Tide falls to Vandy as Commodores avoid sweep

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. The Alabama dropped a 9-7 decision to the Vanderbilt Commodores on Sunday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, allowing a combined seven runs over the final two innings of play. The Crimson Tide record now stands at 16-25 overall and 6-12 in Southeastern Conference play after taking two out of three games from the Commodores. Vanderbilt improves to 18-22 and 7-11 in the SEC.

"I was obviously disappointed in the back end of the game, but I think that for our team you have to look at the big picture," UA head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "We had another really good start today from Keller; he really just battled to work through those six innings. Offensively, we did some good things in the front part of the game. We built a good lead, but we broke down in the eighth inning. We walked a couple of guys and had a double play that we weren't able to turn. That led to Harvey's big hit, and then Kemp had a hit to tie the game. Then, we made mistakes in the ninth like the ball in the outfield that led to an extra bag."

It looked as though Alabama would complete its first home, back-to-back SEC series sweep at Sewell-Thomas Stadium since 2002, however the Commodores used a five-run eighth inning to tie the game at 7-7, then a two-run ninth to earn the victory.

In the eighth, Vandy second baseman Anthony Gomez tripled to left field to open the inning, before being brought home on a RBI single by Conrad Gregor. From there, an Alabama error opened the door for Vanderbilt, allowing them to plate four more runs – three of which came on a two-out RBI double by pinch hitter Chris Harvey – to pull the Dores within one. Tony Kemp followed with a double to even the score at 7-7. In the ninth, the Commodores were again down to their last out before back-to-back RBI singles by Connor Harrell and Vince Conde pushed two runs across the plate to give Vanderbilt a 9-7 lead.

The Crimson Tide threatened in the bottom half of the ninth, putting two runners on with just one out, however Commodore relief pitcher Drew VerHagen induced a game-ending 4-6-3 double play ball to thwart the Alabama comeback attempt.

Crimson Tide freshman Ben Moore tallied a career-high four hits on the day in a sterling 4-for-4, two run, one RBI day at the plate. Following the four-hit day, Moore was 8-for-11 in the series, posting a .727 average in the series.

Jared Reaves was 2-for-5 with one run and two RBI, while Taylor Dugas registered a 2-for-5, two run performance. With two hits on Sunday, Dugas now has 314 for his career and passed Brent Boyd to move into second all-time behind Andy Phillips' school record of 322 hits.

James Tullidge notched his first career triple, while reaching base in three of his four plate appearances, as part of a 1-for-2, one run day. Austen Smith collected two RBI, while going 2-for-3 at the plate.

Freshman Jake Hubbard (2-2) took the loss after allowing two runs on four hits over the final 1.1 innings. Crimson Tide starter Jon Keller lasted 6.0 innings, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out four before giving way to Justin Kamplain, who gave up five runs (one earned) on three hits.

VerHagen (4-2) pitched 1.1 innings of scoreless relief in the eighth and ninth innings to earn the victory for the Commodores.

"Overall it was disappointing," Gaspard said. "But looking at where we were and where we played this weekend, if we'll continue to play and improve this way I think we'll put ourselves in a position to have more successes."

Vanderbilt got on the board first, plating a run in the second to take a 1-0 lead that lasted until the bottom of the third inning, when the Tide pushed three runs across to grab a 3-1 advantage.

After Dugas reached base on an infield single to open the inning, Reaves brought him in with an RBI fielder's choice to give the Tide its first run of the inning. From there, Smith brought in Hunter Gregory with an RBI single to make it 2-1 before a sacrifice fly by Booth plated Moore for a 3-1 Bama lead after three.

In the bottom of the fourth, Alabama added to the lead with another three-run inning, as Tullidge, Dugas and Gregory all crossed the plate to make it 6-1.

A  home run in the top of the sixth by Gregor cut the score to 6-2, before the Tide answered with a run of its own in the bottom half of the inning courtesy of a two-out RBI single by Smith, scoring Moore from second, to give Alabama a 7-2 advantage.

Alabama returns to action on Tuesday when it travels to Samford for a non-conference game. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT from Joe Lee Griffin Field in Birmingham.