Seven games into Alabama baseball’s season, Gene Wood was still looking at a batting average that had flatlined. He had played in six games with three starts and was still hitless.
Coach Brad Bohannon started him as the designated hitter anyway, slotted seventh in the lineup.
“The dude had a hole in his bat 24 hours ago,” Bohannon said.
Wood finished Tuesday’s 8-0 win over North Alabama (2-5) at Sewell-Thomas Stadium 2-3 with two RBIs and two walks. He drove in one run in the bottom of the third as Alabama (6-2) hung six runs to take control of the game, then added another run in the sixth inning. He entered the game 0-11 with two walks on the season.
“I started out slow, but it was a nice breath of fresh air to get the first hit,” Wood said. “I started relaxing out there. I was kind of pressing. Being injured last year, I wanted to do well this year.”
Wood had only played in three games in all of 2018 before labrum surgery ended his season. His 2017 season was chopped in half by a knee injury early in SEC play.
He hadn’t seen the field much during the last two seasons, but Bohannon had seen enough of Wood to keep confidence with him through an early slump.
“Even though he’s missed a lot of spring the last two years, he’s played a lot in fall and been really good,” Bohannon said. “I think, opening day of 2018 he was hitting in the two hole. This year he was in the five (on opening day). That’s after six months of evaluation.”
North Alabama never threatened. The Lions had five base runners all night and never reached third base. Alabama’s pitching staff combined for 15 strikeouts on the night, and the defense played a clean game.
Junior Wil Freeman started his second straight Tuesday game and gave Alabama solid footing with four shutout innings.
“My slider was working best,” he said. “I started off kind of late with my fastball locating. My slider was there the whole game.”
Freeman allowed one hit and no walks while striking out four, throwing 51 pitches before the bullpen took over. Kyle Cameron threw two innings, followed by one inning each from lefty Brock Guffey and righty Deacon Medders. Senior righty Jeremy Randolph pitched the ninth.
Alabama will play North Alabama again on Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
“I just keep telling the kids to go play and not focus on the opponent as much as how we’re playing the game,” Bohannon said. “We were really aggressive on the bases, that was a positive. We pitched well, but I know that everybody that pitched tonight can make another step with the way they command the ball. Wil had a great night, threw four shutout innings. I’m nitpicking, he did really well, but I know that he can command the ball better. He had more big misses than when he’s really going that he normally would.
“It’s February, we aren’t supposed to be playing our best baseball. But we can string together good at-bats, we can command the ball better. But the effort, the way that we’re playing aggressive and the way that we’re defending, I’m really pleased in those areas to this point.”
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.