Hot starts are nice. But baseball coach Brad Bohannon likes it even better when his team finishes.
The Crimson Tide finished on Saturday, completing a sweep of Washington State (2-6) with a 9-3 win at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. UA finished the sweep after coming out of a brief rain delay in the fourth inning.
“With the delay and coming off the doubleheader, I was obviously glad to get the win,” Bohannon said.
Alabama is now 7-0, its best start to a season since 2010.
Alabama took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first that it never relinquished. It tacked one more run in both the second and third innings to hold a 4-1 lead when the rain delay stopped the game in the middle of the fourth. Washington State struck in the top of the fifth to make it 4-3, but Alabama wouldn’t let things get any closer than that.
Second baseman Chandler Avant hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh as part of a three-run rally. Alabama added one more insurance run in the eighth to seal things.
Alabama’s hot start has been aided by outfielder Keith Holcombe, a Hillcrest product. Holcombe entered the day batting .600 (9-15) with seven RBIs. He still managed to improve that, going 4-4 with a double and four RBIs.
“To be honest, I’m not really thinking about it,” Holcombe said. “I’m just out there trying to have fun. You can’t blame a guy for that.”
He’s now batting .684 on the year. He’s gone 4-4 twice in the last week.
Teammates may like to avoid pitchers when they’re in the midst of a perfect game. Holcombe doesn’t get that treatment when he gets hot at the plate.
“They’re just poking fun at me,” Holcombe said. “A couple guys say ‘Do you even think at all when you’re up there? How is that even possible?’ We’re just having fun. When it comes back to it, that’s what it all circles back to.”
Starter Sam Gardner threw 77 pitches in four innings, allowing one earned run. He didn’t return after the rain delay in the middle of the fourth. Alabama used five relievers the rest of the way, making sure nearly all of its available pitchers threw during the week.
Davis Vainer was Alabama’s first pitcher after the rain delay. He gave up two runs while recording two outs, ending a streak of 25 consecutive scoreless innings thrown by the Alabama bullpen. Freshman Brock Guffey got Alabama out of the inning and threw 2 1/3 scoreless to earn the win.
“I keep saying this is so early,” Bohannon said. “Don’t get me wrong, we’re not giving the wins back. We’re going to keep them. But there are so many areas of the game where we can be more crisp and more consistent. We’re in a good place for February, but we’ve got to get better. The thing about college baseball, especially in the Southeastern Conference, the quality of the game gets better as the season goes on. I expect us to do better. We’re in a good place, but if we’re the same team in April and May that we are right now, then this thing isn’t going to finish the way we want it to.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.