Alabama baseball had a reason to dog pile on Saturday night.
Junior outfielder Keith Holcombe singled to right to drive in the game-winning run in the bottom of the 10th against Mississippi State. He could barely turn around at first base before his teammates were on him. Third baseman Cobie Vance threw a Gatorade cooler on the pile to celebrate.
The Crimson Tide (24-24, 6-17 SEC) beat the Bulldogs 4-3 to end a 10-game SEC losing streak. It was Alabama’s first SEC win since April 7.
“It seems like it’s been a while, and it has,” starting pitcher Jake Walters said. “Last night we thought we were going to get one and it didn’t happen. It seems harder than it should be. But I feel like this could kind of snowball us to future success.”
Alabama got revenge after falling 14-12 in extra innings on Friday night, and can clinch the series with a win on Sunday.
Saturday night’s show was nothing like Friday’s offensive barrage. Walters pitched 5 1/3 innings for Alabama, allowing two runs, one of which was earned. Mississippi State’s Ethan Small gave up one run each in the first and second inning as the Bulldogs fell behind but didn’t allow another run in his six innings.
“When the opposing pitcher walks four of the first five batters of the game, you’d like to get more runs than just one,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “We had second and third with one out and didn’t execute there.”
Walters made his 50th career start, the second-most of any pitcher in Alabama history. He also walked across the stage at graduation earlier on Saturday. He had originally been scheduled to participate in the evening graduation ceremony, which started at the same time he took the mound across the street.
“I walked this morning, me and Cody (Henry),” he said. “It was a great experience. On top of that, we got the win, and me and Cody got to contribute. I think we’ll remember this day for a while.”
Henry had a pinch-hit single in the bottom of the eighth as Alabama trailed 3-2. Mississippi State came back from the 2-0 deficit with one run in the third inning, then another in the sixth. It took its first lead of the night on a solo home run in the seventh from Rowdey Jordan.
Alabama had one out in the bottom of the ninth when first baseman John Trousdale hit a solo home run to tie the game at 3. Pitcher Sam Gardner threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen to give Alabama a chance late.
The game-winner came with two outs in the 10th. Joe Breaux hit a leadoff single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Mississippi State intentionally walked catcher Sam Praytor. Walker McCleney struck out swinging, bringing Holcombe up.
“Right before I walked up there, coach gave me some advice,” Holcombe said. “All night, I was struggling with the fastball, catching up to it. He just calmed me down, said some words to me. Stepping up to the plate, I honestly kind of flushed my system, took a deep breath and tried to slow the game down. Lucky enough, I did what I was told to do, got the hit, we scored and we won.”
Alabama was without junior right fielder Chandler Taylor, who strained an oblique in Friday’s loss. He’s considered day-to-day.
The win also moved Alabama past last season’s win total in conference play. Alabama finished 5-24-1 in the SEC last season.
“This group does a really good job of just playing and not playing to the scoreboard,” Bohannon said. “You blow a huge lead last night, we come out and score first today, then score one in the ninth and one in the 10th. I’m just really proud of this group from that standpoint. They do a really good job of not playing to the scoreboard and not giving up. They’ve done a great job of giving us everything they have, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.