So, Alabama junior left-hander Taylor Tankersley came up big in the longest relief appearance of his career leading the University of Alabama to an 8-2 win over the Southeastern Louisiana Lions in front of 4.575 fans at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
After SE Louisiana knocked out UA starter Andrew Walker just four batters into the game, Tankerlsey was brought in from the bullpen to keep the Crimson Tide in the game. He accomplished much more than that, tossing 6 2/3 shutout innings for his first win of the season.
The Lions chased Walker with two runs on two hits in the first inning. Russell Taylor opened the game with a double to center field. After Anthony Garibaldi flied out to center, Colby Taylor followed with a single to right sending Taylor to third base. Trent Hebert then walked to load the bases.
SLU plated their first run when Walker was called for balk for throwing the ball to first baseman Zac Welch, who was not on the bag. After the balk, Tankersley replaced Walker and gave up and RBI single to Randy Roth. Tankersley avoided further damage when Jason Waguespack grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Alabama tied the game in the bottom of the first inning and chased SLU starter Paul Garner, who did not retire any of the four batters he faced.
Mark Haske and Allen Rice opened the inning with back-to-back walks before Carlos Sosa delivered an RBI single to left field to score Haske from third base. Zac Welch followed with a line-drive single to center to score Rice with the tying run.
Left-hander Chad Pendarvis replaced Garner after the single Welch the was able to prevent damage by getting Matt Grooms to hit into a double play and then get Rocky Scelfo to bounce out to third base to end the inning.
Alabama (8-2) pushed three runs across in the third inning to take a 5-2 lead. Again, the rally started with a walk and hit batter. Sosa drew a lead off walk and Welch was then hit by a pitch. Grooms then legged out a bunt single to load the bases.
The three runs were more than enough for Tankerlsey (1-0), who earned his first win of the 2004 season. The Vicksburg, Miss., native threw 6 2/3 shutout innings out of the pen, allowing only four singles and striking out five batters for the win.
Pendarvis (0-1) took the loss as he allowed five runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings of relief work. He added three walks and two strikeouts.
Scelfo lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to score Sosa from third base. Scott followed with a base hit to right field to score Welch and give UA a 4-2 lead. After Richardson flied out to shallow center, Brandon Belcher singled to right field to score Grooms with the 5-2 lead. Scott was thrown out at third base on the play to end the inning.
The Crimson Tide extended the lead to 6-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning on a pair of two out hits by Sosa and Welch. Sosa ripped a two-out double over the head of left fielder Ryan Spencer and then Welch followed with a base hit to right field. It was Welch's second hit and second RBI of the game.
Brandon Belcher, a native of Ruston, La., slugged his first career home run in the sixth inning to give UA a 7-2 lead. Belcher, who had two hits and two RBI in three at-bats, crushed a 0-1 pitch from Pendarvis into a strong right field wind.
The Lions chased Tankersley with back-to-back singles in the eighth, but right-hander T.J. Large came on to get the next three batters to end the threat.
Alabama capped the scoring in the eighth inning with a run off Risley St. Germain. Allen Rice singled with one out to extend his hitting streak to 10 straight games. After a strikeout, Welch drew a two-out walk and then Grooms singled up the middle. Grooms ball struck third base umpire Mark Humphreys, thus becoming a dead ball, forcing Rice to return to third base. Rice scored two pitches later on a wild pitch to make the final 8-2.
After retiring the first batter in the ninth, Large was removed from the game with a minor injury and sophomore Matt Downs pitched the final two-thirds of an inning for the Tide to help hold SLU off the board over the final 8 2/3 innings.
Sosa had three hits, including a pair of doubles, to lead Alabama's 12-hit attack. Welch and Belcher added two hits and two RBI each, while Scott and Grooms recorded two hits apiece.
Taylor had two of SLU's seven hits and no other player had more than one hit.
Alabama returns to action on Wednesday as they host the UAB Blazers in a 6:30 p.m. game in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide travels to the Gent Classic next weekend in Shreveport, La., where they will face Louisiana Tech, Centenary and Kansas State in the three-day round robin tournament.
- Alabama started three Louisiana natives today against SE Louisiana, including second baseman Rocky Scelfo (Lafayette), Gabe Scott (Lake Charles) and Brandon Belcher (Ruston).
- SE Louisiana scored two runs in the first inning today, marking the first time this year Alabama has allowed a first-inning run.
- Neither starting pitcher made it out of the first inning in this afternoon's game. Bama right-hander Andrew Walker (0.1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, and 1 BK) recorded one out, while SLU right-hander Paul Garner (0.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, and 2 BB) did not retire any of the four batters he faced in the first inning.
- Belcher slugged his first collegiate home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Tide a 7-2 lead. The left-hander's first career home run was into a strong wind blowing in from right field. Belcher's home run was also the first by Alabama since hitting five home runs in a 12-0 win over Cincinnati on Feb. 21. UA had gone 22 innings without a homer before Belcher's shot in the sixth.
- Including today, the Alabama bullpen has stranded 10 of the last 11 inherited runners.
- Junior third baseman Allen Rice extended his hitting streak to 10 games with an eighth inning single.
- Alabama has won six straight games, following a three-game sweep of SE Louisiana.
- The Crimson Tide has now won 28 consecutive non-conference home series. Of those 28 series wins, the Tide has pulled off 15 sweeps, including the last two weekends against Cincinnati and SE Louisiana.