MT. PLEASANT, S.C. – The Alabama baseball team one strike away from its ninth straight win, found itself on the short-end of 7-6 loss in the series finale against the College of Charleston Sunday afternoon at Patriots Point Stadium.
Alabama (8-1), who had scored five runs in the seventh inning to retake the lead, held a one-run lead entering the bottom of the ninth inning, but a two-out double and costly throwing error led to the tying and winning runs crossing the plate as Charleston rallied past the Crimson Tide.
With two outs in the ninth and senior closer Jake Smith on the mound, Charleston pinch-hitter Justin Brewer singled to right field to give the Cougars a glimmer of hope. Left fielder Baker Knox, who had three hits, including a solo home run in the sixth inning, lifted a fly ball to right field that sent pinch-runner Dre Watts racing around the bases. Freshman right fielder Matt Taylor, who entered the game in the ninth inning for defensive purposes, threw to second baseman Ross Wilson, who threw wildly back toward the infield and the ball sailed into the left field foul grounds as Watts and Knox scored the tying and winning runs to give the Cougars a walk-off 7-6 win.
The throwing error was Alabama's third error of the game. The Crimson Tide had committed only three errors in its first eight games this season.
Charleston right-hander Thomas Schiller (3-0) earned the win with 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief. He allowed two hits and struck out three. Smith (0-1) suffered the loss and allowed two runs and two hits with one strikeout.
Alabama trailed 4-1 after six innings, but battled back to score five runs on six hits in the seventh inning to take a 6-4 lead. After being held in check for the first six innings by Charleston starter Josh Salay, the Tide opened the seventh inning with four straight hits to cut into the lead.
Junior catcher Chris Smelley started the rally with a single to left and sophomore DH Jon Kelton followed with a double down the right field line to put runners on the corners with no outs. Junior left fielder John David Smelser followed with a two-run single to score Smelley and Kelton as the Tide cut the lead to 4-3.
Left-hander Owen Brittle replaced Salay on the mound and UA countered with pinch-hitter Brandt Hendricks, who singled to center field to put runners at first and second with no outs. Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt and junior shortstop Josh Rutledge followed with a three-run home run – his second of the game – to give the Tide a 6-4 lead.
Junior second baseman Ross Wilson followed with a triple to center field and the Tide looked poised to add to its lead. Senior first baseman Clay Jones grounded out on a slow bouncer to the pitcher and Wilson raced home from third with what looked like an insurance run, but first base umpire Richie Tallent ruled interference on Jones running at first base and Wilson was called out and the run was taken off the board.
College of Charleston (9-3) scored a run in the bottom of the inning off Tyler White to cut the lead to 6-5. Matt Leeds ripped a one-out double to left-center field and scored on Jose Rodriguez two-out single to left.
Alabama grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Rutledge homered to left field.
College of Charleston scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 3-1 lead, its first lead of the series. The Cougars took advantage of a pair of walks and hit batter to load the bases with one out. Matt Leeds drew a leadoff walk and then UA starter Jonathan Smart hit Kolby Epley to put runners and first and second with no outs.
After Jose Rodriguez flied out to left fielder John David Smelser, Smart then walked Baker to load the bases. Ross Hanna followed with an RBI single to left to score Leeds with the tying run. Robert Pritcher's sacrifice fly to left easily scored Epley to give the Cougars their first lead of the series at 2-1. Jamie Holler then lined an 0-2 pitch to left for an RBI single that scored Knox to give Charleston a 3-1 lead and chase Smart.
Cole Rakar greeted right-hander Jason Townsend with a single to left field, but he Cougars were denied a fourth run when Smelser fielded the ball and fired a strike to third baseman Jake Smith, who relayed the ball to catcher Chris Smelley for the easy putout of Hanna to end the inning.
Knox solo home run to lead off the sixth inning gave the Cougars a 4-1 lead.