Alabama had to feel pretty good going into the bottom of the ninth against Troy in Sunday's elimination game. They were leading 8-5, and their solid freshman closer Ray Castillo was headed to the plate. He had allowed three runs once in 25 appearances this year, and never more. If Castillo pitched like himself, Alabama would move to tonight's game against Florida State needing two wins to get to the super regionals.
It wasn't to be. Castillo melted down in his worst showing of the year, giving up three walks -- including one that scored the winning run -- and two hits while hitting another batter to give the Trojans the walk-off win and end Alabama's season. Before Sunday, he had hit just four batters and walked 27 in 42.1 innings. And so the player that set the Tide's freshman record for saves in a season wasn't able to keep that freshman season alive.
Of course, it's a bit much to blame Castillo. It wasn't Castillo who put the Tide in the losers' bracket to begin with, and it wasn't Castillo who allowed Troy five runs before he even took the mound Sunday. But that's the life of a closer. If you can save the game, you're more of a hero than you probably deserve to be, and you're more of a goat than you deserve to be if you can't.
But Castillo will be back next year with a chance to take Alabama even further. As will several of the players that made this season what it was for the Tide. The flip side of being the goat is that it gives you a chance at redemption.