A lengthy comeback had finally put Alabama in position to beat No. 17 Texas A&M in the series finale on Sunday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Crimson Tide had trailed 5-0 but cut the lead to 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth with the winning run on first base.
The rally ended when a 48-minute rain delay stopped play with one out in the bottom of the ninth. The comeback stopped when Texas A&M closer Kasey Kalich struck out the final two batters. The Aggies held for a 6-5 win.
“We’re making progress but we’ve still got to play better, we’ve still got to execute,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “We’re still making too many mistakes to beat really good teams. I’m glad we’re doing better, I’m glad the games are closer but we still have to take another giant leap forward in our execution if we’re going to start winning series against top 25 teams.”
Texas A&M (34-18-1, 14-12-1 SEC) clinched the series with the win. All three games were decided by one run. The loss means Alabama (29-23, 7-20 SEC), South Carolina and Kentucky each have seven conference wins in the race for the 12th and final spot in the SEC tournament with one week remaining in the regular season.
Alabama fell behind 5-0 after a disastrous first inning. Leadoff hitter Braden Shewmake reached third after an error on left fielder T.J. Reeves. Senior right-hander Sam Finnerty, usually Alabama’s Friday starter, then gave up a single and hit a batter. A ground ball moved both runners over, then another single scored both. A two-run homer made the score 5-0 with just one out recorded.
“It’s pretty obvious I did a godawful job of getting us ready to play,” Bohannon said. “Just a terrible, terrible first inning.”
Finnerty steadied things from there, allowing two hits and no walks against the next 14 batters before leaving after five innings.
The damage done in the first couldn’t be wiped away, though. Texas A&M scored another run in the top of the eighth as Alabama fought to put itself in position to win the game.
Alabama’s five runs came one at a time — one each in the first, fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth. That kept the Crimson Tide alive, but several opportunities were also left wanting. Alabama stranded runners in scoring position in six separate innings and left the bases loaded in the sixth without scoring.
Alabama finished 4-14 with runners in scoring position, leaving 11 runners on base through the game.
“I’d say it’s the story of SEC play,” Bohannon said. “… Sometimes you’ve just got to get a hit. We’ve got to get better — I’ve used the term being more efficient offensively — one part of that is scoring runners from third with less than two outs. Sometimes you get two guys on, somebody’s got to whack one in the gap. We just haven’t done enough of that.”
“You try so hard with a young group to get them to play all nine innings like the ninth inning,” Bohannon said. “It’s a challenge for any college kid or college coach, but you can’t tell me that we have the same level of energy and focus and concentration in the first inning that we did in the ninth. We didn’t lose the game in the ninth inning because we didn’t get a big hit. We lost the game in the first. I’ve got to do a better job of getting our kids to truly buy into that.”
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.