BIRMINGHAM – The University of Alabama baseball team needed a new look to get out of its four-game losing streak. So the Crimson Tide turned to a new-look lineup and a pitcher making his first career start against UAB on Tuesday night.
That shakeup helped Alabama to a 4-1 win over UAB, giving the Crimson Tide (11-10) its first win over an in-state opponent this season.
Alabama head coach Greg Goff used sophomore Chandler Taylor in left field for the first time. Taylor had been an everyday starter in right during his freshman season and started the first 20 games in right this year. Junior Hunter Alexander, who started the first 20 games at first base, took Taylor’s spot in right. That moved designated hitter Cody Henry onto the field at first base, and allowed Goff to use Tanner DeVinny as the DH.
DeVinny and Kyle Kaufman had been alternating at catcher. The lineup shuffle put both their bats in the order for the first time this season.
“We’re still searching,” Goff said. “I don’t think we’ve arrived. We dropped a fly ball out there (in left field) tonight. I said earlier, I think it’s important to try and get DeVinny in there. We were trying to get them all in there, get our best nine in there.”
Freshman right hander Deacon Medders, an ACA product, threw four shutout innings. He hadn’t worked more than an inning in any of his first four games but threw 53 pitches against the Blazers (13-8). He allowed three hits and two walks while striking out three.
Freshman Garret Rukes pitched 3 1/3 shutout innings in relief. Closer Davis Vainer, also a freshman, finished the game off. Alabama had a shutout until an error with two outs in the ninth scored UAB’s only run.
“I thought Deacon Medders was unbelievable tonight,” Goff said. “He was able to throw strikes, spin the breaking ball in there when he needed to. The thing I liked about him and Rukes both, they have so much poise for a young guy. They never got out there and started melting. I thought they really competed pitch to pitch. The future is bright with those two guys.”
Center fielder Gene Wood went 3-for-3 with a walk and an RBI, raising his season average from .205 to .255.
“I’ve kind of been struggling the whole season, and this game I was looking for pitches to hit,” Wood said. “It felt good.”
Shortstop Chandler Avant turned a triple play in the fourth inning, grabbing a line drive and picking up outs with runners on first and second base. UAB coach Bob Shoop argued the call, saying the ball hit the ground before Avant caught it. The call stood.
“I thought it hit the ground,” Goff said. “I asked Avant afterward, and he said ‘No, coach. I caught it in the air.’ So the umpires were right on it and made the right call. Thank goodness, for once it went our way.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.