Austen Smith Delivers 3-Run Walk-off Home Run in 8-6 Win over Vanderbilt
April 21, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Alabama used a four-run ninth inning, capped by Austen Smith's two-out, three-run home run to earn a dramatic 8-6 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. With the win the Crimson Tide improves to 16-24 and 6-11 in Southeastern Conference play, while the Commodores fall to 17-22 and 6-11 in the SEC.
Smith's home run, his first of the 2012 season, marks the third consecutive SEC home Saturday game at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in which Alabama has won with a walk-off home run. Smith, who had not homered since the opening game of the NCAA Regional versus Central Florida on June 3, 2011, took a 1-1 pitch over the wall in left to give the Tide the thrilling, come-from-behind victory.
"With this being our third Saturday (at home) in a row with a walk-off homer, something I don't think I've seen in 24 years of coaching, this is certainly a win we'll take," UA head coach Mitch Gaspard said.
James Tullidge led off the ninth with an infield single, before advancing to third on a single by Dugas. With runners at the corners and no outs, Hunter Gregory's sacrifice fly to deep left field allowed Tullidge to score, plating the first run of the inning. After an out and a walk, Smith sent the fans at Sewell-Thomas Stadium into a frenzy with his two-out, game-winning dinger, the first walk-off hit of his UA career.
Smith was 2-for-5 with three RBI and one run scored. Ben Moore registered a 3-for-4, two run, one RBI performance, that included a two-out walk in the ninth right before Smith's game-winner. Gregory, Jared Reaves and Dugas all contributed one run and one hit on the afternoon as well, with Tullidge adding a hit and two runs.
Reliever Trey Pilkington (2-3) earned the victory for Alabama, pitching 2.0 innings of relief, allowing one run on two hits. Tide starter Taylor Guilbeau lasted 6.0 innings, giving up two runs on just one hit while striking out a career-high seven. Will Clinard took the loss for Vandy, surrendering four runs on three hits, including Smith's game-winning, walk-off home run, in the ninth.
"I thought Taylor Guilbeau gave us his best start of the year through his six innings," Gaspard said. "We kind of ran into a little trouble there in the seventh inning, we threw a lot of pitches, but we were able to minimize the damage. The walks bit us again in the back end of the game; we walked too many guys and gave up the lead. I thought that Pilkington was serviceable in the back end of the game; he did a good job in the eighth and kept the game close in the ninth. That really set the stage for another good job by our offense in the ninth inning, when our guys just continued to battle. It took a lot of quality at-bats to get Austen Smith to that situation where he could get his home run."
Alabama jumped on top of the Commodores in the first frame for the second consecutive day, plating a run in the bottom half of the inning. Gregory scored from third on a wild pitch by Vanderbilt starter Tyler Beede to give the Tide the early lead.
The Commodores tied it at 1-1 in the top of the fourth inning on Anthony Gomez's RBI-double, then took a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth, scoring on a two-out passed ball. Guilbeau avoided further damage in the sixth, striking out Conner Harell to end the inning with two runners aboard.
Alabama answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 3-2 lead. Reaves led off with a walk, before coming all the way around to score on Moore's RBI double, tying the game at 2-2. From there, Moore advanced to third on a fielder's choice then scored on a Booth sacrifice fly.
The lead was brief, as Vanderbilt plated three runs in the top of the seventh to reclaim the advantage. The Commodores scored their first run of the inning on a bases-loaded walk, before a two-RBI single by Spencer Navin pushed the Vandy lead to 5-3.
Alabama struck back with a run in the bottom half of the inning on Reaves' two-out RBI single, scoring Tullidge from second base to cut the score to 5-4 before the ninth inning dramatics.
Alabama will try to complete its second SEC series sweep of the season in game three of the series versus the Commodores, slated for Sunday at 1:05 p.m. from Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Tide is expected to start freshman left-hander Jon Keller (1-2, 4.19) while Vanderbilt will counter with sophomore lefty Kevin Ziomek (3-6, 4.91).
Follow the Alabama Crimson Tide baseball team on Facebook at Alabama-Baseball and on Twitter at @AlabamaBSB.
Alabama 8, Vanderbilt 6 (Apr 21, 2012 at Tuscaloosa, Ala.)