Bama bullpen bounces Bulldogs

BIRMINGHAM -- The No. 14 University of Alabama baseball team made the most of its one opportunity Wednesday night and held on for a 3-2 win over the scrappy Samford Bulldogs in front of 1,256 mostly partisan Crimson Tide fans at Joe Lee Griffin Field.

Alabama (17-3), winners of nine straight games, scored all three runs in the sixth inning, the final two coming on senior designated hitter Al Hecklinski's two-out, two-run home run to give the Crimson Tide its 15th consecutive win over the Bulldogs.

It was Alabama's third come-from-behind win its last four games and eighth this season. UA also improved to 5-2 in one-run games this season.

"The offense continues to struggle and that concerns me," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "They play hard, battle hard and doing everything to win. In the last two games, we are creating just one inning of offense. We were able to do it again, but we need more than that. I am pleased with the win."

The three runs were more than enough for Alabama's reliable bullpen, who allowed only one hit in 6 2/3 innings.

Seth Johnson (3-0) worked out of a bases loaded jam in the third inning, holding the Bulldogs in check after taking a 2-0 lead against starter Jared Woodward.

Allen Ponder retired five of the six batters he faced and closer Brain Reed notched his sixth save retiring all five batters he faced.

In the last five games, the Alabama bullpen has four wins, two saves and allowed only two earned run in 25 2/3 innings.

"Pitching gave us a chance to win," Wells said. "The bullpen pitched well and I was pleased with that. Reed comes in and throws 11 pitches. Allen battled and made good pitches."

Samford (5-16) took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning chasing Woodward. Alabama has trailed. The Alabama junior allowed two runs and three hits in 2 1/3 innings.

Richard Bishop opened the inning with a single up the middle and was erased on a ground ball to short by Joe Denson. Pavkovich could not turn the double play as he dropped the ball trying to make the relay throw to first, allowing Denson to reach base safely.

Matt Alling walked and Sae Evans followed with RBI double into the left field corner to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. Woodward then walked Robert Evans to load the bases and turned the game over to junior right-hander Seth Johnson, making his fourth relief appearance of the year and in all four outings he has entered the game with bases load.

Johnson struck out Eric Hollis for the second out, but walked Justin Klinger to force home Alling with the second run. Kip Snowden then struck out to end the inning.

"Seth pitched well, too. When I look at the chart there were too many walks, but he held them at bay and kept us in the game. We held them to only four hits."

Woodward struggled in his second consecutive midweek start, allowing two runs and three hits in 2 1/3 innings. He added one strikeout and walked two batters.

Alabama broke out of its offensive doldrums with a pair of home runs to take a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning. Adam Pavkovich hit his career best seventh home run of the season to left-center field to put the Crimson Tide on the board.

Zac Welch followed with two out single up the middle and scored on Al Hecklinski's two strike, two-out, two-run home just to the left of dead center field. It was Hecklinski's fourth home run of the season and gave the Crimson Tide a 3-2 lead. Of the Crimson Tide's last six home runs, five have come with two strikes and two outs.

The Crimson Tide offense struggled most of the night, but took advantage of another mid-inning rally. Samford starter Stephen Artz allowed only a single to Charlie Lyons in three innings of work, striking out six UA batters.

Alabama left eight runners on base, including two base runners in four different innings.

The Crimson Tide also struck out season-high 13 times. The 13 strikeouts were also the most by Samford pitching this season.

Alabama continues its road trip with a three-game series at Florida this weekend in Gainesville. The series begins Friday, Mar. 21 at 5:30 p.m. (CT). The teams also play Saturday at 3 p.m. (CT) and Sunday at 11 a.m. (CT). The Saturday and Sunday games will be broadcast live by the Sunshine Network.

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