Baseball takes down its first ranked opponent of the year

Baseball takes down its first ranked opponent of the year

Chandler Avant finished 2-for-4 with an RBI double in Alabama's 3-0 win over No. 16 Southern Miss win.

 Alabama and Southern Miss were two of the most dangerous offenses coming into Wednesday’s game. Both teams ranked in the top-20 in batting average and in the top-15 in runs scored. But pitching was the dominate force in Alabama’s 3-0 win over No. 16 Southern Miss.

“I told the kids yesterday ‘if we want to be a good team, the two things we have to do is consistently play pretty good baseball and we have to beat some good teams,’” coach Brad Bohannon said. 

For the third time this season, left-handed pitcher Garret Rukes started, while right hander Brock Love was the first pitcher out of the pen. Rukes threw a season-high three innings. He allowed just two runners to reach [a walk and a hit] while striking out two. 

Love, who finished with the win, threw the next two innings. He struck out the side in his first inning. 

“I like it,” Love said. “It’s kind of cool doing it with the same guy. We throw with each other every day, so it’s cool kind of going off that guy.”

The Crimson Tide used five pitchers to shutout the Golden Eagles, for its second shutout of the year. Left hander Dylan Duarte finished with the save.  

Chandler Avant led the way offensively for Alabama. He finished 2-for-4 with a double that scored a run. 

“I’m just trying to give tough at bats, just like everyone in the lineup is,” Avant said. “The only way we can do that is by swinging at strikes and take balls, and for the most part everyone in the lineup is doing a good job of that.”

Alabama looked like it was going to break the game open in the first inning. Cobie Vance drew a leadoff walk, followed by two straight hit batters. Southern Miss starter Walker Powell forced Keith Holcombe to fly out to the shortstop and Avant to hit into a double play. 

“We really had their starter on the ropes, with bases loaded and nobody out,” Bohannon said. “We were just a hit away from them going to the bullpen in the first inning, and there’s not many teams in America that want to go to the bullpen in the first inning.”

The fourth inning is where Alabama did almost all of its damage. Hunter Alexander led off with a double down the left field line, for Alabama’s first hit of the game. Holcombe followed with an infield single, beating out a bunt. Avant sent a fly ball to left field, but Southern Miss left fielder Jaylon Keys slipped on the play, plating a run and advancing Holcombe to third. Holcombe scored on a sacrifice fly from Jett Manning. 

Alabama scored its final run in the bottom of the seventh, when Walker McCleney chopped a ball in the infield with Manning at third. Manning avoided the tag at the plate for the final run of the game.

Alabama faces New Mexico State on Friday for its final nonconference weekend series of the season. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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