The Crimson Tide baseball team was probably tired and jet-lagged on Tuesday when they hosted Tennessee-Martin at 3 p.m. The Tide had a long travel weekend in Vegas and returned very late Sunday night/early Monday morning. Bama had enough left in the tank to take a 10-5 victory, improving their record to 8-0 on the season.
Sophomore right hander Dylan Smith got the first start of his career on the mound for the Tide and tossed 2.1 innings before being relieved by Garret Rukes with two on and one out in the third.
The Tide jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first when Brett Auerbach singled, advanced on a Owen Diodati single, and scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Tyler Gentry. UTM tied the game with a run in the top of the second. Bama added four runs in the bottom of the second on a two run double by Kolby Robinson and a long two run home run by Diodati. The long ball was the freshman’s team-leading fourth of the year.
The Skyhawks cut into the margin in the third, using a leadoff home run, two doubles, a walk, and a ground out to tally three runs. Rukes entered the game to get the final two outs of the frame. The Tide added to the lead in the bottom of the third when a pair of freshman teamed up to bring in a run. Myles Austin doubled and scored on a single by Jim Jarvis.
Bama added two more scores in the fourth without the benefit of a hit, using two walks, a hit batter, and an error to push the runs across. Rukes cruised through 3.2 innings, allowing only one hit, one walk, no runs, and notching six strikeouts, to earn his first victory of the season in his longest outing so far.
Another Crimson Tide freshman, Zane Denton, singled in two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Brock Guffey relieved Rukes for two innings, allowing one run, and was followed by Dylan Oliver who pitched a scoreless ninth inning.
The Tide finished 11 of 33 at the plate with three doubles and one home run, walked six times, struck out seven times, and stranded eight runners on base. UT-Martin was 12 of 38 with two home runs, two walks, 10 strikeouts, and nine runners left on base.
The Tide’s offense was led by Diodati, 2-5, home run, two RBI, Auerbach, 2-3 with two walks, two runs, and a stolen base, Sam Praytor 2-4 with a double, a walk, and a run scored, and Robinson with a double, two RBI, and a run scored.
Another nice win for the Tide over an overmatched opponent. It is important to stack as many wins as possible in non-conference play before the grind of the SEC starts. Winning these games might not get Bama into the NCAA Tournament, but losing them will sure keep you out. We have seen over the years where mediocre midweek play by the Tide has kept them out of the post-season.
Rukes had his most extended outing of the season, and should have shown enough to garner more opportunities going forward. His command was outstanding, and showed good velocity. Coach Brian Bohannon continues to force feed his outstanding freshmen class, giving them opportunities to play and grow into their roles. Four freshmen started Tuesday, which has been about the norm in the first eight games of the year.
Bama plays again on Wednesday when they host Middle Tennessee at 3 p.m. William Freeman is expected to get the start on the mound for the Tide. Then this weekend another Crimson, Harvard, comes to town for a three game set. The team has a great chance to be 12-0 by the time Sunday night gets here. The time to Catch The Bama Baseball Fever is here!
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