Valverde added a three-run triple in the sixth that blew the game open at 8-1, and the the two-run home run gave Alabama its 10-2 win over Kent State, moving the Tide to 3-2 on the season. The game was the first for Kent State (0-1) this year.
"I worked a lot on staying on my legs," Valverde said. "[Last year] every day there was a different thing I was doing. It took time to find it and I'm feeling more confident at the plate now."
Valverde raised his average to .375 in 15 at bats on the year.
"We left some runners in scoring position, but Valverde took care of the rest of it," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "He drove in all the runs at the end. He is swinging the bat really well right now."
Among the recent regulars in Wells' lineup, only DH Kyle Moore, with three hits in six at bats, is hitting for a better average. Moore was one for one with an RBI in his only official at bat Friday night, but the freshman from Wetumpka drew two walks and was hit by a pitch, and reached safely in all four plate appearances.
"He'll continue to run out there," Wells said.
With at least half a dozen scouts with their own radar guns charted every pitch from junior Wade LeBlanc Friday. He didn't disappoint, striking out nine batters and picking up his first win of the season as he eased into the season with 108 pitches in six innings.
LeBlanc gave up three hits, one of which was a bunt single to lead off the game. He gave up one earned run and walked three batters in the 23 he faced.
Freshman right-hander Tommy Hunter earned the three-inning save and allowed one unearned run and three hits, with four strikeouts.
Ryan Rhoden, the freshman outfielder from Bryant High in Tuscaloosa, continued to have good plate appearances, finishing the night with two hits and a walk in five plate appearances from the six-hole. Rhoden is hitting .312 in 16 at bats.
Leadoff man Emeel Salem was two for four with a walk and three stolen bases in four attempts in the game, and three-hole hitter Evan Bush was oh for two with two walks and a sacrifice fly RBI.
Freshman third baseman Alex Avila, who has occupied the clean-up spot, continued to struggle at the plate, going one for four, leaving him at three for 18 on the year. Wells pulled Avila after he took a fastball for strike three in the sixth inning, moving first baseman Matt Downs over to third and inserting Spencer Pennington. Pennington had a singled in the ninth inning.
"We'll have Downs at third tomorrow and either Pennington or Matt Bentley at first," Wells said.
Weather permitting, Alabama will play at 5 p.m. at The Joe tomorrow. Anyone showing their Alabama-Tennessee basketball ticket stub can get into the baseball game for just $1.
UA Baseball Notes
*Junior CF Emeel Salem reached base three times in the win over Kent State and has reached base safely in all five games. Salem had two hits in the game to extend his hitting streak to nine games, dating back to last year.
*Junior LHP Wade LeBlanc has 17 strikeouts and three walks in 11 innings on the mound this season.
*Kent State's run in the eighth inning was the first run charged to the UA bullpen in 17 1/3 innings.
*Senior catcher David Ferazza's pinch-hit double in the eighth inning was the first pinch-hit by Alabama this season. The Tide had gone hitless in their first six pinch-hit opportunities.