Alabama claims first series in renovated Sewell-Thomas thanks to strong pitching performancesBy Elliott Propes | 02/21/2016 4:51pm
Alabama baseball hosted Maryland in a rubber match game three on Sunday after splitting the first two games of the weekend. It was the opening series at the new renovated Sewell-Thomas Stadium, and the Crimson Tide took advantage securing the series with a 5-1 win.
“For us as a team it was a real confidence booster particularly to win the series today,” coach Mitch Gaspard said. “The environment for everyone was so different this weekend from what it had been in the past. I think we have an opportunity to capture the momentum.”
Pitching performances from the starter, Nick Eicholtz and the bullpen were big factors in the win. Eicholtz pitched six scoreless frames in a row, and finished with just one earned run and four strikeouts. It wasn’t until the seventh inning that Eicholtz ran into trouble.
“You just tip your hat today to the pitching particularly the way Nick came out and gave us a great start,” Gaspard said. “I think that’s the key to our team. If we can get the good start that takes us deep, then I think our bullpen sets up really well for the last couple of innings.”
Eicholtz came back out in the seventh inning and seemed to have lost his touch. He gave up back-to-back singles to begin the inning. Then Jamal Wade squared for a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. Eicholtz fielded the ball but sailed it past first baseman Cody Henry. A run scored and runners advanced to second and third. At that point, Gaspard had seen enough and brought in right-hander Matt Foster.
Foster was in a tough spot with two runners in scoring position and a one-run lead, but with no outs, he struck out Kevin Biondic. Then on a funny play, Jamal Wade got an ambitious lead and was caught in a rundown after Madison Nickens swung and miss. Wade was thrown out, and for the final out he got Kevin Smith to fly out to preserve the 2-1 lead.
“I struggled and made a bad play right there,” Eicholtz said. “I knew [Foster] was going to come in and throw strikes and compete to win the battle right there, and he did and came away with no runs. I trust that guy.”
The next inning Alabama scored three insurance runs to grab a 5-1 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Gaspard said it was a big series win for the Crimson Tide. Alabama defeated a team that made super regionals last season, and did so with a lot of help from freshmen and sophomores. Eleven of the 12 RBIs that were hit by Alabama this weekend were from lower classmen.
“They are the guys that going in that I think a lot of nights are going to have to provide the offense for us,” Gaspard said. “They’ve got to keep learning and keep getting better, but there is a lot of talent in both that freshman and sophomore group.”