The University of Alabama did more than just even the series with Arkansas on Saturday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. It delivered a counterpunch equal to the Razorbacks’ opening salvo on Friday.
Alabama (13-14, 2-6 SEC) beat No. 20 Arkansas (21-6, 6-2 SEC) 7-1 in the second game of the series after losing 7-1 on Friday. The Crimson Tide hung four runs in the second inning to chase starter Arkansas starter Trevor Stephan, then added three more in the fifth inning to secure the win.
Starting pitcher Dylan Duarte led the way with a career showing. He went 8 1/3 innings and 116 pitches, both career highs. He gave up six hits and hit one batter, but didn’t issue a walk and struck out four. Arkansas took a 1-0 lead in the second inning, but only had two runners in scoring position all night after that. He had never gone more than six innings before Saturday’s game.
“It’s a tough, tough game,” head coach Greg Goff said. “These guys have a lot of courage and it started tonight with Dylan tonight on the mound. If you don’t have a guy that goes out there and has some spirit about him, you’re not going to win. I was just really pleased with how our guys responded, and they always respond. That’s the thing I love about our group.”
Just when it appeared he had begun to slow, he regained his footing and buckled down further on the Hogs. Arkansas stranded two runners in the sixth inning and Duarte was at 87 pitches, but he returned to the mound in the seventh. First baseman Jordan McFarland reached on a bloop single, but Duarte retired the other three batters he faced. Duarte then retired the side in the eighth inning.
Between innings, he’d slip out of the dugout and into the locker room to keep his focus.
“I knew it was going to be tough, trying to push through those middle innings,” Duarte said. “I just had to regroup.”
He came out to pitch the ninth and retired the first batter with a fly ball, but that ended his night. Redshirt freshman Davis Vainer got the final two outs to seal the win.
“Early in the year, (Duarte) was getting three and four innings,” Goff said. “You just see his hard work is paying off. For him to get to almost 120 pitches tonight is amazing against a really good Arkansas team.”
Right fielder Hunter Alexander figured into both of Alabama’s rallies. He started the scoring in the second inning, leading off with a double and scoring on a single from Cody Henry. Alabama followed that with a walk, then a double from third baseman Connor Short to drive in a run. Center fielder Logan Carey and second baseman Cobie Vance also had RBIs in the inning. It was the first time Alabama has scored four runs in an inning against an SEC opponent this season.
“He was a good velo guy. Just get the head out and hit the fastball,” Alexander said. “We tried to center on one pitch, because we knew he had only been pitching for two-plus years and his breaking ball wasn’t that good from what we saw. We were just trying to sit on the fastball and take advantage of it and we did early.”
Alexander also had an RBI single in the fifth inning and finished the night 2-4. Henry was 2-4 with an RBI, while catcher Tanner DeVinny was 2-3 with an RBI and a walk. Alabama had 10 hits on the night, with four coming during the rally in the second inning and four coming in the fifth. The Crimson Tide had the bases loaded in the eighth inning, but couldn’t push a run across. Seven of Alabama’s starters registered hits.
“We have the momentum,” Alexander said. “They know we’re better than the three hits we got last night, after what we did tonight.”
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.