If a baseball team scored four runs on seven hits, that would be reasonably efficient. How about seven runs on four hits? That’s what Alabama did Sunday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in completing a sweep of North Dakota with a 7-1 victory.
Alabama’s seven runs were more than enough for a Crimson Tide pitching staff that had four relief pitchers follow starter Nick Eicholtz in the win over the Fighting Hawks.
Keith Holcombe, who has come over to baseball from the Crimson Tide football team, drove in two runs with a triple and scored two runs.
Eicholtz left the game trailing 1-0 after three innings. The foursome of Dylan Duarte, Kyle Cameron, Matt Foster, and Thomas Burrows worked the final six innings and allowed only three hits while striking out six. Duarte pitched 2 2/3 innings, allowing two hits and striking out one, to earn his first career win (1-0).
Cameron followed with 1 1/3 innings, allowing one hit and striking out two before handing the ball over to Foster. The junior college transfer worked a quick 1-2-3 frame, striking out two of the three batters he faced. Sunday’s contest ended with Burrows throwing 11 pitches, seven for strikes, to finish off the three batters he faced. The relievers retired the final eight batters in a row, five by strikeout.
Alabama is now 6-1.
“I think we did a good job today,” said Duarte of the relief staff. “It all comes back to the way we work. Coach (Mitch) Gaspard is always preaching that we need to be on every time out, so we are out there every day, trying to do what we can do to get better. We know we are going to come in in big situations. It is our job to shut it down and keep the game close so our offense has a chance. I think we did a good job of that today.”
Alabama relievers finished the weekend at 2-0 with one save, a 0.00 ERA (0 earned runs in 9 innings pitched), and allowed only three hits while collecting 10 strikeouts and issuing no walks. Overall for the season, the bullpen has a 1.67 ERA (5 ER in 27 IP) with 30 strikeouts compared to six walks while limiting opposing hitters to a .136 average.
Gaspard said, “Six-one is a good start; it’s more than just the record. I think the way we’ve played and also the fact that we’ve had nice crowds gave us a boost. I think there’s some real energy, both about the baseball team and in the new stadium. That’s been real encouraging for our program. We’ve seen a lot of really good qualities in seven games from our team. The number one thing is that this team is very competitive. They’ve got a good fire to them and a good edge and that’s really been my take from the opening seven games. It’s just how we’ve played the game and our mental toughness that we’ve played with.”
North Dakota struck first in Sunday’s game, using a two-out double and a stolen base to put a runner on third in the top of the second. Zach Heaser then reached on an error at third to extend the inning and score one run, putting UND in front 1-0.
Alabama countered with a three-run third inning, using three hits to move ahead. Connor Short led off the frame with a walk and then moved to second on a Chance Vincent chopper that bounced high and afforded Vincent the time to beat out a throw. Keith Holcombe followed with a triple to left, his first extra-base hit of the season, to score both runners and give the Crimson Tide its first lead. One out later, Chandler Taylor sent a single to right to score Holcombe and record his team-high sixth RBI of the season to give the Tide a 3-1 lead after three innings.
In the eighth, Alabama would strike for four runs on one hit and one error. Holcombe began the inning with a walk, stole second base, and advanced to third on a flyout to right. Holcombe then scored on a wild pitch to start the scoring. Taylor walked and then a Cody Henry double put both in scoring position. A passed ball by the Fighting Hawks catcher allowed Taylor to score and then a throwing error by the UND shortstop during Georgie Salem’s at-bat brought Henry across before a pitching change.
The new North Dakota pitcher walked Chandler Avant and then a wild pitch moved Avant and Salem into scoring position. Connor Short sent a sacrifice fly to center to score Salem and give the Tide its fourth and final run of the frame.
Alabama now goes on the road, first to Troy for a 6 p.m. Tuesday game, then on to Cary, N.C., to play Notre Dame, Niagara, North Carolina State, and Brown next weekend.