The 22nd ranked University of Alabama baseball team started slowly, but finished fast in defeating South Eastern Louisiana University 9-1 Tuesday night at The Joe in Tuscaloosa. The win pushed the Tide's record to 19-11, bringing their win total to within two of last year's team. 'Bama scored six times in the sixth inning and three more times in the seventh to secure the win.
Tucker Hawley started on the mound for the Tide and pitched five scoreless, but not uneventful, innings. In an odd fourth inning Hawley allowed three singles to open the inning but picked the first runner off of first base and The Eraser, Brett Booth caught another stealing to keep the Lion's from scoring. The fifth inning saw SELA have a leadoff single by Jess Buratt erased once again by Booth on an attempted steal. The caught base runners were Booth's 21st and 22nd of the year, to go along with two more via the pick off. Hawley gave way to freshman Mike Oczypok who pitched the sixth inning, allowing one run, and collecting the win, the first of his career. Oczypok allowed two hits, one run and struck out two batters.
After five innings of only facing 15 batters Lion pitcher Kyle Cedotal began the sixth by retiring the first two Tide batters. However Andrew Miller worked a two out walk to keep the inning alive. Georgie Salem followed with a single, setting the table for Kenny Roberts. Roberts drove the third pitch of his at bat deep into the night for a three run homer run, his first of the season. Ben Moore was hit by a pitch, after Brett Booth coaxed a walk Austen Smith took over the team lead in home runs by smoking his third over the trees in left center field, giving the Tide a 6-1 lead.
Justin Kamplain pitched the seventh inning, allowing one single and striking out two. Mitch Greer handled the eighth inning, allowing two choppers for infield singles to the first two batters he faced. From there Greer struck out the next batter and induced two ground outs. Closer Ray Castillo, who was due to throw a bullpen, handled the ninth inning and struck out the side. Castillo only allowed a harmless infield single.
'Bama added three more runs in the seventh on RBI singles by Miller and Salem and a double play ground out by Roberts. In an oddity the Tide not only was out hit 11-8, but also did not leave a single runner on base. Two runners were caught stealing and 'Bama also hit into two double plays.
Roberts lead the way offensively going 2-4 with three RBIs. Salem was 2-4 with an RBI, Smith 1-3 with 3 RBIs. Miller was 1-2 with an RBI and two runs scored. Kyle Overstreet and Chance Vincent added one single each.
This is the way mid-week games should go, a victory first and foremost, but also the opportunity to mix some bench players in the game to gain valuable experience. South Eastern isn't a typical Tuesday night opponent however, coming in with a 21-8 record. Daniel Cucjen got a pinch hitting chance and drew a walk and scored a run. Alan Dye pinch hit and played first base, and Ryan Blanchard played two innings in left field, and the aforementioned five pitchers saw game action.
In a side note, it was good to see new Alabama Athletics Director Bill Battle come out to enjoy the Tide victory.
Alabama welcomes the ninth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks to town Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a key three-game series. 'Bama's 7-2 conference slate trails only Vanderbilt and LSU who are both 8-1. Arkansas is 6-3 so the winner of this series should have a solid hold on second place in the Western Division. The Hog's overall record is 21-8. Thursday night's game is set for 7:05 p.m. and is to be televised by ESPNU. Friday's first pitch is 6:35 p.m. and the final game is Saturday at 1:05 p.m. All times listed are CST.
If the Tide wants to make serious noise in the SEC this is a very important stretch of games. After Arkansas 'Bama hosts Alcorn State for two mid-week games, before traveling to Oxford to play another ranked team in Ole Miss. It will be very important to win one of these next two series, and the mid-week games are an absolute must. That being said I don't think there is anyone out there that wouldn't take 19 wins and a 7-2 conference record at this juncture of the season. The players have benefited from a tough early season schedule, which should bode well for the rest of the season. The blend of youth and experience has mixed together well to put a product on the field that Tide fans can be proud of.
Bama baseball fever, catch it!!
Roll Tide Y'all