Winthrop Takes Series Finale

The 17 runners left on base jumped out of the boxscore as University of Alabama head baseball coach Jim Wells reflected on his team's 4-3 loss to No. 26 Winthrop Monday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

The Crimson Tide left the bases loaded in the second, third and seventh innings as they could not come up with the key hit in the loss to the Eagles.

"We left a ton of runners on base," Wells said. "Even though its just the third game of the year, it is very disappointing. We should have won that game. They gave us a number of opportunities all day long."

Winthrop touched UA freshman Austin Graham for three runs and five hits in the first inning to take a 3-0 lead. Jacob Dempsey and Tommy Lentz had RBI singles in the inning and Dempsey later scored on a wild pitch.

"Graham was nervous for his first time out, but even with that we did not make some plays behind him," Wells said. "They hit some balls that are scored as hits, but you have to make the play and get at least one out."

Despite the early deficit, Alabama loaded the bases in the second inning with two outs on two hits and walk before junior centerfielder Emeel Salem grounded out on the first pitch to end the inning.

The Eagles added another run in the third inning when Lentz singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Josh Copeland replaced Graham and allowed a two-out single to Phil Carey as Winthrop built a 4-0 lead.

Graham (0-1) allowed four runs and seven hits in his Crimson Tide debut. He added one walk, struck out two and threw two wild pitches.

The Crimson Tide was back at it again in the third inning as they loaded the bases with two outs before freshman right fielder Ryan Rhoden lined out to right field off reliever Ben Hildreth to end the inning.

Alabama (1-2) scored its first run in the fourth inning to cut the deficit to 4-1. Junior shortstop Greg Paiml singled with one out and moved to second on Salem's infield ground out. Senior first baseman Matt Downs walked and senior second baseman Evan Bush followed with a two-out single to left. Freshman third baseman Alex Avila's ground ball forced Bush out at second to end another scoring threat.

The Crimson Tide added another run in the sixth inning inning when Salem reached on a one-out single and scored on Downs triple to center field. After Bush popped out, Avila walked and senior catcher Kody Valverde's line drive to right was caught to end the inning.

Alabama loaded the bases in the seventh inning with no outs, but managed only one run and never seriously threatened again. Sophomore DH Matt Bentley drew a lead off walk and moved to second on Rhoden's single to left. Junior left fielder Brandon Belcher legged out a bunt for an infield hit to load the bases.

Winthrop's Bryn Henderson entered the game out of the bullpen and was touched for sacrifice fly off the bat of Paiml that scored Bentley to make it a 4-3 game. Henderson then walked Salem to re-load the bases, but Downs popped out and Bush grounded out to end the inning.

Henderson (1-0) earned the win with two scoreless innings of relief for the Eagles. He allowed one walk and hit one batter. Jason Franzblaugh, who got Downs to fly out to left for the final out of the game, earned the save.

Winthrop's offense struggled against the Tide's bullpen. The Eagles managed 10 hits but also stranded 10 base runners in the win.

Alabama returns to action Tuesday night as they host the Samford Bulldogs in a 6:30 p.m. Valentine's Night game at the Joe. The Samford game will be Alabama's fourth game in four days. Samford will be playing its season opener.

The Crimson Tide will start freshman left-hander Miers Quigley on the mound. The Bulldogs will counter with junior left hander Josh Ehnke.

BAMA BASEBALL NOTEBOOK:

*Alabama (17) and Winthrop (10) combined to leave 27 runners on base in Monday's game. The Crimson Tide had 22 base runners but scored only three runs in the loss to the Eagles.

*With the 4-3 loss in the series finale, Alabama has lost back-to-back home non-conference series for the first time since 1993. The Crimson Tide had its streak of 33 consecutive home non-conference series wins snapped last season by Miami (Ohio). The Crimson Tide has won 32 of 34 non-conference home series under Wells.

*Alabama used two more first-time players in the series finale against Winthrop. Freshman RHP Austin Graham (Spain Park HS) and outfielder Kent Matthes (Orlando, Fla.) made their debuts on Monday. Graham was the starting pitcher and Matthes was used a pinch-runner in the eighth inning. In all, Alabama used nine first-time players against Winthrop.

*Rhoden (2-for-5) collected his first collegiate hit with a second-inning single on Monday. He finished the game with two hits.

*Salem and Bush have hit safely in all three games for Alabama.

*The Alabama bullpen was solid in the loss to Winthrop. Sophomore RHPs Josh Copeland (4 IP, 3 H, BB, 4 K) and David Robertson (3 IP, H, BB, 4 K) threw seven scoreless innings and added eight strikeouts.

*Alabama falls to 3-5 in Monday games under Jim Wells, including two, one-run losses to Winthrop.


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