TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama used and abused Vanderbilt on Friday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, riding three Commodore errors to a 6-4 win in Game 1 of the three-game set.
Every time the Commodores made a mistake, the Crimson Tide was there to pick up pieces -- all too glad to see the ball bounce their way for one of the rare times this season. Prior to Friday’s game, the Tide were on the wrong side of the error column, booting and throwing away 13 more balls than their opponents.
But this weekend started differently as UA played clean, confident baseball.
“It just kind of worked in our advantage tonight,” said coach Mitch Gaspard. “God knows we’ve been on the other side of that enough this year. When you play clean, that’s a big part of the game: don’t beat yourself.”
In fact, it seemed like everything Gaspard threw at the board stuck. Spencer Turnbull, in his first career SEC start, threw 5.1 masterful innings, scattering six hits and two walks without allowing an earned run. He struck out six. When Justin Kamplain came on with runners in scoring position and one out in the sixth, he wiggled free of the jam. And when he struggled in the eighth inning, Jake Hubbard came on to close things out. The tall righty held the lead in the ninth for his third save of the season.
“Turnbull, in his first SEC start, I thought he pitched really well,” Gaspard said. “He kind of maximized his pitches there and made pitches when he needed to. He kept the game settled down.”
Gaspard said the coaching staff has been grooming Turnbull for a spot as a weekend starter, waiting for when the moment felt right to throw him into the fire. After losing 10-2 at LSU last Friday, Gaspard pulled the trigger.
“He’s going to be a weekend guy, there’s no question,” Gaspard said of Turnbull. “We just felt like he wasn’t quite ready to do that. But now it’s time for him to do it.”
For his part, Turnbull said he was excited to get on the mound for an SEC game. He called the game against Vanderbilt a “different experience.”
“With it being my first weekend start, I didn’t know what to expect,” Turnbull said. “I just went out there with the same demeanor.”
With Turnbull pitching confidently, the rest of the team fell in line. Alabama hit two home runs and failed to commit a single error for just the 12th time all year.
One of those home runs came off the bat of senior shortstop Jared Reaves. He said after scoring a run in the first and watching the way Turnbull was throwing on the mound afterward, the team took on an aggressive stance.
“We saw Spencer dealing up there,” Reaves said. “It’s a whole new feel. It’s a positive feel. It’s something you can’t explain, you just have to experience it and see it."
Gaspard watched from the dugout as the Tide used every at-bat to their advantage. Despite being outhit by Vanderbilt six to 10, Alabama put six runs across the plate.
“We left the yard a little bit and hit a couple balls out of the park,” Gapsard said. “We used the bunting game a little bit to create some offense and put ourselves in position to get a few of those. I was pleased with the way we manufactured runs tonight.”
Alabama will face Vanderbilt in the series' rubber game Saturday at 2:05 p.m. CST.