“We were able to put some offense together, particularly in the middle of the game, and we extended the lead late, so it was a good win for us,” said Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard. “Early in the season you’re trying to get at-bats against quality arms, and Houston has a tremendous pitching staff. I believe our team will grow from working against the type of pitchers we saw this weekend, and we can use the experience we gained in this series to help us as we move forward.”
The Crimson Tide had four players record multi-hit games on the way to the victory, including Mikey White (2), Casey Hughston (2), Kyle Overstreet (3) and J.C. Wilhite (3). The Alabama offense was led by Wilhite’s career-high three hits, which included a home run – the first of his career. White added two doubles and finished the day 2-for-4 with a team-high three runs scored.
Alabama wasted no time in getting on the board in this afternoon’s contest. In the top of the first, White doubled down the third base line and was immediately followed by another double, this one coming from Hughston. Hughston’s double went off the right field wall and was just inches short of another home run, but the hit still provided a run, as White scored to give the Tide a 1-0 lead.
The Cougars would bring one home on a passed ball in the bottom of the third to even the score at 1-1, but Alabama would claim the lead once again in the sixth. A three-run inning by the Tide moved the gap to 4-1 thanks in part to four hits. The sixth frame began with White doubling for his second time on the afternoon and then advancing to third on a passed ball. In that same at-bat, Hughston singled to first on a slow roller that allowed White to cross home plate. Overstreet followed Hughston with a single through the left side to advance White to second and knock out the Cougar’s starting pitcher.
Wilhite was first to bat against the new pitcher and dropped down a sacrifice bunt that moved the runners up into scoring position with just one out. Chance Vincent came to the plate and grounded a ball to short that allowed both runners to advance a base, moving Hughston across for another run. Ryan Blanchard then kept the rally rolling with a single through the left side to plate Overstreet and give Alabama its third run of the inning and a 4-1 lead.
Alabama would add another run in the very next inning, started by a two-out walk for White. In the next at-bat, Hughston was hit by a pitch on a 2-2 count to put runners on first and second. Overstreet came to the plate and sent a liner down the left field line for a double that scored White, but a close play at the plate cut down Hughston to end the inning.
In the bottom half of the seventh, Houston got the leadoff man on base and then followed that up with a two-run home run to end Geoffrey Bramblett’s day and set the score at 5-3. Ray Castillo came in for Alabama and quickly set down the next two batters to get UA out of any kind of jam and maintain the Tide lead.
The eighth led off with the first pitch leaving the yard in a hurry thanks to Wilhite. The solo shot was Wilhite’s first of his career and provided some insurance for the Tide. Alabama added two more in the top of the ninth, an inning that started when Georgie Salem grounded to the first baseman and won the race to the bag. On a flyout to left by White, the Cougar left fielder attempted to double-up the Tide center fielder, but an errant throw into the stands moved Salem to third with two outs. Hughston followed that up with a walk that proved to be the end for another Houston pitcher.
Overstreet welcomed the new arm with a single through the left side to score one and advance the runners. White followed that up with a single of his own to score Hughston before the inning finally came to an end with the Tide leading, 8-3.
The Crimson Tide received a strong effort from the pitching staff in the victory, with Bramblett tossing 6.1 IP, allowing three runs on eight hits while striking out two. Castillo finished off the effort, tossing 2.2 inning of work and allowing just two hits while striking out two Cougars.
“It was good to see how we came out after a long night last night and a tough game,” Gaspard added. “I thought our guys responded well. Normally when you do that, you have to get a good, quality start from your pitcher, and we got that from Geoffrey Bramblett.”
The win was Alabama’s 2,500th victory in program history. A storied past, the Alabama baseball program won its first game on July 1, 1892, taking down Sewanee, 6-3, at Birmingham’s Lakeview Park. The Tide would claim its 100th win against Tulane in 1905, 500th versus Howard in 1935 and 1,000th at Ole Miss on April 9, 1971. Most recently, Alabama claimed its 1,500th win, 7-1 against Jackson State on March 9, 1988 and then followed that with the program’s 2,000th win against Winthrop on March 4, 2001, an 11-5 victory for UA.
“It’s an honor to be a part of such a storied program and to get such a significant win,” Gaspard said of the milestone.
After today’s contest, Alabama will return home to Hoover for a Tuesday doubleheader with Savannah State. The Crimson Tide and Tigers are scheduled to start game one at 2 p.m. CST with the second game set to begin 30 minutes after final pitch of the first contest. Following the Tuesday twinbill, Alabama will welcome the University of Louisiana-Lafayette to the Hoover Met for a three-game weekend series from Feb. 27-March 1.