Alabama upsets Georgia, sets up rematch with Hogs
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Arkansas won’t have to wait long to get a rematch with the team that just embarrassed it to end the regular season.
Picking up where it left off in Tuscaloosa, 11 seed Alabama scored five runs in the first two innings and got a dominant relief outing by Ben Hess in a 5-3 upset win over 6 seed Georgia in the first game of the SEC Tournament on Tuesday.
That sets up a fourth matchup between the Razorbacks and Crimson Tide in the span of a week, as they played over the weekend with Alabama winning two of three to prevent Arkansas from winning even a share of the SEC West title. That series was capped by an ugly 18-5 loss by the Razorbacks on Saturday.
"Arkansas is a great team," Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon said about getting a rematch with the Razorbacks. "They didn't play their best at our place. They're one of the best teams in the league.
"You get into the SEC Tournament and the deeper you go, the better the teams are. Everybody you play is going to be really good. Some of the teams have different strengths and weaknesses, but at this point, we just have to go play."
The same bats that scored the most runs by any team against Arkansas since 2005 didn’t waste any time getting things going in Hoover. Caden Rose hit a leadoff double and then scored on Andrew Pinckney’s single, making it 1-0 just five pitches in.
Some aggressive base running turned a William Hamiter pop up in foul territory into a sacrifice fly and also set up Zane Denton’s two-out RBI single that gave the Crimson Tide a 3-0 lead in the first.
A couple of free passes by the Bulldogs helped Alabama load the bases in the second inning and resulted in another two runs thanks to a wild pitch and Drew Williamson sacrifice fly.
Georgia cut into the lead with a solo home run by Parks Harber in the bottom of the second, but then the skies opened up. The game, which started 35 minutes late because of rain, went into a 2-hour, 6-minute delay.
When play resumed, the Crimson Tide turned to Ben Hess to start the third inning. Despite having the third-worst ERA on the team entering the game, the freshman right-hander proceeded to retire the first 13 batters he faced in 4 1/3 scoreless innings.
All but three of those came on strikeouts, including seven in a row at one point. The 10 strikeouts were the most by an Alabama pitcher this year.
Hess did put a couple of Bulldogs on base in the seventh, but Brock Guffey stranded them on second and third. Those proved to be a couple of critical outs because Connor Tate — after his twin brother Cole Tate reached on an infield single — blasted a two-out, two-run home run in the eighth inning that pulled the Bulldogs within 5-3.
However, that was as close as they'd get. Dylan Ray came in and threw a perfect ninth inning to finish off the win for the Crimson Tide.
Bohannon was noncommittal about who would start against the Razorbacks, but said it'd likely be senior right-hander Jacob McNairy (4.79 ERA, 67.2 IP), the Crimson Tide's usual Game 2 starter who gave up four earned runs in five innings against Arkansas last Friday.
Arkansas and Alabama were scheduled to play in the first game Wednesday, with first pitch set for 9:30 a.m. CT, but weather delays will prevent that from happening. The Auburn-Kentucky game scheduled for Tuesday night has already been pushed back to Wednesday morning, plus more rain is expected and could further alter the schedule.
All games will be televised on the SEC Network until the championship game, which will air on ESPN2.