It didn’t matter to head coach Greg Goff how he got his first win at the University of Alabama. He was just happy he didn’t have to wait for it.
The Crimson Tide beat Presbyterian 4-3 on Friday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in the season opener to begin Goff’s career at Alabama 1-0. It briefly appeared the Blue Hose had tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the seventh, but UA appealed the call. The umpires ruled Presbyterian’s Guy Casaceli didn’t touch third base on his way home, calling him out and taking the run off the scoreboard. Goff pushed for a review of the play after assistant coach Jake Wells noticed the play.
“When a play like that happens, you’ve got to sell it. So as soon as that happened, Coach Wells came out of the dugout yelling ‘He missed third! He missed third!’ And he did. I looked up and I saw the umpire looking at the play, so I felt like he was on it … Just tremendous job for Coach Wells and what he did there.”
Presbyterian went down in order in the eighth and ninth. There were still two runners on base when the seventh ended, but a strikeout ended the inning and the last major threat against Alabama. Sophomore Brock Love closed out the game for Alabama with four scoreless innings in relief.
It had been a back-and-forth affair in the early innings. Alabama took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, only to give it back in the top of the second when Presbyterian scored two runs. Alabama tied the game in the third when right fielder Chandler Taylor tripled to score Hunter Alexander from first base.
Alabama took a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning. Shortstop Chandler Avant singled with two outs to score designated hitter Cody Henry, who doubled to lead off. Avant moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a single from second baseman Cobie Vance. Alabama hit 4-11 with two outs on the night.
“We talk about that all the time, two-out hits win the game,” Goff said. “Our guys were able to execute that and that was the difference in the game. It takes a lot of courage to go up in that situation and have a great plan, and I thought our guys did a great job tonight in those situations.”
Starting pitcher Nick Eicholtz gave up three runs, two of which were earned, in five innings. The senior went 80 pitches to begin the season, allowing three hits and no walks while striking out three. He ran into trouble in the second inning but escaped with the game still close.
“The first game is always a little nervous,” Eicholtz said. “A little anxious energy, you want to get out there. Yeah, we wanted to get him his first win here. We wanted to get our first win and get started on the right track.”
Avant, Vance, Alexander and Henry each collected two hits for Alabama on opening night before an announced crowd of 4,637. Taylor drove in two runs, one each in the first and third inning.
That helped seal a win on the start of the season, and on the beginning of Goff’s Alabama career.
“I’m glad that one’s over,” Goff said. “I’m glad we got game one.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.