TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The Crimson Tide played a clean game all the way up until the final frame. Staring down a two-game winning streak, Alabama bobbled a win against Oral Roberts away on an error, a pair of walks and a heart-breaking single past the outstretched arms of shortstop Jared Reaves.
Down to its final strike, Oral Roberts designated hitter Chris Williams hit a single up the middle with the bases loaded, scoring two and downing Alabama, 3-2. The loss drops UA to 6-9 on the year.
The five-hit showing by the Tide squandered a strong outing from junior Trey Pilkington. The right-hander who entered the game with a 11.57 ERA pitched six strong innings, allowing one earned run on four hits, striking out five. But with the game on the line and UA’s supposed closer, Ian Gardeck, nowhere to be found, freshman reliever Jake Hubbard blew the save opportunity, and with it, Pilkington’s first win since April 30 of last year.
Alabama got on the board first in the fourth inning when Jon Kelton walked and Reaves singled, putting runners on first and second with one out. Cameron Carlisle bunted them over and Kenny Roberts hit a sharp grounder to the shortstop, driving in Kelton.
Oral Roberts finally figured out Pilkington in the top of the sixth. After failing to reach base in 13 consecutive at-bats, Oral Roberts strung together a single and a double to get on the board, tying the game at one.
But Alabama responded in the seventh, putting runners on the corners with one out. Josh Rosecrans came on to pinch-hit and drove a sacrifice fly deep into center field, long enough to bring Roberts home from third.
That’s when Jake Hubbard came on to try and close things out, loading up the bases before giving up the game-winning single.
Sophomore first baseman Austen Smith did not start, missing his fourth start of the year. He started all but four games last year where he was the full-time first baseman.
Gardeck, who entered the season as the team’s closer, did not come out of the bullpen for entire weekend tournament.
Alabama will stay home and host Southern Miss on Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. CST. The Crimson Tide begin SEC play Friday with a three-game series at Arkansas.
Alex Scarborough covers University of Alabama athletics for TideNation. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexS_ESPN.