The University of Alabama and UAB each got strong starts from unexpected sources on Tuesday night. But it was Alabama’s bullpen that did just enough to hold on for the win.
Alabama’s Zac Rogers threw four no-hit innings in his first career start as the Crimson Tide beat the Blazers 6-4 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
“We wouldn’t have won the game if it wasn’t for Zac Rogers going out there and competing, not getting too big in the moment, just going out there and throwing strikes,” head coach Greg Goff said. “He threw a few strikeouts, threw great. I’m really proud of him.”
UAB (16-17) scored all four runs in the top of the ninth inning, pressuring the back end of the Alabama (14-19) bullpen at the last moment. The tying run grounded out on a fielder’s choice to end the game.
UAB’s Matthew Calvert, also making his first career start, threw 4 2/3 innings and kept his team close. He gave up a run in the bottom of the first, but nothing more. He and Rogers traded off quick innings through the first four frames before turning things over to their bullpens.
The Blazers, with eight injured pitchers, immediately struggled. Alabama singled to lead off the sixth inning, then grounded into a fielder’s choice for the first out. UAB’s Kyle Davis walked the next three batters to load the bases, then score a run for Alabama. Third baseman Connor Short doubled to score two more, stretching the lead to 4-0.
UA tacked on two more runs in the seventh to push the lead to 6-0 and was aiming for its second shutout of the season before the ninth inning. Alabama gave the ball to freshman lefty Sonny Potter in the top of the ninth; he gave up a walk and three hits against five UAB batters before coming out. That gave the Blazers enough firepower to bring the tying run to the plate before it was decided.
“You’re darn right I was nervous,” Goff said. “I started breathing hard.”
Rogers had only thrown more than one inning once this season before starting on Tuesday. He found out on Monday night that he’d get the start. Pitching coach Terry Rooney called him while he was in class and he stepped out to answer his phone.
“I knew exactly what was going on,” Rogers said. “I was smiling from ear to ear. I immediately texted my parents: Got my first college start.”
He struck out four, gave up two walks and hit one batter in his four innings, throwing 48 pitches. Junior Garrett Suchey gave up two hits in the fifth to end the no-hitter, but worked three scoreless innings.
“Coach Rooney gave us the scouting report and told us they were free swingers early,” Rogers said. “I was like ‘OK, I’m going to throw some two-seams and try to let them get themselves out.’ That’s one thing today I haven’t done the last couple of starts, when I was focusing on more four-seams where I had more control.”
Sophomore second baseman Cobie Vance led Alabama’s offense, going 3-4 with a double and two runs scored. First baseman Cody Henry and Short each posted two RBIs. Designated hitter Tanner DeVinny was 1-1 with three walks and an RBI. Senior reliever Mike Oczypok got the final two outs to earn his first career save.
The win gave Alabama a season sweep of the Blazers and snapped a five-game losing streak.
“Sometimes we forget about how tough this game is, and a lot of that has to do with the mental part of the game,” Goff said. “For them to be able to come back and bounce back, last week got walked off twice, for these guys to have the courage to go out fight and compete… it made a big difference to have a good crowd tonight. So thankful to be back at the Joe and be in front of our fans. It makes a big difference.”