A four-run first inning and three hits allowed over six bullpen innings was enough for Alabama baseball to beat Alabama State 10-3 on Wednesday. It was not enough to appease UA coach Brad Bohannon before the team’s trip to Las Vegas for a weekend series at UNLV.
“Really kind of disappointed with our effort today, I thought our guys came out distracted,” Bohannon said. “We showed our youth. We looked like a bunch of silly little boys who were thinking about going to Las Vegas instead of a team that’s got something to prove. I don’t think we brought the mentality to the park today, I thought Alabama State outcompeted us.”
UA got help from Alabama State (3-1) in the form of five wild pitches and three hit batsmen, on top of starter Ryan Velazquez (0-1) giving up six earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. UA also had standout performances of its own: freshman third baseman Zane Denton drove in two runs on two hits, one of them a double, plus two more hits from freshman designated hitter Owen Diodati and a two-run home run from pinch hitter Jackson Tate.
UA (4-0) even stole three bases after attempting it just five times over the first three games of the season. Bohannon said that amount of aggression will mostly likely be out of character for this team, and may have been rooted in his own frustration with the team’s mentality for the game.
The same youth that generated production in the win has something to learn from it.
“I think it’s really inherent in young players playing baseball,” Bohannon said. “We had a lot of young guys on the field today and, you know, they’re nice boys they’re trying hard, but young guys especially have a hard time bringing a high level of focus consistently and baseball is all about consistency. We had some guys do a great job today, but not enough. Hopefully we can learn from it while getting a win and play better on Friday.
“I think why I’m making such a big deal right now is we’ve got a really young team and we’re trying to establish like how we’re going to play. If we had a stretch of 17 or 18 games where we had played pretty good and then you have a bad day, maybe you it a little bit differently than so early in the season.”
The message is not lost on junior right fielder Tyler Gentry.
“It probably didn’t help that we came out, got a four-run lead in the beginning and we thought we had a cushion, it’s just going to be smooth sailing the rest of the way,” he said. “We kind of rested on our laurels instead of having a good mentality. It can be good to have it happen early in the year, and hopefully everyone can learn from it and take a good mentality to UNLV.”
The day was not entirely lost, especially for the two freshmen that made their first career starts: second baseman Myles Austin and catcher Peyton Wilson. Austin recorded his first career hit with a single in the eighth while Wilson reached base twice, once on a walk and once with a hit by pitch, and drove in a run in the eighth.
“I was really happy for Myles to get that hit,” Bohannon said. “I thought Peyton did a great job behind the plate, blocking some balls. They’re both really good players; I wanted to get them in before today, and neither one of them had gotten a lot of opportunity. They’re both going to be a part of our success going forward.”
The only negative was the short stint for starter Will Freeman. Bohannon said on Sunday that Freeman would start on Tuesday against Troy and have, “an extended outing.” That game was postponed to May 12 due to weather, and other needs in the pitching staff cut Freeman’s stint down to three innings, allowing a three hits and a run while striking out five in all of 43 pitches.
“I wish we had a game (Tuesday) so we could’ve let Will go a little longer,” Bohannon said. “The only reason he was out after three is we had some guys we had to get back out there. It’s hard to pitch when you pitch once every 10 or 14 days.
“Will did a good job today. Probably spiked too many breaking balls, but it was his first time out and he did a nice job. He’s gonna pitch a lot for us this year and we need him to be good for us to have the season we want to have.”
Bohannon said the staff still looks at Freeman as a starter and hopes to develop him in that regard, but would not rule out using Freeman in relief over the weekend if needed to cover a long extra-innings game or another special circumstance.
Dylan Smith (1-0) got the win for two scoreless innings of one-hit, one-walk relief immediately following Freeman, striking out two. Landon Green and Garret Rukes pitched scoreless, hitless eighth and ninth innings to close the game.