Alabama baseball fans may expect Crimson Tide home run leader Chandler Taylor to deliver a homer, but sometimes a lowly single can do the job. Alabama got its four-game series with Arkansas-Pine Bluff started with a 6-5 win Thursday with Taylor’s single capping a three-run seventh inning that proved just enough for the Tide to hang on for victory.
Alabama, which improved to 7-5 with its fourth straight win, and the Golden Lions, now 2-9, meet in the second game of the series at 6 p.m. CST Friday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
The Crimson Tide seemed to be in control, but the visitors got three runs with two outs in the ninth to pull within a run of Alabama with the tying run on base before Bama escaped.
A three-run seventh for Alabama looked like insurance, and proved to be the difference on the scoreboard. Gene Wood led off the inning with a walk and Chandler Avant’s double put men on second and third. Kyle Kaufman delivered a sacrifice fly for the first run of the inning and Hunter Alexander got his second RBI of the game with a single. Alexander was awarded second on an interference call, which proved to be significant when Taylor singled to bring Alexander home and give the Tide a 6-2 lead.
An otherwise good evening of Alabama pitching got a bit sketchy in the ninth when the Golden Lions got a two-out walk, a single, and a home run to pull to within a run. Another single sent Coach Greg Goff to the bullpen for Davis Vainer, who struck out the lone batter he faced for the save.
Alabama got a strong start from freshman Garret Rukes. The left-hander tossed a career-long 4 2/3 innings and allowed two runs on four hits with a career-high four strikeouts. Garrett Suchey (1-1) took over in the fifth and went into the ninth to earn the win with a career-long 4 innings. Suchey allowed three runs on five hits and a walk while striking out a career-high six batters. The junior ran into trouble in the ninth, bringing on Vainer for the game’s final out – a strikeout – and Vainer’s second save of the season.
“I’m really proud of how our guys stayed in there tonight,” said Goff. “We thought it was over, and it wasn’t. It’s always good to win those kinds of games whenever you find a way to finish it out. I’m glad we had Davis Vainer in the back end of that thing.”
Alabama led the entire way, getting off to a 2-0 lead in the second when Connor Short drew a two-out walk. Cody Henry’s first career home run over the fence in left center made it 2-0.
Bama made it 3-0 in the third. Wood reached on an error, moved up on a single by Avant and a sacrifice bunt by Kaufman, and came home on a sacrifice fly by Alexander.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff answered with two runs in the top of the fifth before the ninth inning rally that came up just short.