The best chance for the University of Alabama to avoid a sweep on Sunday may have been its very last swing of the bat. Designated hitter Cody Henry sent a long fly ball to left in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and two runners on as Alabama trailed 5-2.
Oral Roberts’ Trent Shelton drifted back to the wall and the baseball fell into his glove. It was
“This game, it’s a tough game, it’ll rip your heart out,” head coach Greg Goff said. “You just have to keep getting on the horse. When he hit it, I thought it was gone, to be honest with you.”
That last fly ball ended Alabama’s (3-4) chances of a ninth-inning rally to avoid a sweep at home against Oral Roberts (6-1). The Golden Eagles’ 5-2 lead would stand. The Crimson Tide lost 6-3 on Friday night and 5-4 on Saturday.
It’s Alabama’s first sweep at home in a nonconference series since 2012, when Florida Atlantic took all three games in the season’s opening weekend. The Golden Eagles were an NCAA tournament team and Summit League champions last season, but the weekend stood in contrast to Alabama’s 3-1 start and its 12-5 win over Southern Miss on Wednesday.
“I hope we can look back on this weekend and get better,” Goff said. “I hope we can look back and go ‘That changed our season.’ We’ll see. Players have to stay committed to it and stay the course. We’re not going to let a three-game set dictate the rest of our year.”
Sophomore pitcher Dylan Duarte threw well in his second career start, but still took the loss. His performance looked much like his first career start in last week. He carried a no-hitter through four innings in his first start before fading in the fifth and exiting after allowing two runs in five innings. Against Oral Roberts, he gave up two hits in the first four innings before running into trouble in the fifth.
He lasted 68 pitches, giving up an earned run before being lifted after 4 2/3 innings. He struck out two and didn’t allow a walk.
“He did exactly what we asked him to do,” Goff said. “I thought he had a tremendous start … He made them put the ball in play and I thought he made some big pitches. They had a couple guys on base there. Dylan is a great competitor and that’s half the battle. He makes his stuff better than what it really is.”
Alabama’s offense launched four home runs on Wednesday against Southern Miss, but struggled to find timely hitting all weekend. Sophomore outfielder Chandler Taylor had a solo home run in the fourth inning, but UA finished Sunday with nine hits and two walks. Alabama was 4-21 with runners on base in the series finale and 1-11 with runners in scoring position; that one hit came during the last-gasp ninth.
“We had too many fly balls,” Goff said. “I’ve never seen so many lazy, weak fly balls. Hey, we put a show on Wednesday against Southern Miss and sometimes what happens, guys just start working and trying to lift balls.”
Oral Roberts took over in the sixth after chasing Duarte from the game. The Golden Eagles scored three runs on two hits, a walk and an error. Alabama second baseman Cobie Vance led the Crimson Tide offensively, going 3-4 with a walk. He has a hit in every game this season.
“We can’t let one weekend define our season,” Goff said. Hopefully they’re feeling the same thing I’m feeling. We just got outplayed from the pitching part, the defensive part, the timely hitting. Like I told them, hopefully this motivates them. Understand that getting swept is not acceptable. We have to come out tomorrow and practice and get better.”