Standout Pitching Effort from Rukes Helps Alabama Baseball Blank Eastern Illinois, 5-0
Freshman left-hander Garret Rukes stifled the Eastern Illinois offense to help Alabama baseball post a 5-0 shutout win in Tuesday’s midweek contest at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. With the win, the Crimson Tide has won seven of the last eight contests and improves to 10-6 overall on the season.
“Our guys came out and dealt with the elements this afternoon,” said Alabama head coach Greg Goff. “I was proud of the way Garret Rukes threw for us. If he doesn’t go out there and have a lot of poise and a competitive spirit on a cold day, then we may not have the same outcome. I’m really pleased with the way he came out, threw strikes and mixed the ball in and out along with using a great changeup. It was just a tremendous effort from our freshman today.”
Rukes (1-0) earned his first career win with 8.0 scoreless innings of work. The freshman allowed two hits and a pair of walks while striking out two. He sat down the first 11 batters faced in order before issuing a walk with two outs in the fourth and held the Panthers hitless through the first five frames before finally surrendering a hit to lead off the sixth. His 8.0 innings of work were a season-long by any Alabama starter.
The offense was paced by multi-hit efforts from Chandler Avant, Logan Carey, Cody Henry and Connor Short, who all finished with two hits apiece. Henry continued his hot hitting, finishing 2-for-2 on the afternoon, including his third home run of the season, while recording team-highs in walks, RBIs and runs scored in the contest with two in each category. Over the last five games, Henry leads the team with a .533 (8-15) average that includes a double, all three of his home runs this season, five RBI, three walks and a team-high six runs scored.
Alabama struck first on Tuesday, plating a pair in the bottom of the second. Chandler Taylor began the scoring sequence, drawing a one-out walk and advancing to second on an infield groundout. Henry crossed Taylor in the next at-bat, sending a liner to right for an RBI-single to put the Tide in the scoring column. Short followed with a single to move Henry up to third and place runners on the corners. A passed ball to the backstop resulted in Henry coming across to score the second run of the inning, moving Alabama in front, 2-0.
The Tide scored three runs across the fifth and sixth innings to widen the margin and make it a 5-0 game. With one down in the fifth, Carey doubled down the line in left. After advancing to third on a groundout, Carey came across to score on a passed ball to push the Tide advantage to 3-0.
In the sixth, Henry sent the first pitch of the inning to deep right for a solo home run to move the lead to 4-0. After a trio of singles from Short, Avant and Carey loaded the bases for Cobie Vance, the Tide second baseman drew a walk to bring the game’s final run across and close out the day’s scoring.
Next up for Alabama is a Wednesday matchup against in-state foe Samford. The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs are scheduled for a 3 p.m. first pitch at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Fans can catch all of the action on SEC Network+.