Alabama Outduels UAB At Regions Field

Each team employed a number of arms as Alabama beat Alabama-Birmingham 7-2 Tuesday at Regions Field. Junior second baseman Kyle Overstreet led the Crimson Tide at the plate with four hits in five tries.

“I felt good,” said Overstreet. “I was just happy to do something to help the team out. I’d been struggling earlier in the season, and it feels good to get my swing back. Just seeing (the ball) better, and staying with the approach. I’d been stressing a little bit, but I had to stay with it, and came through.”

Alabama took advantage of seven walks and three hit batsmen by UAB pitchers. “It was nice to see the walks come from the other side tonight,” said Tide Coach Mitch Gaspard. “Obviously, we had some good fortune and got a little help there.

“I was most pleased with the effort of the (Bama) pitching staff tonight. Every reliever came in and did a nice job, and threw strikes.”

The Tide used six pitchers to the Blazers’ seven. Both UAB runs were earned, as were all seven Bama tallies.

After a 97-minute weather delay, the 3-hour, 13-minute game got underway at 8:07 p.m. before a crowd of 2,876. In the Blazer second, Jeff Schalk doubled to lead off the frame off Tide starter Jake Walters. Griffin Gum sac-bunted Schalk to third, and Mitch Williams hit a deep sac fly to left to plate the first run of the game. After two complete, UAB led 1-0.

In the Tide third, Chandler Avant led off with a single, as he did to open the game, and Georgie Salem popped out to second. Mikey White struck out looking, and with Casey Hughston at the plate, Avant stole second. Hughston then popped out to the catcher.

Bama left a leadoff man on base in the first three innings before scoring.

In the fourth, Overstreet again led off with a hit. J.C. Wilhite tripled to left center, scoring Overstreet. Freshman first baseman Cody Henry walked, giving the Tide runners on the corners with no outs. Will Haynie went down swinging before Chance Vincent tried a safety squeeze, but Kelley flipped to catcher Williams, who tagged Wilhite out at home. UAB Coach Brian Shupe, who seems to enjoy multiple mid-inning pitching changes each time the two teams meet, brought in reliever Thomas Lowery to face Avant, who flew to center to end the inning.

Walters left after allowing one run in three innings, and was replaced by Nick Eicholtz. With two gone in the fifth, Hughston singled up the middle. Overstreet got his third hit of the night with a similar hit up the pipe. Wilhite was hit by a Lowery pitch to load the bases with two out. Lowery walked Henry to force in the go-ahead run in Hughston. Shupe brought in yet another reliever, and Stephen Baggett hit Haynie to force in Overstreet. Vincent walked to score Wilhite. Avant – you guessed it – walked off sub-mariner righty Gavin Niquette, forcing in yet another run, and when the inning finally ended, Bama was up 5-1. The Tide got four runs off two hits in the frame.

Gaspard may have overthought strategy after Niquette hit White to open the Tide sixth. Hughston beat out a grounder to deep short with White running, and the visitors had two on, no out. Despite his three hits, Overstreet was called on to sacrifice and popped a bunt attempt to Niquette. Wilhite popped to center, and Henry took strike three. “I’ve always been a team player,” Overstreet said when asked if the bunt call was surprising. Whatever Coach (Gaspard) needs from me, I’m ready to do it. I should have got it done. I popped it up a little bit. We’ll go to work on that, and I’ll get it down next time.”

Gaspard said, ”We were just trying to extend the lead. We were up by three, and trying to get up by four. Wilhite’s swinging a hot bat behind (Overstreet). In that spot, we were just trying to get to second and third, and add another run.”

With two down in the Alabama seventh, Avant reached on a fielder’s choice and Salem doubled to right for an RBI and a 6-2 lead.

Closer Thomas Burrows entered to start the eighth, and gave up a two-out triple to Nathan Vincent. Burrows escaped further trouble when he got Tyler Mims to ground out to third. After Haynie homered to deep left center to add to the lead in the ninth, Gaspard turned to Wilhite to finish the game, and the Tuscaloosa senior sidewinder retired the side in order.

Avant had three hits and Hughston two. Eicholtz (1-0) got the win. Alabama (15-12) will play No. 3/4 LSU (two polls)at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Hoover Met, the first of a three-game SEC series that concludes Saturday. UAB fell to 17-10.

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