No one who saw Chandler Taylor’s opening shot expected him to be a one-hit wonder, but who would have suspected the freshman would already be in the Alabama baseball record book?
Taylor, a left-handed hitter, opened the season and the new Sewell-Thomas Stadium last Friday with a rope into the right field terrace for the first hit and the first run of the 2016 season. On Wednesday night, Taylor was a perfect 5-for-5 in leading 30th-ranked Alabama to a 13-1 win over Nicholls State.
Taylor’s five hits – a quarter of the 20 hits banged out by the Crimson Tide -- included Bama’s first triple of the season and he had two runs batted in and three runs scored. Taylor’s five hits matched the Alabama record for hits in a game while his three runs scored led the team.
Six other players finished with multi-hit games, including Georgie Salem who went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, two runs scored, and team-high three RBI.
“Our message to the team was to keep the same focus and kind of take the momentum from the weekend into our first midweek contest,” said Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard. “I thought we played extremely well tonight on all ends.”
Senior Ray Castillo made his first start since 2014, working three scoreless innings of two-hit baseball with two strikeouts. Castillo was followed by Mike Oczypok (1-0) who tossed three innings and recorded four strikeouts to earn his first win since June 1, 2013, after sitting out the past two seasons due to injury. Sophomore Tyler Adams struck out the side in the seventh and teamed up with freshmen Brock Love and Sam Finnerty to close the game. The trio worked three scoreless innings.
Alabama jumped out front early, scoring a pair of runs in the first and second innings on the power of seven hits. Keith Holcombe led off the game with a single, his first hit as a member of the Tide baseball team, and one out later Taylor lined a single to put runners on the corners. A Cody Henry sacrifice fly scored one to give Alabama the lead. A single and a walk loaded the bases for Salem, who walked to move Alabama ahead 2-0 after one.
The second inning rally started with Holcombe recording a one-out single and then stealing second. Taylor’s second single of the day drove Holcombe home to give UA a 3-0 lead and end the Nicholls State starter’s day. Henry greeted the new pitcher with a single and Cobie Vance followed with another single, bringing Taylor across and giving the Tide a 4-0 lead through two.
Innings four and five featured another pair of two-run innings for the Crimson Tide. Holcombe led off the fourth with a base on balls and crossed in the next at-bat when Chandler Avant doubled to left. After a Colonels pitching change. Taylor singled to right for another RBI and make it 6-0.
The fifth started with a solo shot to left-center by Connor Short, his first homer of the season, and then a double and a walk put two on for Chance Vincent. His infield groundout made it 8-0.
Nicholls State plated its lone run of the game in the top of the sixth, but Alabama would answer with a five-hit, five-run eighth inning. Taylor led off the inning with a triple and came home after on a Gene Wood single to right. A walk and a single put two on for Salem, who doubled to right for a pair of RBI. One out later, Vincent grounded to short to bring across one run and was followed by Ryan Blanchard who singled to center to plate Salem and close out the Tide scoring.
“It really starts on the mound with Ray (Castillo), and then Mike (Oczypok), and then all the other guys that came in were pretty sharp and pounded the strike zone,” Gaspard added. “We played really good defense throughout. It was really just a good team effort all the way around tonight.”
Alabama returns to action this weekend with three games against North Dakota – at 6:30 p.m. CST Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1 Sunday.