King knew he had to unload in a hurry when Tide speedster Emeel Salem pounded a ball into the dirt, and in his rush he tossed the ball high and wide to first base, giving Alabama a man aboard with one out in the bottom of the ninth.
The error came home to roost a few minutes later. Valverde guided a three-hopper over second base to drive Salem and end a classic college baseball game with a 4-3 victory over Troy.
"He left it up and I just hit it smooth. It was a curveball," Valverde said. "With lefties especially, you want to stay through the ball and try to hit it up the middle and that's what I did in that at-bat."
Alabama trailed 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning when the unlikeliest of power hitters, nine-hole man Greg Paiml, stroked a solo shot to the opposite field to tie the game and send the Alabama crowd into an uproar.
"At that point Felix was throwing a lot of fastballs, and why not with the way we were hitting," Wells said. "He challenged Paiml and it wasn't a bad move. After that the pitching pattern changed."
It was only Paiml's third home run of the year, and his first at The Joe.
"It was a good pitch," Troy Coach Bobby Pierce said, "a fastball down and away. You don't expect the nine-hole hitter to hit it out to the opposite field."
Alabama stands as the last unbeaten team in the Tuscaloosa Regional, and will play tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. for the regional championship against the winner of Saturday afternoon's Troy-Southern Miss game. Alabama must win one game, either Sunday night or Monday night, to advance to a super regional.
"It's never over," Wells said. "Hopefully we can continue to pitch well and mix in some better at-bats. That's us. It's never easy. We just hope to play better than we did today."
Troy dinged Alabama starter Tommy Hunter for eight hits six-plus inning, chasing him from the game after Ian Craze drew a walk to lead off the seventh. David Robertson entered the game and induced what looked to be a tailor-made double play to second baseman Evan Bush, but the ball took a bad hop and sailed over Bush's right shoulder for a hit.
That put runners at first and third with no outs.
"It just took a terrible hop on him," Robertson said, "but there's nothing I could do about it. You just have to keep going."
Robertson did more than keep going. He retired the next nine Troy hitters in order. The inherited base runner scored on sacrifice fly to centerfield for Troy's final run of the day.
While there were no more chances to score against Robertson, Troy had plenty of shots at Hunter and failed to fully capitalize, leaving eight men on base in seven innings. Hunter was able to work out of a leadoff double in the third inning without a run after Troy failed to execute a sacrifice bunt. He gave up three runs – only one earned as a result of three Tide errors in the game.
Troy got another leadoff double in the fourth inning leading to an RBI single by Jared Keel. In the sixth inning a throwing error by Paiml let the leadoff man aboard and led to another run.
"The thing about Troy that makes them good is they adjust to the type of pitcher they're facing," Wells said. "That's one of the best teams we've played."
Valverde drove in a run in the fifth inning with a two out single to give Bama a 2-1 lead, and was 2 for four in the game-changing performance.
In the third inning, Paiml was hit by a pitch and later scored on an Alex Avila groundout for the game's first run.