.
It was still an encouraging performance for Cameron, who missed almost all of 2017 with medical issues. He threw a career-high 78 pitches, 57 of which were strikes.
“I was really proud of what he did,” Bohannon said. “Nobody is excited to go to the bullpen in the second inning. When you do, you need exactly what Kyle did: Someone to come in and settle the game. He did a great job of doing that and giving us a chance.”
The offense wasn’t there to capitalize on that chance.
It was Alabama’s first series win over a ranked opponent this year. But a win on Sunday would have meant even more.
“I think something needs to be said about how we played a little complacent today, not only from Coach Bo but probably from one of us,” Taylor said. “That can’t happen. We had them down on the mound a little bit and I think, like Coach Bo said, they wanted it a little more today. In our dugout there was kind of a feel of ‘It would be cool if we swept them, but we’ve already got the series so we’re kind of chilling.’ I didn’t like that feeling in the dugout.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.