Bama holds off UAB to win

TUSCALOOSA -- The Alabama baseball team won its seventh straight game on Wednesday night, but not without some ninth inning dramatics.

Senior right-hander Seth Johnson pitched around an error and a walk and retired the final two batters he faced as the No. 31 Crimson Tide defeated the UAB Blazers 5-3 in front of a paid crowd of 4,578 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium Wednesday night.

The Crimson Tide took a three-run lead into the final inning, but had to call on its ace closer to post its seventh straight win.

UAB catcher Eugene Robinson started the rally with a one-out walk against Matt Downs. Alabama coach Jim Wells quickly brought in his ace reliever, who gave up a double to Seth Rollin. Rodriguez scored all the way from first to cut the lead to 5-3.

Zac Ward then reached on a throwing error by shortstop Greg Paiml and then Johnson walked the No. 9 hitter Sam Clark to load the bases.

Johnson then stuck out pinch-hitter Drew McConnell before Cole Helms grounded out to end the game.

"The game is never over, "Alabama coach Jim Wells said. "We misplayed a ball in center field, had another error and then a walk. I thought Seth Johnson pitched very well. He has done that all year.

"We tell the team the game is never over. Maybe this was a good learning experience without having to lose the game to learn from those mistakes."

The error in the ninth inning was the third of the game, the most by Alabama this season.

Johnson notched his third save of the season and preserved the win for senior left-hander Jeffrey Norris.

Norris, making his first start of the season, worked five-plus innings and allowed two runs on three hits. He also added three walks and three strikeouts.

Sophomore Matt Downs, a native of Centreville, allowed one run on two hits in 3 1/3 solid innings of middle relief before turning the game over to Johnson.

Alabama (9-2) collected 10 hits in the victory, but could not deliver the knockout punch against UAB.

The Crimson Tide added a key insurance run in the eighth inning to take a 5-2 lead. Junior first baseman fouled off five consecutive two-strike pitches before delivering a sharp single to left on the 11th pitch of the at-bat to open the inning.

Welch later scored on Rocky Scelfo's two-out single to right field as UA built a three-run lead.

Alabama scored an unearned run in the bottom of the first inning to take a 1-0 lead. Shortstop Mark Haske opened the game with a single to right field. Haske advanced to second on a passed ball and moved to third on junior Allen Rice's ground out.

Haske then scored when Welch reached on an error by UAB second baseman Josh Miljavac. Junior Matt Grooms followed with a single to left and the inning ended when junior Gabe Scott flied out to the warning track in right field.

UAB (7-2) took a brief 2-1 lead in the top of the second inning when Nathan McCorkle walked and scored on catcher Eugene Rodriquez one-out double inside the third base bag. Zac Ward delivered a two-out single through the left side of the infield to score Rodriguez with the go-ahead run.

Alabama evened the score in the bottom of the second when sophomore left fielder Evan Bush singled and scored on Haske's two-out single up the middle.

Bush gave Alabama the lead in the fourth inning when hit smashed his third home run of the season over the right field wall to give Bama a 3-2 lead. Bush's home gives the Crimson Tide a homer in back-to-back games for the first time this season.

The Crimson Tide doubled its lead in the fifth inning when Rice singled to right, stole second base and took third on Robinson's throwing error. Carlos Sosa grounded out to short to score Rice from third with the 4-2 UA lead.

The Blazers managed only five hits, including a pair of doubles from Rodriguez.

Alabama, winners of eight straight home games, has now posted four straight wins over UAB, including three straight here in Tuscaloosa. In the three-game winning streak against the Blazers here at the Joe, Alabama has outscored UAB 25-5.

The Crimson Tide returns to action this weekend as they play in the 2004 Gent Classic in Shreveport, La. Alabama opens the three-game round-robin tournament on Friday, Mar. 5 at 5 p.m. against Louisiana Tech. The Crimson Tide also plays Centenary (Saturday, Mar. 6 at 8 p.m.) and Kansas State (Sunday, Mar. 7 at Noon).

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