Alabama’s “Tommy John” kids continued their remarkable comeback from major arm surgery on Wednesday, helping lead the Tide to a 3-0 victory over the 15th ranked Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Soft tossing lefty Garret Rukes and fireballing righty Brock Love both had the surgery only 11 months ago, and are slowly being worked into action. For the third straight week Rukes started and was relieved by Love. In the three games they have appeared, they have combined to pitch 13 innings, allowing six hits while walking only four and striking out 15, all without allowing any runs.
USM came to town fourth in the nation in scoring at 10.5 runs per game, and with a team batting average of .325. They had swept perennial powerhouse Mississippi State in a three game series to open the season but left Tuscaloosa without scoring, and managed only two hits. The Tide entered the game hitting .329 and 10th in the nation in scoring at 10.1 runs per game.
Rukes started the game and allowed a leadoff single to Jaylon Keys. When Keys tried to steal second, freshman catcher Sam Praytor threw him out with ease. After a strikeout for out two Luke Reynolds walked, the only other baserunner Rukes allowed in his three inning stint.
The Gadsden native was electric in the fourth, striking out the side. The Tide got all the runs they would need in the bottom of the fourth, crossing home plate twice. Hunter Alexander led off with a double down the left field line, followed by a perfectly placed bunt single from Keith Holcombe. Holcombe didn't even draw a throw to first base on the play. Chandler Avant doubled to left to score one run, and Jett Manning drove in the other one with a sacrifice fly.
Love, who earned his first win of the year, walked the leadoff man in the fifth, but a Cobie Vance-to-Avant-to Cody Henry double play and a pop up ended the frame. Love was followed by Mason Duke who had a perfect inning with a strikeout. Deacon Medders was the fourth Tide pitcher and got into trouble in the top of the seventh after a single and a walk. Medders then got a ground out and a strikeout to end the threat.
The Tide added an insurance run in the seventh without the aid of a hit. Jett Manning walked and stole second, then advanced on a groundout by Praytor and scampered home on one by Walker McCleney. Medders had a perfect eighth and was replaced by Dylan Duarte in the ninth. Duarte walked the leadoff hitter but got some help in the form of a nifty double play started by Avant, who flipped to Manning, who finished it off with a throw to Henry at first. An error on what would have been out three extended the game, but Duarte coaxed a fly ball to end it.
Bama collected six hits in the game, drew three walks, and were hit by pitches twice. The team struck out five times and stranded eight runners on base. The five Tide pitchers held the offensive minded Eagles to two hits, while walking four and striking out eight. Alabama improved to 11-2 while USM fell to 8-4. The Tide is now 9-0 at home on the season.
- Batting Average: Keith Holcombe .452, Chandler Avant .407, Hunter Alexander .388
- Runs: Cobie Vance 14, Chandler Avant 14, Hunter Alexander 13
- RBI: Cody Henry 17, Chandler Taylor 13, Keith Holcombe, Chandler Avant, Hunter Alexander, 12 each.
- Home Runs: Chandler Taylor 4, 6 tied at 1 each
- Doubles Chandler Avant 6, Hunter Alexander 5, Walker McCleney 4
- Hits: Chandler Avant 22, Keith Holcombe 19, Hunter Alexander 19
- Wins: Sam Finnerty 2, 9 tied with 1
- IP: Sam Finnerty, 19.2, Jake Walters, 14.1, Sam Gardner, 12.2
New Mexico State comes to town this weekend for a three game set. Entering the week the Aggies were averaging 14.2 runs per game, but shaved a full two runs off of that average with consecutive 9-1 and 6-0 losses to Mississippi State on Tuesday and Wednesday and are now 8-6 on the year. Earlier in the year NMSU defeated Mississippi Valley State 74-4 in three games including an absurd 39-0 contest. Expect the Tide to keep the rotation of Sam Finnerty on Friday (6 p.m.) Jake Walters on Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sam Gardner on Sunday at 1 p.m. All games can be seen on SEC Network Plus, Watch ESPN App.
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UPDATE: The weekend series against New Mexico State has been changed to a doubleheader Friday starting at 2PM, second game to follow. Saturday’s game will remain at 2PM.