The North Alabama Lions came to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday sporting a 12 game losing streak and an overall recored of 4-29. The Alabama Crimson Tide was coming off a thrilling series victory over Auburn this past weekend. One team seemed excited to be playing, one did not. The Lions led or were tied from the first inning on until the eighth when the Tide scored three times to pull out the victory. Alabama improved to 23-13 on the season while UNA fell to 4-30. Alabama has won seven of their last eight games.
Freshman left hander Grayson Hitt earned the start for the Tide in the game, coming off his best performance in Crimson last week. He didn't build on that tonight. Hitt walked the lead off man, gave up a single to the next man before also walking the third batter. Throw in a wild pitch and an RBI ground out and the Lions had built a 3-0 lead. An error and a single by the next two batters brought Will Freeman in to douse the fire. Freeman has been a jack of all trades for the pitching staff, filling many different roles. The fifth year senior got out of inning when catcher Johnny Hawk caught a runner stealing for out two and a strikeout for out three.
The Tide bounced back with two runs in the bottom of the first when Peyton Wilson walked and scored in front of the red hot Sam Praytor’s 11th home run of the season. Fresh off being named SEC Player Of The Week for last weeks performance, Praytor started working on this weeks award. The Tide tied the game in the bottom of the second. Jackson Tate reached on an error and scored on a sacrifice fly from Hawk.
Freeman threw 2.2 scoreless innings, allowing one hit with one strikeout before being replaced by Jake Eddington. The freshman righty had two scoreless innings before running in to trouble in the 6th. A walk and a seeing eye single put two runners on for the Lions with no outs. After a sacrifice bunt advanced the runners junior Connor Shamblin was called on. UNA tried to bunt the runner home, but first baseman Drew Williamson made a nice play and got the batter out with out a run scoring. Luke Harper then stroked a two run single to put UNA ahead by a 5-3 score.
Shamblin had a scoreless seventh inning and the Tide scored twice in the bottom half to tie the game. Praytor again was the man, doubling off the left field wall with the bases loaded to score two runs. Praytor’s blast just missed leaving the yard for a grand slam. Another freshman, Eli Giles, was called on to pitch the eighth. A one out walk and two singles plated the tying run, and caused coach Brad Bohannon to call on closer Chase Lee. Lee quickly got a double play to shut the inning down, setting up the Tides winning inning in the bottom of the eighth.
Tate led off with a walk, then advanced to second on a ball. Drew Williamson also drew a walk, followed by Jim Jarvis being hit by a pitch to load the bases. Andrew Pinckney was called on to pinch hit and tied the gam at 6-6 with a sacrifice fly to right field. With the infield drawn in Wilson hit a screaming line drive that the second baseman dove and somehow snagged. With two outs and two on William Hamiter hit a bouncing ball over the second baseman’s head for a two run single, making the score 8-6 in the Tides favor.
Armed with a two run lead Lee made quick work of the Lions in the 9th, striking out three straight batters on a total of 10 pitches. Bama finished 6-29 with seven walks, nine strikeouts, and left seven on base. UNA was 99-34 with four walks, nine strikeouts, and six left on base. Praytor had three of the six Bama hits, while Jarvis had two and Hamiter the only other one. Praytor drove in four runs, Hamiter knocked in two, while Tate and Pinckney had one RBI each. Lee improved to 6-0 on the season, and also has four saves in 13 appearances covering 24 innings. Lee has allowed exactly one run on the season.
The Tide was listless against one of the worst teams in the country. North Alabama just joined Division One a couple of years ago, and have a long way to go. This could have been a terrible loss for Bama, but they did just enough to pull the game out. I’m sure Bohannon and pitching coach Jason Jackson didn't expect to have to use Lee- or Freeman and Shamblin for that matter- tonight, but instead to get by with the group of freshman. However the game dictated otherwise and Bama did just enough to pull the game out.
The Tide now travels to Lexington for their weekend series with Kentucky. The games are Friday-Sunday with first pitch at 5:30 p.m. CT on Friday, 1 p.m. CT Saturday, and 12 noon on Sunday. All will be available on the SEC Network Plus App. Both teams are 7-8 in the league and are jockeying for position in the middle of the SEC pack. Winning the series would go a long way to helping secure post season play for the Tide.
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