The Crimson Tide used a three run second inning and a strong pitching performance to defeat Middle Tennessee by a score of 4-0 on Tuesday at The Joe. The win gave the Tide a 4-0 record, the best start since beginning the 2013 season with a 6-0 mark. Seven pitchers combined to toss a four hit shutout.
Starting pitcher, redshirt freshman left hander Garret Rukes, saw his season cut short last year when he had Tommy John surgery on April 4th. Rukes was held to a pitch count, tossed two shutout innings to begin the game. The lanky lefty allowed one hit and struck out two batters.
The Tide scored all the runs they would need in the bottom of the second, crossing the plate three times. Hunter Alexander started things off with a single and scored on a double by Chandler Avant. A single by Cobie Vance scored Avant and Jett Manning, who had walked, as the Tide sent nine players to the plate in the frame.
Brock Love, now a redshirt sophomore after his own Tommy John surgery on March 24th of last year, followed Rukes. Love was impressive in his two innings of work, consistently hitting 89-91 on the radar gun. The Rainbow City native allowed two hits and struck out two. Connor Stutts, Tyler Adams, Mason Duke, Deacon Medders, and Dylan Duarte all followed with one shutout inning each. Duke faced three batters and struck out all three. As a staff, the team allowed four hits with only one walk while fanning eight. In four games, the staff has walked only five batters this season.
‘Bama added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when Chandler Taylor singled to score Kyle Kaufman, who was hit by a pitch and advanced on a single by Joe Breaux. MTSU never threatened, having only two runners reach second base all game. Vance started a nifty around the horn double play to end the game with the Tide on top 4-0.
Alabama collected eight hits, drew five walks, and continued to show an affinity for being hit by pitches, reaching five more times by hit batters. ‘Bama has now been hit 16 times in just four games.
Vance led the way offensively with a 2-5 day with two runs driven in. Alexander was the only other player with multiple hits, going 2-4 with a walk. Avant was 1-2 with a double and a run driven in and was twice hit by a pitch. Breaux, Taylor, and Keith Holcombe with a single each were the only other hits by the Tide. Rukes was awarded the win.
Early in the season, the 4-0 Tide is hitting .340 as a team and has a staff ERA of 3.25. The hitters have walked 28 times and struck out 24 times. The pitchers have struck out 28 batters and walked only five. The team has 12 doubles, one triple, and four home runs, and has yet to steal a base. One negative is the 53 runners left on base in four games. Defensively the Tide has committed only two errors and has a .987 fielding percentage. Manning at shortstop and Vance at third base have been especially good in the early going, making the left side a wall.
The Tide takes the field again on Friday when they host Washington State in a three game series. Friday’s first pitch is at 3 p.m., Saturday’s game two is set for 1 p.m. and Sunday’s game is scheduled for 9 a.m. All times are Central and all games can be seen on SEC Network Plus, Watch ESPN app, with Eli Gold and Lance Cormier on the call.
***SCHEDULE UPDATE*** Due to the threat of weather on Sunday, Alabama and Washington State will play a doubleheader on Friday. Game one of the weekend will move up an hour and start at 2 p.m. CT. The second game of the day on Friday will start exactly 45 minutes after the final out of game one. Both games will be nine innings.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch It.
follow @rogerpatmyers on Twitter for live, in game updates