The sun didn’t exactly rise on the new era of Alabama baseball on Friday, but the bats generated more than enough energy to shine through the clouds and drizzle.
The Crimson Tide, in its first game under new head coach Brad Bohannon, exploded with an eight-run fourth inning and coasted to a 16-2 win over visiting Valparaiso at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The 16 runs were the most for a Crimson Tide team since the 1958 squad scored 20 runs against Tulane in its first game.
“I told the guys in the dugout that I couldn’t have scripted that any better,” Bohannon said. “After the first three innings when everybody was trying to hit to the moon, we settled down and did a good job.
“It’s opening day so everyone was excited. I thought about calling Verizon this morning because the clock on my phone was moving so slowly. I was ready for (game time) to get here.”
The visiting Crusaders scored first, taking a 1-0 lead on a solo home run by left fielder Blake Bilinger in the top of the first inning. But after stranding five runners in scoring position in the first three innings, Alabama broke through in the bottom of the fourth.
The Crimson Tide sent 12 hitters to the plate in the inning, hammering out seven hits including two-run doubles by freshman catcher Sam Praytor and left fielder Hunter Alexander. UA added an unearned run in the fifth inning, then batted around again in the sixth, scoring five more runs.
The inning included Alabama’s first home run of the season, a shot that hugged the right-field line by shortstop Jett Manning, a junior college transfer playing in his first game for the Crimson Tide.
“I wasn’t expecting (my first game) to go that way but I’ll remember that forever, definitely,” said Manning, who was 3-for-3 with three runs batted in. UA third baseman Cobie Vance also had three hits.
Starter Sam Finnerty (1-0) worked six innings, allowing one run, to pick up the decision. Jon Tieman took the loss for Valparaiso.
The two teams will meet again on Saturday at 2 p.m. before wrapping up the series on Sunday.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.