Dylan “ The Real Deal” Smith was called on to save the Alabama baseball team’s season on Saturday, and he came through in a big way. The junior from Houston threw the team’s first complete game since 2019 when Sam Finnerty went the distance in a victory over South Carolina. Smith scattered seven hits, struck out seven, walked no one, and allowed one run. The Tide offense did just enough to secure a 3-1 victory. Bama will play the loser of tonight’s Louisiana Tech and North Carolina State game at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Alabama improved to 32-25 and Rider fell to 23-18.
Rider scored in the top of the first on a lead off double and two ground outs to take a 1-0 lead. The Tide tied things up in the bottom of the second when Drew Williamson was walked with two outs and scored on a double by Caden Rose. Smith and the Broncos’ Frank Doelling then settled into an old fashioned pitcher’s duel. Bama had a great opportunity in the bottom of the fourth, but couldn’t capitalize. Zane Denton led off the frame with a walk, and advanced to third on a single by Owen Diodati. Diodati swiped second to set up runners on second and third with no outs, but the Tide came away empty handed. Jackson Tate flew out to shallow right field for out one. Williamson grounded to the second baseman and Denton was cut down at the plate for out two. Rose then hit a high hopper to second that he beat out, scoring Diodati, or so we thought. After a conference the umpires called Williamson out for runners interference, negating the run.
Smith was setting the Broncs down with ease, and ended the game with 16 ground ball outs. The Tide finally broke through in the 7th when William Hamiter blasted his fourth home run of the season over the score board in right field. The long ball scored Rose who had led off the inning with a walk. Bama did strand two runners in scoring position in the inning, not capitalizing on a chance to break the game open.
The Tide had another golden opportunity in eighth but again couldn’t cross home plate. Tate led off with a drive off the top of the wall in straight away center field for a double. Williamson dropped down a sacrifice bunt to push Tate to third. Rose attempted a suicide squeeze bunt but couldn’t get the bat on the outside pitch and Tate was dead at the plate for out two. Rose then was hit by a pitch and Jim Jarvis walked, putting two on. Peyton Wilson singled into the hole at short to load the bases, but a Hamiter ground out ended the threat with no runs.
Smith trotted to the mound in the top of the ninth having thrown 97 pitches through the first eight innings. After a strikeout for out one Sean McGeehan doubled to put the tying run at the plate. A strikeout and ground out ended the game and Smith had his first career complete game on 117 pitches.
The Tide finished 7-28 with six walks, two hit batters, only struck out twice, and stranded 11 on base. Diodati was 2-4, Hamiter drove in two runs with his home run, and Rose drove in the teams other run and ready base three times. Rider finished 7-32, had no walks, struck out seven times, and left four left on base.
With Bama potentially playing three more games the work Smith did was huge in saving the bullpen. If the Tide wins the Sunday afternoon game they would play another game Sunday night, and if that game is won would play on Monday to advance to the Super Regional. The chance of all that happening isn’t high, but the opportunity is there. The win was Alabama’s first in Regional play since 2014 and the first of coach Brad Bohannon’s career.
The Bama bats will need to provide more support to the pitching staff to advance. Junior Jacob McNairy will most likely start on the mound for the Tide.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch it