Alabama Baseball Splits a Pair of Saturday Games at USA Baseball-Irish Classic
Alabama baseball split its pair of games on Saturday at the USA Baseball-Irish Classic, first defeating Niagara, 8-4, in the morning before falling in a 2-1 contest with the eighth-ranked N.C. State Wolfpack. The Crimson Tide now sits at 9-2 on the season and 2-1 in the weekend tournament.
“Overall our guys played with good energy for 18 innings in our first doubleheader of the year,” said Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard. “I like a lot of the qualities in our team, and I thought we fought and battled extremely hard all day long. I think we’ve gotten better this weekend, and I like the direction that this team is headed.”
Alabama began its day with an 8-4 win over Niagara to improve to 2-0 on the weekend. The Crimson Tide collected 11 hits and seven walks to plate eight runs, highlighted by a three-run second inning and four runs in the fourth.
The game’s scoring began in the first. Gene Wood led off the day with a walk and advanced to second when Chandler Avant was hit by a pitch. A flyout to deep left allowed Wood the opportunity to take third and put runners on the corners with two down. The Crimson Tide then employed a double steal, with Wood taking home and Avant moving to second to put UA in front, 1-0.
In the second a pair of walks put two on, and then a strikeout with a passed ball allowed Wood to reach and load the bases for UA. Chance Vincent followed with a walk of his own to bring one in, and then Avant singled to left to score two more and give the Tide a 4-0 advantage.
Niagara answered with one its own in the third, but Alabama would add four in the fourth on the power of five hits to put the game out of reach. A leadoff single by Cobie Vance was followed by an Avant double to score the freshman leadoff man. Sam Finnerty sent a double to center one out later to score Avant, and two batters later, Hunter Webb sent a single to left to score a pair and put Alabama in front, 8-1.
An error extended the sixth inning and afforded Niagara the opportunity to plate three unearned runs, but the Purple Eagles would score no more as Zac Rogers and Finnerty wrapped up the game with a combined 3.0 scoreless innings. Redshirt junior Mike Oczypok (2-0) claimed his second win of the season, working 5.0 frames and allowing one run on three hits and one walk with six punchouts.
Avant finished his morning 3-for-4 with a double, three RBI, one run scored and a stolen base. Webb also contributed a multi-RBI effort, going 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI.
Game two featured another strong start by Alabama sophomore Jake Walters. The right-hander allowed one run on four hits and four walks with six punchouts, but exited with the no-decision after giving up one tally in the sixth to even the score at 1-1.
The Tide opened the game’s scoring in the fourth, kick-started by a Keith Holcombe leadoff single. The freshman then stole second to put himself in scoring position. Two outs later Cody Henry sent a single back up the middle to bring Holcombe around and give Alabama a 1-0 lead.
Walters ran into trouble in the sixth, allowing a one-out double that was followed by a Wolfpack single to even the score at 1-1. Two innings later, the Wolfpack struck again, beginning the eighth with a one-out double by Preston Palmeiro off of Dylan Duarte (1-1). Palmeiro scored the go-ahead run two batters later on a sac fly to right off of Tide junior Thomas Burrows to put N.C. State in front, 2-1.
Alabama had runners on the corners with two down in the eighth, but the Wolfpack was able to neutralize the threat with an inning-ending strikeout. Avant notched a one-out single in the ninth to force a State pitching change, but the sophomore advanced no further as the N.C. State closer recorded the final two outs for the save.
The Crimson Tide will wrap up the weekend in Cary with a single contest on Sunday. Alabama will face off with Brown at 11 a.m. CT on getaway day before returning home to Tuscaloosa.