A coach adage is that competition helps the team. The competition Chandler Taylor and Will Haynie are having for the Alabama lead in home runs certainly is helping in the Crimson Tide’s series at Arkansas this weekend.
Both homered in Alabama’s Friday game to start the series against the Razorbacks with a Bama win. On Saturday, Alabama clinched the series as Haynie edged ahead of Taylor with two homers and nine on the season to Taylor’s one Saturday home run and eight for the year.
Haynie had a first-inning grand slam home run and five runs batted in.
Jake Walters (5-3) went seven innings and allowed two earned runs on eight hits with three walks and nine strikeouts – a career high in a Southeastern Conference start -- to get the victory. It was his 12th consecutive game to allow two or fewer earned runs.
The bottom line was Alabama 10, Arkansas 4 and a 2-0 lead in the three-game series. In nine Southeastern Conference series this year, Bama has wins in five of them. The final series begins Thursday when the Tide hosts South Carolina.
Alabama improved to 29-21 overall and 14-12 in SEC games, while Arkansas fell to 26-24, including a 7-19 league record.
Bama will go for the sweep in Fayetteville at 1 p.m. CDT Sunday.
“The way we’re playing right now is important,” said Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard. “This is as good of baseball as we’ve played all year. I was proud of the offense that we kept going. Last night we had eight and kind of sat on it, but tonight we did a good job to keep adding to our lead and ensuring that we got the win today.”
The Tide scored 9 of its 10 runs before Walters turned the ball over to Jon Keller to finish the game.
Haynie and Taylor, who had two runs batted in, both had two hits as Bama had eight for the game. Keith Holcombe, Georgie Salem, Cody Henry, and Daniel Cucjen had one each.
It’s nice that Taylor bats fourth and Haynie fifth in the Alabama lineup; at least it was in the first inning of Saturday’s win over the Hogs. Holcombe, Cobie Vance, and Salem all earned bases on balls. Taylor struck out with the bases loaded, but Haynie struck it over the left field fence, a grand slam home run that put Bama up 4-0.
The Razorbacks narrowed the gap with one run in the bottom of the third. Three consecutive one-out singles from Arkansas brought one in and put runners on the corners to make it a 4-1 game. Walters walked the next batter to load the bases, but a weak knock that fell in front of the plate allowed Haynie to step on home and gun it to first to get the inning-ending double play.
Alabama got it to 6-1 in the fourth. Henry delivered a one-out single and one out later Sam Finnerty walked to put two on. Cucjen doubled down the left field line to score both runners.
The lead moved to 9-1 in the seventh. Holcombe reached with one out after being hit by a pitch, and then moved to second on an infield groundout. Salem doubled to right-center to score one and force an Arkansas pitching change. Taylor was the first to face the new pitcher and sent a two-run home run down the right field line to cap off the scoring. The homer was Taylor’s eighth.
Arkansas added one run in the bottom of the seventh to make it 9-2. In the ninth, Haynie regained his team lead in the home run column with a two-out, solo home run to center, making it 10-2. The homer was Haynie’s fifth his last five games and his team-leading ninth of the year, eight of which have come against conference foes. The Hogs would not go quietly, adding a pair in the bottom of the ninth thanks to a two-run home run.