Alabama Wins on Walk-off Home Run

Sophomore pinch hitter Del Howell delivered a game-winning two-run double in the bottom of the ninth as Alabama notched a 7-6 victory over No. 22 Florida on Friday night in Tuscaloosa.

The Gators (29-19/13-12 SEC) had scored twice with two down in the top of the inning to take a 6-5 advantage. With the setback in the series opener, UF slipped to 0-6 in one-run games during league play.

Down to their final strike in the top of the ninth, Florida had used a bases-loaded, two-run single by junior Avery Barnes to seize a one-run lead. With two down, senior pinch hitter Bryson Barber walked on four pitches from sophomore Austin Graham (4-1) and freshman Riley Cooper followed with a free pass on a 3-2 count. Although senior Dustin Bamberg struck out, he alertly hustled down to first on a wild pitch to fill the sacks and extend the game. Facing a 0-2 count, Barnes sliced a single just past freshman Ross Wilson's reach at second base to drive in a pair and put the visitors up, 6-5.

In the home part of the inning, sophomore Clint Franklin struck out sophomore Jake Smith before yielding a single into right field by freshman Josh Rutledge. Franklin had Wilson line out to third for the second out and was replaced by sophomore Tony Davis. The left-hander (0-1) yielded a base-hit into left to junior Alex Avila for two runners aboard and was lifted for senior Josh Edmondson, who was scheduled to face junior pinch hitter Ryan Rhoden. Alabama head coach Jim Wells decided to send up Howell instead and was rewarded when the sophomore roped Edmondson's first pitch into the gap in right field to trigger a Crimson Tide celebration when both runners scored.

UA had plated the game's first run off sophomore Billy Bullock in the third on an error. Smith singled to left center with one down and Rutledge extended his hitting streak to 27 games with an infield hit to match the school's freshman record held by David Magadan. Wilson sent a grounder to third that was misplayed by freshman Josh Adams, allowing Smith to come across with the run.

The Gators tallied three runs on three hits in the fifth, highlighted by a two-run shot from sophomore Buddy Munroe, to seize a 3-1 lead. Sophomore Matt den Dekker reached on a one-out hit and advanced to second when junior Miers Quigley was called for a balk. Cooper tied the game with a two-out single into right field and Munroe ripped his third homer of the campaign over the wall in left to move the visitors in front.

The Tide answered with a run in the home part of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Rutledge to close the gap to 3-2. Junior Tyler Odle drew a leadoff walk and Smith cranked a double off the wall in left field. After Rutledge lofted the run-scoring fly ball into right field, Wilson was hit by a pitch for runners on the corners and one down. Smith was thrown out at the plate on a double-steal attempt and Bullock jammed Avila on an infield fly to end the stanza.

Alabama had two runners aboard in the sixth but came away empty-handed. Sophomore Brandon May started things off with a walk and raced down to second on a wild pitch. A throwing error by sophomore shortstop Cole Figueroa enabled junior Kent Matthes to reach and Bullock had junior Kyle Moore's grounder force Matthes at second base. The righty had Odle pop out to left to keep the Gators ahead by a run.

Bullock recorded the first two outs in the seventh before permitting a single through the left side by Wilson. Avila stepped to the dish and sent a 1-0 offering out of the yard for his team-leading 13th homer to give Alabama a 4-3 advantage.

Florida evened the game at 4-4 in the eighth on a sac fly by Adams. Munroe began the frame with a double to left center, ending the night for Quigley. Over seven innings, the southpaw equaled his career high of nine strikeouts, surrendered six hits and allowed three runs. Barnes laid down a sacrifice bunt that Graham threw away, advancing sophomore pinch runner Jonathan Pigott to third. Adams' drive to straightway center tied the contest and Barnes moved into scoring position with his 23rd theft. Graham fanned Figueroa and senior Brandon McArthur to preserve the stalemate.

Bullock departed after seven innings in which he gave up seven hits and four runs (three earned), with three K and two walks. Matthes doubled to left center off Franklin and moved over on a wild pitch. Moore's grounder to short resulted in the go-ahead run for the Crimson Tide in the eighth.

Graham worked two innings and picked up the win with five strikeouts, two walks, one hit and a couple of runs. The Tide out-hit the Gators, 11-7, as Avila, Rutledge, Smith and Wilson had two apiece. McArthur and Munroe contributed two hits apiece for UF. Junior LHP Stephen Locke (3-2, 3.28) will oppose Alabama junior RHP Austin Hyatt (3-3, 4.84) Saturday at 5 p.m.

Courtesy UF Sports Information

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