Heading into the fourth, Alabama was struggling with runners on base. It was 1-for-9 with runners on and 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. The first time through the order, Valparaiso starter Jon Tieman had allowed just two hits and stranded three runners.
Then in the bottom of the fourth, with two runners on, freshman catcher Sam Praytor came up to bat. He lined a ball to the right-center field gap, doubling in the first runs of the game. From then on, Alabama wouldn’t look back. It plated eight runs in the inning, jumping ahead 8-1, before defeating Valparaiso 16-2.
“In the beginning of the game, he [Tieman] started throwing a lot of fastballs and working in secondary pitches,” Alabama shortstop Jett Manning said. “I think a lot of us were trying to see the ball down, and try and find some barrels. We started doing that in the middle-end part of the game.”
The Crimson Tide dominated the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, scoring 14 unanswered runs. Seven of the nine starters plated.
Manning was the player of the game. In his first career game with Alabama, he finished 3-for-3, with three RBIs and a pair of runs, before being pulled in the bottom of the seventh. Two of his RBIs came off a two-run shot he hit over the right field fence, for Alabama’s only home run of the day.
“Definitely wasn’t expecting it to go that way, but I’ll definitely take that and remember it forever,” Manning said.
Manning, John Trousdale, Hunter Alexander and Praytor each finished with multiple RBIs. Alongside Manning, Alexander and Trousdale each finished with three RBIs.
In his first start since April 9, 2017, right-handed pitcher Sam Finnerty scattered five hits over six innings, easily taking the win. He the one run he allowed came off a solo home run hit by Valparaiso’s left fielder Blake Bilinger.
“I was just trying to be me and not do too much,” Finnerty said. “Just pound the strike zone and give our team a chance to win.”
Alabama’s veteran defense was tremendous. Cobie Vance, who made the transition from second to third base, was flawless. He made a couple of tough plays look routine.
“It was unbelievable out there,” Finnerty said. “They were making plays left and right for me. It’s good to have them out there.”
The win is the first in Alabama’s coach Brad Bohannon’s head coaching career. The 16 runs scored is also the most Alabama’s scored in a season opener since March 28, 1958. The Crimson Tide went to Tulane 20-1 that day.
“I told the guys in the dugout that I don’t think we could have scripted it out any better,” Bohannon said. “We talked so much about throwing strikes and defending the field. Once we got through the first time through the order, where everyone was trying to hit the ball to the moon, we settled down.”
Senior right-hander Jake Walters starts game two of the series. First pitch is set for 2 p.m.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports