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Alabama Baseball takes down Eastern Illinois, and finds a midweek starter

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Garret Rukes tosses a beautiful 2-hit shutout

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Alabama Freshman left-handed pitcher Garret Rukes is the epitome of the stereotypical “lanky lefthander,” at 6’4’, 180 pounds. Rukes has been quite a find for coach Greg Goff’s squad, entering Tuesday’s frigid game against Eastern Illinois with a 1.93 ERA in 9.1 innings pitched. Rukes improved those numbers, pitching a sterling eight innings of shutout ball, allowing only two harmless singles and walking two batters.

Rukes became the first Tide hurler to go more than six innings in a game this season, and he has likely solidified a spot as one of the team’s go-to midweek starters. The shut out performance lowered his ERA to 1.10 and gave him his first win as a Tide player.

‘Bama scored all the runs they needed in the second on an RBI single by Cody Henry and a passed ball. The Tide added one more in the fifth after a Logan Carey double with one out. Cobie Vance’s groundout advanced Carey, who then scored on another passed ball by the EIU catcher.

The Tide finished off the scoring in the sixth when Henry hit his third home run in the last four games. The switch-hitting junior had not hit any home runs in his ‘Bama career until this past weekend. Now he looks to be ready to fulfill his power potential. Vance drove in the last run of the game with a bases-loaded walk.

Rukes didn't allow a base runner until the fourth, and didn't give up a hit until the seventh. With some runs to work with, he cruised and was never threatened. The soft-tosser mixed in curveballs with his low-80’s fastball and kept the Panthers at bay through fabulous location and control. Mike Oczypok pitched the ninth inning, allowing a lead-off single, before closing the game out.

Offensively, Henry lead the way with his 2-2 day along with two walks and two driven in. Carey, Chandler Avant and Connor Short all had two hits each. The Tide outhit the Panthers 11-3 and drew six walks and a hit batter, giving up just two walks for Eastern.

It is hard to gather much from the win over a team that is now 1-14 on the season and came into the day hitting .219 as a team with a 10.31 team ERA. There is literally not one aspect of the game where the Panthers are even adequate. They don't hit, pitch, field (23 errors already,) and don't run successfully (6-16 as a team on stolen base attempts.) Nonetheless, ‘Bama needs wins, and Tuesday’s game improved their record to 10-6.

The Tide plays again Wednesday when they host Samford in another 3 p.m. contest. The game can be seen on SEC Network Plus. SEC play opens this weekend when ‘Bama welcomes Missouri for a three-game set.

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Ed. Note: You can get inning-by-inning baseball coverage by following Roger on the Twitters at @rogerpatmyers