Northeastern had seen enough of Owen Diodati after nine at-bats.
In those nine at-bats, over the first three days of his Alabama baseball career, Diodati pummeled the Huskies with six hits, five of them for extra bases and three of them leaving Sewell-Thomas Stadium. He drove in eight runs and even reached base three times on walks. His Sunday hits alone had Diodati a double away from the cycle.
Diodati will have to wait for his 10th collegiate at-bat and his cycle. Northeastern chose to intentionally walk him in the seventh inning.
The maneuver worked: Northeastern was trying to prevent a three-run lead from stretching to four, and a popup did just that. By then, Diodati’s damage was already done.
Diodati’s home run, triple and single on Sunday finished a flurry of an opening weekend for the freshman: 6-for-9, a double, a triple, three home runs and eight RBI for a 2.000 slugging percentage. His production helped UA beat Northeastern 6-3 on Sunday and secure a three-game sweep of the Huskies.
“I can’t lie, I didn’t expect that, but I was lucky enough to see the ball really well this weekend and obviously have a good start,” Diodati said. “This is something me and (UA) Coach (Brad Bohannon) have talked about a lot: how baseball isn’t easy and there’s a lot of weekends that don’t go like this. I think just staying level and not getting too high at times like this, and low when you have the 0-for-4 days or the 0-for-15 weekend. It was pretty special to start this way.”
Diodati’s Sunday started with a RBI single in the first, one that cut an early deficit down to one run. Brett Auerbach’s home run in the second tied the game; in the third, Diodati’s two-run blast off of Northeastern freshman starter Sebastian Keane (0-1) gave UA its first lead, one it would never relinquish.
Diodati later tripled off the right-center wall; he didn’t know that triple put him so close to the cycle until a pitcher told him in the dugout, which he wishes he didn’t know. He knew he would think about it in his next at-bat, when he was given an intentional walk.
“It’s obviously an honor to have that, especially in that situation,” Diodati said. “As a hitter I like to hit, but I’m never gonna complain about a free bag. That’s how you help your team win. It was really cool, for sure.”
Bohannon added, “You never know how it’s going to go for a freshman. Owen’s a guy, I could’ve told you a year ago I had really, really high expectations for him, but you never know who’s going to be nervous at first, who’s going to get off to a hot start and how they’re going to handle the distractions of college and being away from home, some failure and all that. I’m not surprised that these guys did great today. But you don’t ever slap three homers and a triple on a freshman right away.”
Diodati’s production was needed after starting pitcher Antoine Jean (1-0) struggled early. His start began with a four-pitch walk, a first-pitch single and a throwing error he committed, which allowed a run to score.
Northeastern (0-3) plated three in that first inning; Jean retired nine of the 11 batters he faced in the next three innings.
“I had better command of all three of my pitches,” Jean said. “I think in the first inning, after the walk, I don’t think it was necessarily bad pitches, I just put myself in some trouble with the walk and the bad pitch to third base. I was just throwing more strikes and getting ahead in the counts, so it worked pretty good after.”
Jean handed it over to Jacob McNairy and Chase Lee, who combined for five innings of scoreless relief with eight strikeouts to one hit and no walks allowed. Lee retired all six batters he faced in a two-inning save (1).
“Chase Lee just looked unhittable,” Bohannon said. “I think maybe you guys now can see when I say there’s just not a whole lot of separation. You could’ve started McNairy today and brought Antoine in after him, same thing with Casey Cobb and Tyler Ras or any of the guys that have pitched the last few days. That’s a really good thing.
“Chase and Jacob were awesome and they’re both going to be a huge piece of whatever success we have this year.”
Alabama (3-0) continues its five-game homestand to start the season with a Tuesday game against Troy at 3 p.m. and a Wednesday game against Alabama State at 2 p.m.
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