This is really not so much mine as it is for Sarah and a friend, Justin Gage. The newspaper once had seats on the front row near the visitor’s on-deck circle and I might grab two of them from time to time if they weren’t going to be used by advertisers.
Alabama, No. 6 at the time, had a good team. I was sitting with Sarah and Justin for part of the Friday night game. I can’t recall what information Justin had on the Alabama hitters, but he knew details that you’d need a media guide to find. He could say something to get them to turn.
It was a particularly solid Alabama hitting team. The DH was Alex Avila, eventually a MLB catcher. Alabama entered with a 15-6 SEC record.
Most of the Alabama players had long sideburns or beards. Avila had pork chop sideburns that were well developed.
The Hogs won 4-3 in 11 innings. Nick Schmidt and two relievers struck out Avila five times. Justin was on him hard about his sideburns and really all of the Tide hitters. Justin did it softly. He was only a matter of a few feet away from them.
A few of the hitters turned to glare at Justin. The message was consistent, “You guys don’t hit well enough to sport that kind of look.” That may not have been Justin’s direct quote, but it was close.
The next day, they were all clean shaven. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
I was only down there for a half inning. I didn’t want to be there when Justin was asked to leave by an usher and didn’t want to be a part of it (although that didn’t happen). I don’t think Sarah ever said a word, but laughed throughout the game.
Five strikeouts is a pretty bad night. I went to the Alabama website to make sure my recollections were correct. Schmidt pitched seven innings. Brian McClelland pitched two innings and Devin Collis pitched two.
It was advertised as a Friday pitching duel between Schmidt and Wade LeBlanc. Neither of them could find the strike zone. LeBlanc walked seven in six innings. Schmidt walked five in seven innings.
One of the memories came in the 11th when Avila came up to make the final out. The section around Justin and Sarah was paying attention as the strikeouts mounted for Avila and the jabs intensified. Avila took a gentle swipe at Collis’ first pitch to bounce out to the second baseman. The section applauded as Avila came back to the dugout as if to congratulate him for avoiding a sixth straight strikeout.
The Hogs won it on a bases loaded single by Logan Forsythe in the bottom of the inning.
Arkansas swept the series.
I’m called Justin to make sure my memory was correct. He said it all matched up. Sarah added one important tidbit that I had forgotten and Justin didn’t mention. Avila’s five strikeout game was on May 5. It was Cinco de Mayo. The fives lined up and they didn’t let Avila forget it for the rest of the weekend.