Alabama’s rally in the ninth came up just short as the Crimson Tide fell to Texas A&M, 4-3, in the second round of the 2015 SEC Tournament.
Following an eighth inning that saw the Aggies score one for the lead, the Crimson Tide could not rally for the clutch hit with runners on in the ninth.
“We put together some big innings there early and had a good flurry in the ninth,” said Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard. “I thought our guys played really hard. Texas A&M is a good ball club with an outstanding offense. Our team fought all the way to the end and gave us an opportunity in the ninth.”
Alabama took an early, 3-0, lead with two in the second and one in the third, but the Aggies would answer with a three-spot in the bottom half of the third frame. The two teams went scoreless until the bottom of the eighth when TAMU would knock a one-out single up the middle to bring across the go-ahead run and send the game to the final frame with the Crimson Tide trailing, 4-3.
In the ninth, Cody Henry drew a one-out walk to start the comeback effort for Alabama and was replaced by pinch-runner Daniel Cucjen. J.C. Wilhite came to the plate and singled through the right side to give the Tide runners on first and second with one down. In the next at-bat, Will Haynie knocked a single to left to put the runners in motion. The deep single allowed Cucjen to try to score for the game-tying run, but an accurate throw from the Aggie left fielder cut down the runner at home. Still with two on, Riley Colburn was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Chandler Avant would fly out to center to end the contest.
For the second game in a row, the Crimson Tide struck first. After a quick 1-2-3 first, the Alabama second started with a Casey Hughston walk. An infield grounder that turned into an error at second allowed Kyle Overstreet to reach and gave Alabama two runners with no outs. Henry delivered once again in the tournament, doubling down the line in left to move one across and place runners on the corners. In the very next at-bat, J.C. Wilhite singled to center for the Tide’s second run of the frame.
Alabama would add one more in the third, starting with a two-out single from Hughston. The sophomore would then steal second to put himself into scoring position. A single to center by Overstreet crossed the Tide’s third run of the game and set the lead at 3-0. Texas A&M would counter with a trio of their own runs in the third inning on three hits to even the score up and send the game forward at 3-3. The Aggies would go ahead in the eighth before the Tide rally fell short in the ninth.
Both starters did not factor into the decision, with Ray Castillo taking the loss in relief. Castillo tossed 2.0 innings and allowed one run, suffering his first loss of the season. Texas A&M reliever Ryan Hendrix earned his fifth win of the year with 2.0 innings of relief. Aggie closer Andrew Vinson got out of a jam in the ninth to earn his fourth save of the year.
With the loss, Alabama will play the loser of the Vanderbilt-Missouri game in an elimination contest on Thursday morning. The game is scheduled for a 9:30 a.m. CT.