It seemed like Alabama was going to squander another opportunity with runners on base. It had runners on first and second. No outs.
Third baseman Cobie Vance popped up a bunt attempt, followed by a strikeout by right fielder Gene Wood. Outfielder Joe Breaux, who didn’t have a hit coming into the final inning, slapped slider for a single to right, bringing in pinch runner Connor Stutts for the 6-5 win over Valparaiso.
“I was like ‘I’m already wet, so bring on the ice,’” Breaux said.
It was Alabama’s only lead of the game.
Coming into the ninth inning, the Crimson Tide was hitting just .167 [3-for-18] with runners on base, and was 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Overall, Alabama left 14 runners on base, which includes bases loaded twice.
“I think it’s early in the season and guy are excited,” Alabama coach Brad Bohannon said. “They’ve been playing baseball a long time, so when you take balls and swing at strikes, you’re going to increase your chances at being successful. I think for a game and a half we’ve swung at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone.”
Alabama trailed 5-2 heading into the sixth inning. Outfielder Walker McCleney worked a walk. Vance made Valparaiso pitcher Hayden Kissee pay, with his first home run since May 13, 2016. Alabama would later scratch across the tying run when Cody Henry was hit in the leg in the eighth inning. That was the second inning in the game where Alabama scored a run without getting a hit, with the other time coming in the first inning.
Catcher Matt Malkin added his first home run of the season, sending a line drive just right of the 360-foot sign in right-center field.
Kyle Cameron, who missed most of last year with a battle with cancer, was the bridge for Alabama’s pitching staff after senior pitcher Jake Walters struggled in his 80 pitches.
He scattered four hits over two and two-thirds innings in his first appearance since Feb. 24, 2017.
“It felt awesome,” Cameron said. “It’s been almost a year since I’ve actually competed in a game. Just getting back 100 percent healthy, and my first outing of the year felt good.”
Walters went five innings, and allowed five earned runs off nine hits.
“Jake wasn’t sharp today,” Bohannon said. “He’s an outstanding pitcher; he’s going to have a great season. He was just up in the zone a lot more than he normally is… Jake Walters is the least of my worries.”
Dylan Duarte faced the last four batters, finishing with the win, while Luke VanLanen took the loss.
The Valparaiso pitching staff struggled with its command. It walked 10 batters, while hitting six more. Starter Trey Feretic walked six himself, while hitting three batters. Of the 184 pitches they threw, 84 were balls.
Alabama goes for the sweep on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports