On a day too cold to be playing baseball, Alabama freshman left-hander Garret Rukes threw 105 pitches over eight innings and stifled the Eastern Illinois offense as the Crimson Tide shut out the Panthers 5-0 in Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
Bama has has won seven of the last eight contests and improves to 10-6 overall on the season.
It will be cold again Wednesday when Alabama hosts Samford at 3 p.m. CDT.
“Our guys came out and dealt with the elements this afternoon,” said Alabama Coach Greg Goff. “I was proud of the way Garret Rukes threw for us. If he doesn’t go out there and have a lot of poise and a competitive spirit on a cold day, then we may not have the same outcome. I’m really pleased with the way he came out, threw strikes and mixed the ball in and out along with using a great changeup. It was just a tremendous effort from our freshman today.”
Rukes (1-0) earned his first career win scoreless innings of work. The freshman allowed two hits and a pair of walks while striking out two. He sat down the first 11 batters faced in order before issuing a walk with two outs in the fourth and held the Panthers hitless through the first five frames before finally surrendering a hit to lead off the sixth.
The eight-inning stint was the longest by any Alabama starter this year.
The offense was paced by multi-hit efforts from Chandler Avant, Logan Carey, Cody Henry and Connor Short, who all finished with two hits.
Henry continued his hot hitting, finishing 2-for-2 on the afternoon, including his third home run of the season, while recording team-highs in walks, RBI, and runs scored with two in each category. Over the last five games, Henry leads the team with a .533 (8-15) average that includes a double, all three of his home runs, five RBI, three walks, and a team-high six runs scored.
Alabama struck first, plating a pair in the bottom of the second. Chandler Taylor drew a one-out walk and advanced to second on an infield groundout. Henry drove in Taylor with a single to right. Short followed with a single to move Henry up to third and place runners on the corners. Henry scored on a passed ball.
The Tide scored three runs over the fifth and sixth innings. With one down in the fifth, Carey doubled down the line in left. After advancing to third on a groundout, Careyscored on a passed ball.
In the sixth, Henry sent the first pitch of the inning to deep right for a solo home run to move the lead to 4-0. After a trio of singles from Short, Avant and Carey loaded the bases for Cobie Vance, the Tide second baseman drew a walk to bring the game’s final run across and close out the day’s scoring.