Baseball sweeps Washington State in 29 hoursBy Cody Estremera | 02/25/2018 8:05pm
Alabama’s offense has been on full display since opening day against Valparaiso. The Crimson Tide outscored the Crusaders 34-13 in that series. Against Washington State, the Crimson Tide nearly matched its run total, putting up 29 runs, while allowing just nine.
"Honestly, it's [the Alabama offense] surpassed my expectations to this point," coach Brad Bohannon said. "There was a lot of hard contact today. I felt good about the group going into the season, and ... having an older group of position players, you have guys who aren't trying to do too much."
Due to threat of rain, the two teams played a doubleheader on Friday and played the series finale on Saturday. The series took less than 30 hours to play.
Outfielder Keith Holcombe dominated the Cougars. The left fielder went 7-of-10 during the series, knocking in eight runs. Overall, the lefty is hitting .684 or 13 of 19, and has knocked in a team high 11 runs.
“I’m just going up there trying to relax,” Holcombe said. “Last year my problem was that I was just so tight and a little antsy. Now, I’m just digging into the box, and just relaxing and having as much fun as I can.”
In the first game of the double header, Alabama scored nine of its 12 runs in the fourth and fifth innings, winning 12-4.
Senior Cody Henry came up with the big hit in the fourth, singling to center, bringing in the go ahead run.
Junior right fielder Chandler Taylor saw one pitch in the fifth inning, which he hit over the right-center field fence for a three-run home run. Alabama added three more runs in the inning, coming off four singles and two walks.
Center fielder Joe Breaux finished 0-for-0 in the game with five walks, setting a single-game record.
Right-handed pitcher Sam Finnerty was solid in his second start of the year. He threw a career high 98 pitches in the win. He allowed just two runs, which came off a two-run home run.
Jake Walters got the start in the second game of the double header. The only runs the Cougars scored came from a two-run home run in the first inning. Walters would allow only two more runners to reach base in his six innings of work.
“I felt really fresh,” Walters said. “The first start of the year is always the most nerve-racking … I kind of realized what was working. The fastball was working both sides of the plate.”
Sophomore pitcher Deacon Medders threw the last three innings, finishing with the save. He allowed one hit and struck out three.
Offensively, Alabama made the Cougars pay for their mistakes. Only three of its eight runs were earned. First baseman Hunter Alexander came up with the go-ahead run in the bottom of the second. He hammered the first pitch he saw from Washington State starter Cody Anderson, driving in third baseman Cobie Vance.
“The approach doesn’t change,” Alexander said. “We go in there planning to hunt the fastball. We just adjust if they adjust.”
Alabama added insurance in the fifth inning when Holcombe singled to center field, bringing in Alexander, who reached base on a throwing error, and Taylor.
After having game three pushed back two hours because of rain, Alabama came out strong, putting up four runs in the first three innings.
Holcombe started the scoring by doubling in Vance and Taylor. Holcombe finished 4-for-4 with four RBIs in the 9-3 win.
Alabama led off the with a double in the first three innings, before pausing for a 45-minute rain delay. Alabama led 4-0 before the delay.
After the tarp came off the field, Washington State scratched across two runs against Davis Vainer, who struggled. Vainer walked two and allowed two hits, while throwing 28 pitches [11 were strikes].
“It’s tough [coming out of a rain delay] because you show up to the facilities ready to go,” Holcombe said. “You’re hitting BP and you’re ready to go right then, but coach always says ‘baseball is a funny game. You always have to be ready.’”
Freshman left-hander Brock Guffey came in with the bases loaded and recorded the final out of the inning. He threw 2 and one third innings, and stuck out two in his first career win. Chandler Avant added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh, when he hit a bullet down the left-field line for his first home run of the year.
Alabama hits the road for its next game, when it travels to Birmingham, Alabama to take on Samford.