Baseball: Winthrop 9, Alabama 6

No. 26 Winthrop hit three home runs en route to a 9-6 win over the University of Alabama in the 2006 season opener for the Crimson Tide Saturday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

Junior left-hander Wade LeBlanc allowed two runs and three hits five innings of work and recorded eight strikeouts.

"Wade pitched well," Wells said. "For the first time out, he did his job. He threw 88 pitches and on a cold day like today, that was enough. We wanted to be smart with him and get him out after five innings."

Winthrop first baseman Mike Konstanty snapped a 2-2 tie with a three-run home run in the top of the sixth inning off losing pitcher Jordan Davis. Jacob Dempsey added another three-run home run in the seventh inning to give the Eagles an 8-2 lead. Davis (0-1), a senior right-hander, allowed six runs and six hits in 1 2/3 innings.

"Their guys did a nice job and the credit goes to Winthrop," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "They are a very good team."

Alabama (0-1) scored four runs in the final two innings but the comeback bid fell short as right-hander Jonathan Settle got sophomore pinch-hitter Matt Bentley on a deep fly ball to right field to end the eighth inning. Settle worked 1 1/3 innings for his second save of the season.

The Crimson Tide scored three runs in the eighth inning to close the gap to 8-5. Senior second baseman Evan Bush and senior catcher Kody Valverde had RBI singles in the inning. Sophomore Matt Bentley, who represented the tying run, flied out to right field to end the inning.

Both teams added a run in the ninth inning on infield ground outs. Chris Carrara drew a one-out walk for Winthrop and scored on Matt Repec's ground out. For Alabama, junior shortstop Greg Paiml tripled with one out and scored on Bush's ground out to make the final 9-6.

Winthrop (3-1) scored a run in the first inning when Carrara led off the game with a double and scored on Dempsey's two-out single to right. Dempsey finished the game with two hits and four RBI.

Alabama (0-1) took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Valverde's two-run home run. Valverde paced the Crimson Tide with two hits and three RBI in the loss.

Winthrop tied the game in the fifth on a two-out, solo home run by Alan Robbins.

True freshman right-hander Alex Wilson (2-0) won his second straight start for the Eagles. He allowed five runs and six hits in 7 1/3 innings, with three walks and five strikeouts. He left in the eighth inning after throwing 124 pitches.

Heath Rollins, who will start on the mound in game two of the series on Sunday, led the Eagles with three hits.

The Crimson Tide and Eagles will play game two of this three-game series on Sunday at 1 p.m. Junior right-hander Bernard Robert will make his debut on the mound for the Crimson Tide.

With the loss to Hawai'i in last year's season opener, the the Crimson Tide has lost back-to-back season openers for the first time since 1970-71. The loss was also the first by Alabama in its home opener since a 4-3 loss to South Alabama in 1993.

NOTES: *Alabama's opening day lineup consisted of two first-time players, including sophomore right fielder Andrew Rodgers (Grapevine, Texas) and freshman third baseman Alex Avila (Hialeah, Fla.). Avila singled in his first at-bat in the second inning. True freshman outfielder Tyler Odle (Vestavia Hills) and junior RHP Patrick Kelly (Dothan) also saw their first action for Alabama.

*Winthrop hit three home runs in the win over Alabama and have now hit nine home runs this season in four games. The Eagles hit six home runs last weekend in their series win at Miami (Fla.). *Winthrop scored all nine runs in the win over Alabama with two outs. In addition, seven of the nine runs came on home runs. *Alabama scored five of its six runs in the loss to Winthrop with two outs.

*Valverde had two hits and three RBI in the loss, including his 15th career home run. In two season openers at Alabama, Valverde is 5-for-8 with one home run and three RBI. He was 3-for-4 last year at Hawai'i in his UA debut.

*Bush recorded his 100th career RBI with a single to score Greg Paiml in the eighth inning.

*Robert will make his first start for Alabama on the mound Sunday in game two of the series. He was 11-6 with a 3.48 ERA in 32 career games at SE Louisiana the last two years. He made his collegiate debut for SLU here at the Joe against Alabama on Feb. 27, 2004.

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