Walkoff Single from Breaux Completes the Comeback in Alabama Baseball’s 6-5 Victory over Valparaiso
With runners on first and second and two down, junior Joe Breaux lined a single to right field to plate the winning run and walk it off, 6-5, for Alabama baseball against Valparaiso on Saturday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. With the win, the Crimson Tide clinches the series and improves to 2-0 overall on the young season.
“It was a big game for us,” said Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon. “I was really pleased with the way that our kids competed. I thought when we got down big early, the dugout stayed really positive. Kyle (Cameron) and Dylan (Duarte) did a great job out of the bullpen of holding the game where it was, and, obviously, Joe (Breaux) got a big hit, so it was a fun day for us.”
The Crimson Tide entered the bottom of the ninth with the score even at 5-5. The frame began with freshman Sam Praytor reaching on a hit-by-pitch before being pulled for a pinch-runner in redshirt sophomore Connor Stutts. Alabama’s next hitter, junior Keith Holcombe, beat out a bunt to put pressure on and place two aboard for the Tide.
Two batters later, Breaux came up to bat with the runners still on first and second with two outs. Down 1-2 in the count, Breaux knocked a single through the right side, allowing Stutts to score from second and giving the Crimson Tide the walkoff win.
Valparaiso built an early 5-1 lead, chasing Crimson Tide starter Jake Walters after 5.0 innings. The senior allowed five earned on nine hits with a walk and two strikeouts before handing the ball over to his bullpen. The duo of sophomore Kyle Cameron and junior Dylan Duarte shut down the Valpo offense over the final four frames, holding the Crusaders scoreless and giving Alabama a chance to complete the comeback. Duarte (1-0) earned his first victory of the season with 1.1 frames of hitless work that included a strikeout.
The Crusaders struck early with one run in the first. After starting the day with a leadoff single, an RBI-double to right field one batter later gave the Crusaders a 1-0 lead heading to the home half.
Alabama bounced back to even the score with a run of its own in the bottom of the first. Junior Gene Wood and Breaux drew back-to-back one-out walks before a hit-by-pitch to senior Hunter Alexander loaded the bases. Senior Cody Henry brought in the tying run with a walk of his own, this time with two outs, to even things up after one full.
In the next inning, the Crusaders brought in two to take a 3-1 lead. With two outs, a single followed by a walk placed runners on first and second. After a wild pitch moved both runners up, VU took the advantage right back with a two-RBI double. Valpo extended the lead with two more runs in the fourth. The Crusaders used a leadoff single followed by a sacrifice bunt to place a runner in scoring position. Back-to-back singles with two down would follow, making it 5-1.
Alabama narrowed the gap, scoring one in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a solo home run from junior Matt Malkin that trimmed the VU lead to 5-2. The Tide continued to climb back in it, striking for two in the sixth. Sophomore outfielder Walker McCleney led off the inning with a walk before junior infielder Cobie Vance cleared the bases with his first home run of the season, to put the Tide within one at 5-4 after six.
The Tide made it a 5-5 game in the eighth, battling for the game-tying run. Vance led things off with a walk before advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt. After Breaux reached on a hit-by-pitch, senior Chandler Avant drew a walk to load the bases. With nowhere to put him, Henry was hit by a pitch, allowing Vance to score, tying the game at five apiece heading into the ninth, where the Tide would win in walkoff fashion.
Alabama will go for the sweep on Sunday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Crimson Tide will call on junior righty Sam Gardner in series finale while the Crusaders will look to senior right-hander Wes Gordon to avoid the sweep. Fans can catch all of the action on SEC Network+ with a 1 p.m. CT first pitch.