By Drew Hill
Special to Tidesports.com
Alabama relievers pitched four-straight scoreless innings before finally slipping up in a 2-1 extra-inning loss to Jacksonville State on Tuesday night.
In the 10th inning the Gamecocks scratched across the winning run without recording a hit. Pitcher Davis Vainer walked the first batter of the inning and then balked, advancing him to second before exiting the game. Deacon Medders came in as a replacement, throwing two wild pitches that allowed the runner to score. Alabama was unable to get the run back in the bottom half of the inning.
After losing the weekend series to Oral Roberts, Alabama baseball coach Greg Goff went with a younger lineup to start the game this time around. While it paid off in the field, the inexperience struggled at the plate.
Freshman Logan Carey, Alex Webb, and John Trousdale all made their first starts for Alabama in the field this season, combining for one hit in six plate appearances.
Webb, a catcher, was the latest player to fill Alabama’s rotation at that position this season. He proved that there were no early jitters behind the plate either, throwing out the Gamecocks’ first base runner in the second, and knocking down a bouncing pitch with the bases loaded in the fourth to save a run.
But the most impressive freshman performance came from pitcher Garret Rukes, who made his first career start for the Crimson Tide, after pitching in relief on Sunday. Rules went 3 2/3 innings without allowing a run on four hits. The freshman was aggressive early in the count, throwing 13 first-pitch strikes to 15 batters.
Rukes left the game in the fourth inning after two base hits and hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for Jacksonville State. Gamecocks hitter Payton Young worked the count to full against new pitcher Mike Oczypok before hitting a shot to the right of second baseman Cobie Vance. Vance made a diving stop on the play, throwing out Young at first to save two runs from scoring.
Vance also provided Alabama with the only early spark on offense. After Chandler Avant led off the fifth inning with a single to left field and was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, Vance scorched a ball down the right field line for the first RBI of the game.
Alabama’s middle infielders Avant and Vance were the only Crimson Tide players who had multi-hit performances against the Gamecocks. Avant went three for four at the plate, recording one double and scoring Alabama’s only run. Vance continued his hot hitting, going two for four, with two singles and the one RBI.
Jacksonville State tied the game at one just a half-inning later, also scoring a runner from second on a single to the outfield by left fielder Nolan Greckel.
Alabama will have two days off before starting a weekend series with Louisiana-Monroe.