A complete game seemed all but out of reach for Dylan Duarte in his first three starts this year. His season high was 79 pitches, and in his first spring as a starter, he hadn’t gone deeper than five innings in a game.
He came tantalizingly close on Sunday. He was at 72 pitches through six innings, with Alabama holding an 11-0 lead and preparing to bring the mercy rule into effect in the second game of its doubleheader against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He was in the middle of a one-hitter and had faced the minimum.
It wasn’t to be. The Crimson Tide (8-6) finished off the Golden Lions (3-10) without Duarte, winning 12-2 on a walk-off double from Hunter Alexander in the bottom of the inning.
Even without the complete game, Duarte’s final line sparkled. He struck out eight and allowed one walk and one hit. The leadoff runner in the first inning singled, then was picked off. The leadoff man in the second walked, then was picked off.
“It makes my job easy,” catcher Tanner DeVinny said. “It’s a whole lot more fun being able to put down whatever number I want and know that it’s going to be right where I call it. Hat’s off to DD. I know last year he wasn’t a starter, and this year you’ve really seen the progression of his work ethic and attitude on the mound. There was a lot of that today.”
Duarte’s power outing clinched the four-game series for Alabama after it dropped the first game of the doubleheader. UA took three of four games in its final weekend series before beginning SEC play on Friday night against Missouri.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff scored two runs in the top of the seventh off freshman reliever Nathan Alstadt, cutting the lead to nine. That would have extended the game, which requires a team to lead by 10 runs after seven innings. But UA got doubles from Gene Wood and Alexander to end the game.
Alabama had a season-high 15 hits despite playing a shortened game in the series finale. Alexander went 3-4 to lead the way, while freshman Logan Carey was 2-2 with two walks. DeVinny was 2-3 with a home run and four RBIs.
“I think what Coach Goff and Coach Wells and Coach Simmons stress all the time about hitting is ‘Stick with your approach. Don’t try to do too much, don’t try to change too much,'” DeVinny said. “At the beginning I feel like I was trying to do too much. I really sat back and thought ‘OK, I’m going to stick with what I’ve been doing since day one.'”
Alabama scored in six of the seven innings in the second game of the doubleheader, and scored three runs in three of those innings.
“It doesn’t matter where we’re at in the lineup, I feel like we have a chance to score,” Goff said.
The UA lineup offered little help. Sawrie had given up 15 runs in 16 1/3 innings pitched on the season entering the game, but worked through the Crimson Tide batters without much trouble. He pitched a complete game, giving up three runs on 106 pitches. Sawrie, who had given up 14 walks on the season before Sunday, only gave up three to Alabama. Two of those came in the ninth inning as he fatigued.
Goff made mention of that to the Crimson Tide during the downtime between the two games. He liked what he saw in the second game.
“I told them that this team, we get punched in the mouth a little bit and we didn’t respond,” Goff said. “This team, our offense is good enough to give up some runs and come back. I told them that I was disappointed (in the first game). Not in the fact that we didn’t compete, not that our team quit. I just didn’t think our approach at the plate was what I wanted. So we had to address that. We had to change some things. I was really, really pleased. You could have easily rolled over and got swept. I was really happy with the way they responded.”