Brutal schedule taking toll on Alabama baseball, falls 7-4 to No. 6 Vanderbilt

Joey Blackwell

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama baseball head coach Brad Bohannon has built a program that aims to show a lot of fight and tenacity. However, those two qualities don’t always translate to wins, especially in the Southeastern Conference.

Alabama opened its three-game weekend series against No. 6 Vanderbilt with a 7-4 loss at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Friday night.

Although the Crimson Tide was able to come back from an early deficit, the Commodores eventually showed why they're ranked so high.

“A disappointing loss tonight to a really good team,” Bohannon said. “I thought our guys competed well. I was really disappointed to lose tonight because I thought we played pretty good.”

After a five-game road trip to visit three opposing teams, including being swept by No. 3 Mississippi State, the Crimson Tide hoped to turn things around at home.

Vanderbilt has had a strong season thus far, coming in at 28-9. It led the SEC in batting average (.309), slugging percentage (.498), doubles (81) and triples (13).

Vanderbilt started the scoring with a solo home run in the top of the first by junior right fielder J.J. Bleday. Alabama answered in the bottom of the second with a two-run home run by senior center fielder Joe Breaux.

But Vanderbilt rallied for a run in the fourth inning and three in the fifth.

Junior second baseman Morgan McCullough doubled down the right field line in the bottom of the fifth, to score two more runs, but Vanderbilt quickly answered.

Sophomore third baseman Austin Martins singled in a run in the sixth, and senior shortstop Ethan Paul added one more run to the Commodores’ tally with a solo home run in the ninth.

Alabama senior Sam Finnerty (5-5) took the loss for the Crimson Tide. Vanderbilt junior Drake Fellows (8-0) was credited with the win and sophomore Tyler Brown (8) picked up the save.

“We actually played good,” Bohannon said. “Your margin for error is pretty slim against a team like that. I thought [Finnerty] had some tough luck, gave up some soft-contact hits there in the fifth.”

Nevertheless, the Crimson Tide has lost five consecutive SEC games while in the middle of its toughest stretch of the season. After last week’s series at No. 3 Mississippi State and this week’s against No. 6 Vanderbilt, the Crimson Tide hosts No. 14 LSU, travels to in-state rival Auburn, and then hosts No. 7 Texas A&M. Alabama finishes off its regular season with a road trip to No. 5 Georgia.

“We’re trying to win,” McCullough said. “It doesn’t matter if we lose by 10 or if we lose by one. We need to win. I would like to win.”

Bohannon is on the same page as McCullough when it comes to the team needing some SEC wins.

“There’s no time for moral victories,” Bohannon said. “Like [McCullough] said, we need to win. We need to beat good teams.

“That’s kind of where we are, so we’ll come out tomorrow and face a very talented freshman and 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.”

Alabama drops to 24-15 on the season, with its SEC record at 4-12. Vanderbilt is 29-9, 10-6 in league play,

Alabama continues the series Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 8 p.m. CT (SEC Network).