Alabama baseball falls to top-seeded Florida Gators in extra innings, moves to losers’ bracket


Alabama baseball player Drew Williamson (#18) throws to first against Florida on May 24 at the Hoover Met in Birmingham, Ala. (Courtesy of UA Athletics)

Michael DeVito, Contributing Writer

To begin its journey in the double-elimination bracket of the SEC tournament, the ninth-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide lost to the first-seeded Florida Gators on day two.  

Interim head coach Jason Jackson ran out right hander Luke Holman (7-3 3.53 ERA) to go up against Florida right-hander Hurston Waldrep (7-3 4.83 ERA) for the second-round contest.  

Alabama previously faced Waldrep in game three of its series in March; Alabama defeated Waldrep but fell to the Gators in the series.  

“He’s gotten a lot stronger,” Jackson said of Holman. “I think that’s really helped him. The thing this year is that he’s seen that he’s really good. He needed to go out there and see himself succeed.” 

Florida jumped to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Holman hung a breaking ball to all-SEC shortstop Josh Rivera. Holman came back and struck out the next batter to end the side. The no-doubt home run from Rivera put Alabama in an early hole.  

Freshman star Colby Shelton pulled the Crimson Tide within one in the top of the fourth. Shelton ripped a single to left field, bringing home first baseman Drew Williamson to score.  

With one out down in the next inning, shortstop Jim Jarvis flied out to right field, scoring second baseman Ed Johnson. Jarvis’ sacrifice fly pulled Alabama even and made it a brand-new ball game at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.  

Wasting no time in the sixth on a first-pitch fastball, Florida native Shelton barreled up home run No. 21 of the year, sending the ball 405 feet and 108 miles per hour off the bat. The laser over the right field wall put Alabama up 3-2 over the top-seeded Gators. 

After making two big outs in the bottom of the sixth, Holman made way for right-hander Aidan Moza amid an ovation from the Alabama fans in the crowd. Holman exited after 101 pitches, four hits, two runs, two walks and five strikeouts in 5.2 innings. To end the inning, junior Mac Guscette shot Rivera down trying to steal second with a nice tag from Jarvis in front of the base. 

In the bottom of the eighth, Moza threw the ball away up the first-base line after a dribbler to the mound, scoring Florida’s Dale Thomas from first base. The error from Moza let the Gators back in the game and tied it at three runs apiece. Moza struck out the dangerous Rivera with runners on first and second to eventually escape the inning.  

After a scoreless ninth, Florida had the game winning run-on base in the bottom of the tenth. However, another perfect throw from Guscette gunned down the runner attempting to steal second. Moza struck out the next batter and, with a howl to the crowd, sent the nail-biting game to the 11th. 

In the 11th inning, the Crimson Tide had the bases loaded with two down and left-fielder Tommy Seidl at the plate. Seidl cleared the bases with a double over the right fielder’s head, scoring all three, and the Cinderella-story Alabama Crimson Tide led the No. 1 Florida Gators 6-3.  

Left-hander Alton Davis II entered for the second night in a row to silence the threatening Gators. In the bottom half of the 11th, Wyatt Langford led off with a single with Jac Caglianone following up with another single, setting up Rivera with runners on first and second. Rivera ripped a single into left field, scoring Langford. A walk-off three-run home run by B.T. Riopelle ended the game as the Florida Gators came back, scoring four runs in the 11th to send the Crimson Tide to the losers’ bracket.  

“It’s a tough loss,” Jackson said. “We took the lead in that last inning and Alton Davis II has done great for us all year. You got to give [Florida] some credit; they had some great at-bats. This was a really good college baseball game. Our guys fought hard, their guys fought hard, but at the end of the day they got the big hit.” 

Alabama will enter the third round of the SEC tournament in the losers’ bracket and will face the loser of the Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Auburn Tigers in an elimination game. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network at 2 p.m. CT, after the Texas A&M vs. South Carolina game.