Destiny drives Alabama baseball to Super Regionals

The University of Alabama Baseball Team celebrates against Troy at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL on Saturday, Jun 3, 2023.

By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Sam Thornton

TUSCALOOSA-There’s been a laundry list of emotions seen within the Alabama baseball program over the last month of the season. Shock, disappointment and guilt are a few that come to mind when the news first broke of former head coach Brad Bohannon’s dismissal from the program.

Since interim head coach Jason Jackson has taken the throne, those feelings have congregated into pride. The pride of wearing the scripted “A” on their jerseys was shown this weekend at the Tuscaloosa regional in front of three consecutive sellout crowds.

A perfect 3-0 showing by the Crimson Tide on their home turf has sent them back to super regionals for the first time in over a decade. Alabama showed why they could be America’s team on their unpredictable quest toward Omaha, so let’s relive it:

Postseason baseball resumed at “The Joe” for the first time since 2006, but not without a little patience first. It felt like the moment was too good to be true amid a rain delay called between Boston College and Troy early Friday afternoon. Nevertheless, a packed house was present with right field depicting a sea of crimson and white throughout the weekend.

The 9:05 p.m. start time finally arrived, and the Tide faithful were eager to continue watching the unlikely rollercoaster story of Alabama baseball. That story began in a first ever post season date with Nicholls State on Friday night, who recently captured the Southland Conference championship.

The crowd was deflated early after a solo home run was delivered by Nicholls McRae Kendrick to give them an early 1-0 edge, but what really took the soul of the stands was advertised pitching delivered from Nicholls Freshman Jacob Mayers, who came into the contest with a 9-1 record and 1.93 ERA. His confidence led him with a no hitter through four and a half innings.

“I was feeling amazing. We live for these moments to come out here and compete against teams like Alabama. It was a great opportunity to come out here and pitch against them and I knew I could face anyone in that box,” Mayers said.

Nicholls was a team of testament, having beaten top ranked LSU on the road earlier in the season in Baton Rouge. They were prepared, and Mayers duration took him to the 100 pitch mark before he was pulled in the sixth inning.

“We knew going in that they had a really good arm, and Mayers was as advertised, he was electric, his stuff was really good and he did a great job of slowing us down early,” Alabama head coach Jason Jackson said.

Mayers pitching certainly did the talking early, until his bulletproof coverage was compromised when Colby Shelton hit a much needed triple to break open the fifth inning for the Tide. He was soon brought home with a sac fly to tie the contest at one.

The response from Nicholls in the sixth was an exact replica with a triple to lead off and a sac fly to give them a 2-1 edge. This was a dance to follow, as Alabama kept responding to the task and didn’t want to see their night dwindle away after a ground ruled double from Drew Williamson sent Caden Rose home to tie the game at two.

A pivotal sixth inning for both sides continued into the seventh, when it was Nicholls again who countered after Alabama’s Kade Woods stepped to the Mound.

Wes Toups lifted Nicholls with a solo home run that gave them the lead back, and like two lightweight boxers striking blow for blow, it continued when Alabama’s Mac Guscette hit a solo home run to left field to tie it at three.

The crowd had invested their delayed gratification, and they were getting their money’s worth.

As anyone could’ve predicted, the fight went the distance all square in the ninth inning. The knockout blow was finally delivered by Alabama in the bottom of the ninth with two outs in arguably the biggest moment of the season.

A walk off hit down center field from Jim Jarvis gave the Crimson Tide their first victory of the weekend slate by a score of 4-3.

It was a huge moment and confidence booster for Jarvis, who had been in a massive slump before the hit. To say he was due was an understatement, but sometimes the moment lines up perfectly when you least expect it.

“It’s like a dream. It still doesn’t even feel real. It’s just a great moment to help the team because I haven’t been able to do that recently that much,” Jarvis said.

Playing in the SEC along with Alabama’s history of close contests this season was an advantage to their composure down the stretch over a team like Nicholls. “It just means more” was the deciding factor on Friday night.

“That was an SEC Friday night game with an SEC Friday night arm, that’s what it felt like,” Jackson said.

There was no time to salivate the moment. The Crimson Tide had a date with Troy the following night, who they had defeated in April at home but had yet dethroned them in the post season, holding an 0-2 record all-time.

The June sunset reflected on Coleman Coliseum in the background as an inner state matchup was at the ready with the stakes higher than the previous weekday matchup.

Unlike their lightweight defensive contest against Nicholls, Alabama went toe to toe in a heavyweight bout with an offensive explosion, edging out Troy 11-8 in a thriller.

The Alabama offense endured no delay as Caden Rose delivered a two run home run in the second inning to get the party started gifting right field with a souvenir.

The quick start from Alabama didn’t faze the Trojans, as they loaded the bases in the bottom of the third. Two RBI singles were scored along with a three run homer from Troy’s William Sullivan to give them a 5-2 edge.

A massive third inning from Troy was met with an even bigger fourth from the Crimson Tide. Finding their self belief for the second night in a row, the home crowd fueled a slew of RBI singles from Jim Jarvis, Tommy Seidl and Dominic Tamez to retake the lead 6-5.

At this point in the weekend slate, it might’ve been a better strategy for Alabama’s dugout to trail throughout the game.

That fight back mentality originated in the hearts of players and staff members once Jackson was elevated to interim head coach. It was on display on Saturday night in full force, even more than the night before.

“I think it’s just the nature of the game. I mean, nobody is really out of it until the end of the ninth inning. As long as you’re putting in good at bats when it pitches that’s what happens,” Alabama standout Andrew Pinckney said.

Jackson mentioned that the teams personality is ingrained with toughness.

“It’s an older, resilient group. They love each other, they love playing for each other. That dugout never thinks they’re out of it,” He said.

However, their test was far from over as Troy’s Kole Myers hit a solo home run in the fifth to tie the game 6-6. The next at bat for Alabama saw Pinckney hit a solo shot to retake the lead, and the storyline of resiliency continued.

“I wasn’t really seeing many fast balls today, so he threw me a changeup or splitter on the first pitch and I could’ve hit that one but wanted to try and see that one again, just happened to get a good piece of it,” Pinckney said.

Two RBI’s were quickly hauled in by the Trojans to give them an 8-7 lead in the bottom of the sixth, and we were heading for another all-time finish at The Joe.

Just when it seemed like the magical dust in the air had expired throughout the next three innings for Alabama, one of the most memorable and unexpected moments occurred.

Alabama’s Will Hodo was inserted as a pinch hitter in the final inning for the second at bat and his patience was valued with a four pitch walk. The Trojans preceded to walk Rose with the next at bat, and there were two runners on base for The Crimson Tide with two outs after a sac fly.

Seidl grounded out a hit to Troy’s Tremayne Cobb Jr. at shortstop. With an easy throw to first to end the game, Cobb’s rifle misfired, sailing the ball over first baseman William Sullivan which brought home two runs for Alabama.

It was Troy’s fourth and most costly error of the night, in what would go down as one of the craziest chain of events to happen in Sewell-Thomas Stadium history.

“I mean we’re down by one they hit the ball, and I do a little shimmy in front of the short stop right there just trying to make something happen and you know I get to third base, they throw it away and then I’m all out right there just trying to take the lead, just playing ball,” Rose said.

The feeling of defeat and dejection was seen on the faces of Troy players following the loss, a simple look of being on the other side of June baseball magic.

“This is the game we wanted all year,” Troy’s Kole Myers said. “We had it in our hands and we let it slip away,” he added with a look of bleakness in his eyes.

The swarm continued when Pinckney lifted an RBI triple to swell the lead to 10-8, and the inning concluded with four runs scored in the ninth with an RBI single from Tamez. Alabama was playing with house money at that point, and the chips were all in.

A strong closeout job from reliever Alton Davis II concluded the game, and the Crimson Tide were just one victory away from playing in their first super regional tournament since 2010.

Rose summed up the magic of baseball the best way he could through his own personal ups and downs of a seasoned career at the Capstone.

“I mean, baseball’s a funny game. You’re on top of the world sometimes and then other times you’re like ‘why am I even here?'” He said.

Alabama had won two games they respectfully had no business winning. Who was to say this team wasn’t one of destiny following everything over the final month of season, and now back to back all time moments at home?

It only took until Sunday night for Alabama to punch their ticket to Winston-Salem after an emotionally enduring first two contests. One could’ve predicted that the magical ride would involve another heart racing contest, but the 13 year wait had stalled for long enough with utter dominance from the Tide over No. 2 seed Boston College.

An 8-0 rout that concluded at 12:50 a.m. sent the Crimson Tide players packing for Supers.

“We’re not done yet, this is just one of our steps toward our main goal,” Alabama pitcher Jacob McNairy said.

The demeanor of the Tide players after the game was all business. A chip on their shoulder has been exposed with sights seen further than just a regional win.

“We all just know that it’s us against the world,” Alabama catcher Mac Guscette said.

Alabama came out swinging with instant gratification in mind, uniquely scoring three runs in the first inning of the game due to five consecutive walks distributed by Eagles pitcher Andrew Roman.

Sparked by a four pitch walk on Andrew Pinckney with two outs, Guscette brought in an RBI single, springing in the first hit of the night that grew the lead to 4-0. The early deficit was enough to decide the ball game just minutes into the contest.

Efficient hitting up and down the lineup by Alabama prompted Boston College to run through their bullpen early. With four pitchers played in four innings, the Eagles staff couldn’t formulate any constant defense to lower the high Tide.

RBI’s from Dominic Tamez, Tommy Seidl, and a second contribution from Guscette throughout the game prompted enough security for Alabama to stay put.

The early explosion from The Crimson Tide overshadowed starting pitcher McNairy, who had his best performance of the season. In 7.2 innings played, the Athens, Alabama native gave up three hits and zero runs allowed while delivering 68 strikes with 11 strikeouts.

His best baseball has been seen down the stretch of the season, and the Tide faithful gave him a standing ovation as he emotionally walked off the mound.

McNairy got himself out of a bases loaded situation in the bottom of the first inning that boosted his confidence for the rest of the contest. With the nerves erased, he could play to his ceiling.

“Once the game went on I settled in, I had all four pitches working and usually when that happens, good things happen,” McNairy said.

Head coach Jason Jackson mentioned that with McNairy growing up an Alabama fan, it’s hard to find a player on the team who loves suiting up in the crimson and white more.

The security of playing loose was noticeable throughout the weekend for Alabama, as it seemed earning their way into the winners bracket was an obvious advantage over their opponents.

Having the mindset of winning once on Sunday rather than forcing a game two the next night goes a long way in the belief of a dugout. This is especially true when the home crowd is cheering you on deep into the night with rested players.

Alabama took advantage of it, and will now have to face No. 1 overall seed Wake Forest on their own turf that will be their toughest test yet.

“They’ve got some really talented arms, they’ve got some guys that can swing the bat and there’s a reason why they’re the number one overall seed,” Jackson said.

The display of belief, toughness and grit that was seen at The Joe this weekend is something the Demon Deacons won’t overlook. Wake Forest has a talented team, but so does Alabama with four players named to the Tuscaloosa regional tournament team: Mac Guscette, Andrew Pinckney, Caden Rose, and Jacob McNairy.

There was indisputable sorcery in the air this weekend for Alabama. When a team of destiny is born amongst all the odds stacked against them, it can be hard for even your rivals to root against you.

“I know it’s been a bit of a hectic couple of weeks around here and for Jason (Jackson) and the staff to lead those boys and what those boys are doing. It’s hard in the ACC, we never like rooting for the SEC, but it’s hard not to root for those guys over there,” Boston College head coach Mike Gambino said.

Alabama will face Wake Forest this weekend in a best of three series with a spot to the Men’s College World Series on the line. The winner will advance to the pinnacle of college baseball in Omaha, Nebraska.

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