Alabama Baseball Gets Win Over Vandy

The University of Alabama baseball team scored in six of the eight innings to snap a season-high six-game losing streak with a 9-7 win over fourth-ranked Vanderbilt at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Saturday afternoon.



Alabama tallied 14 hits in the win, including two by No. 9 hitter Jeff Texada, who also belted his first career Southeastern Conference home run in the sixth inning. Freshman shortstop Josh Rutledge, freshman second baseman Ross Wilson, sophomore left fielder Brandon May and Texada all had two hits each for Alabama.

The Crimson Tide answered every Commodore run on Saturday and added some key insurance runs in the seventh and eighth innings to snap its four-game SEC losing streak.

Junior pinch-hitter Ryan Rhoden's two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning of Vandy reliever Nick Christiani gave the Crimson Tide an 8-5 lead. Senior first baseman Matt Bentley drew a one-out walk against left-hander Sean Bierman and junior right fielder Kent Matthes followed with a double off the wall in left field to set up Rhoden's big hit.

"I was looking for a good at-bat with runners on second and third base," Rhoden said. "I was glad to see some pitches and I put the bat on the ball and drove in two runs. The way (Austin) Graham was pitching and with (Josh) Copeland in the pen, I thought the three-run lead was enough."

Vanderbilt (14-5, 3-2 SEC) quickly got two runs back in the eighth inning when leadoff batter David Macias slammed his second home run of the game, a two-run shot to right that cut the UA lead to 8-7 and chased Graham from the game.

Copeland came in for the Tide and retired all six Vandy batters he faced, including four strikeouts. He struck out the side, all looking in the eighth inning, and added one more in the ninth for his second save of the year.

Graham (2-1) picked up his first career SEC win with seven innings of work on the mound. He allowed seven runs (four earned) and eight hits and added a career-high eight strikeouts. The right-hander also pitched around four Tide errors, four walks, two hit batters and two wild pitches in his 139-pitch effort.

Sophomore third baseman Jake Smith's first home run in 106 at-bats, dating back to April 14, 2007 against Georgia, gave the Tide a 9-7 lead in the eighth inning.

Alabama and Vanderbilt combined for six errors in the three-hour and thirty-minute game on Saturday. The two teams made two errors each in the first two innings.

Vanderbilt grabbed a 2-0 lead with a pair of unearned runs in the top of the first inning, only to see Alabama tie the game with two runs in the bottom of the second inning.

Vandy second baseman Alex Feinberg reached on a one-out error by Texada, who made his first career start at third base, and then stole second base. Ryan Flaherty followed with a walk and both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Feinberg scored on Dominic de la Osa's ground out and Flaherty scored on a throwing error by Graham on a failed pickoff attempt.

Alabama (10-11, 1-4 SEC) tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the second inning. May led off with a single and scored on Tyler Odle's two-out single to left field. Odle moved into scoring position on a throwing error by VU pitcher Caleb Cotham on a failed pick off attempt and scored when junior catcher Mike Sharp reached on an error by Feinberg at second base.

Vanderbilt regained the lead with a run on three hits in the top of the third inning. de la Osa drove in his second run of the game with a single to left field that scored Flaherty from second base to give the Commodores a 3-2 lead.

Again the Crimson Tide answered with two runs on four hits in the bottom of the third inning. Rutledge led off with a single and moved to second on a one-out single by junior DH Alex Avila. May loaded the bases with a sharp single that struck Cotham and rolled dead near the first base line.

Bentley, who was 1-for-21 in his career against the Commodores entering Saturday's game, roped a double down the right field line to score Rutledge and Avila and give the Tide a 4-3 lead. Cotham avoided further damage when Matthes and junior center fielder Tyler Odle popped out to end the inning, leaving runners at second and third.

Alabama added another run in the bottom of the fourth inning on Wilson's two-out double down the right field line that scored Rutledge with the 5-3 lead.

Macias extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a solo home run in the sixth inning to cut the UA lead to 5-4. It was his second home run of the year.

For the third time in the game, Alabama answered the Vandy run with a run of its own as Texada slammed a two-out home run to right-center to give the Tide a 6-4 lead. It was Texada's first home run of the season and his first career SEC home run in 150 at-bats during his three-year career.

The home run chased Cotham, who gave up six runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. He added four strikeouts and did not walk a batter. Cotham entered the game with a 3-0 record and 1.88 ERA in his previous four starts.

The Commodores pushed across another unearned run in the top of the seventh inning to cut the lead to 6-5. de la Osa opened the inning by reaching on an error by Texada and later scored on Andrew Giobbi's sacrifice fly.

The Tide offense added three late-inning insurance runs for its first SEC win of the season.

Macias, Flaherty and Shea Robin all had two hits for the Commodores and Macias drove in three runs with a pair of home runs.

The two teams will complete this three-game SEC series with 2:06 p.m. (CST) Sunday, March 23 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The game will be televised live by CSS Sports, with Chris Stewart and Scott McClanhan calling the action.

GAME NOTES:

*Alabama snapped its six-game losing streak with a 9-7 win over No. 4 Vanderbilt. The Tide also snapped a four-game SEC losing streak to avoid its worst start in league play since 1939.

*Junior Jeff Texada (New Iberia, La.) made his first career start at third base on Saturday against the Commodores. Texada went 2-for-3 with a solo home run in the game. His sixth inning home run was his first of the season and his first career SEC home run in 150 at-bats during his three-year career.

*Freshman second baseman Ross Wilson (Hoover, Ala.) went 2-for-5 in the win over Vanderbilt and now has five straight multi-hit games for the Tide. Wilson had an RBI double in the fourth inning that gave the Tide a 5-3 lead.

*Sophomore third baseman Jake Smith (Shannon, Ala.) launched his first home run of the season off the scoreboard in left-center field in the bottom of the eighth inning. It was his first home run since April 16, 2007 against Georgia, a span of 106 at-bats.

*Sophomore right-hander Austin Graham (Hoover, Ala.) picked up his first career SEC win on Saturday and recorded a career-high eight strikeouts.

*Alabama hit two home runs in the win over Vanderbilt and both were hit by two different No. 9 hitters in the batting order. Texada homered in the sixth inning and Smith homered in the eighth inning.

*All six outs in the eighth inning were strikeouts. Alabama senior RHP Josh Copeland (Palmetto, Ga.) struck out all three Vanderbilt batters – Alex Feinberg, Ryan Flaherty and Dominic de la Osa – on called third strikes. Vandy right-hander Nick Christiani fanned Rutledge, Wilson and Avila to end the bottom of the eighth.

*Alabama is now 3-8 on the season when the opponent scores first.

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