A weather delay might have stalled an Alabama baseball win on Friday night. Ball State couldn’t delay it any further, though.
Alabama beat Ball State 7-1 to open a three-game series on Friday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
The Crimson Tide (4-1) had a shutout intact until a brief rally by the Cardinals (1-4) in the top of the ninth inning. Starter Sam Finnerty threw seven shutout innings before he left the game when a weather delay interrupted play before the start of the eighth inning.
“Sam was outstanding, as good as he’s been,” Alabama coach Brad Bohannon said. “Went out there and did what he does, pounded the strike zone, threw three pitches for strikes. As a coach you talk about being aggressive and it’s easier for a position player to show that running the bases. That’s being aggressive on the mound, is attacking the hitters in the strike zone like that.
Finnerty may have been on his way to a complete game if not for the intermission. He needed just 68 pitches, including 52 strikes, to throw seven innings. That’s fewer than he threw in his season debut. The weather delay lasted less than half an hour, but Bohannon still switched to junior righty Deacon Medders to throw the eighth.
“That’s the first time in a year-and-a-half that (pitching coach Jason) Jackson has ever been mad at me,” Bohannon said. “He was fighting for (Sam). It’s hard to expect pitchers to be good if they don’t get on the mound for nine or 10 days. I wanted to get some guys in there and I want Sam to be as good in May and June as he is right now.”
Medders struck out the side in the eighth before freshman Dylan Smith pitched the ninth.
Finnerty allowed three hits and no walks. He struck out six, the most in his career as a starter.
“It was one of those nights where you had everything going for you,” Finnerty said. “The pitches were good and the defense was outstanding behind you. It was a good night all around.”
He also had the benefit of an early lead. Leadoff man Joe Breaux was hit by a pitch to start the bottom of the first. He came home later on a single by left fielder Keith Holcombe. Freshman first baseman Drew Williamson plated two more runs in the first inning with the bases loaded when he singled to right.
Alabama has scored in the first inning in four of its first five games; leadoff man Breaux reached base to start the bottom of the first in all four of those games. Alabama has also won all four of those games.
“We’ll probably have to play from behind more than I would like this year, but I kind of like the ‘getting the lead’ thing,” Bohannon said.
Holcombe hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning to give Alabama a 6-0 lead. The Crimson Tide scored its final run in the eighth inning when Kolby Robinson reached home on a wild pitch.
Starting catcher Sam Praytor left the game after six innings. He came out to warm up for the seventh, but went back to the dugout after throwing a ball to second base. Bohannon said he’d wait for more information on Praytor before making an announcement on his status.
The second game of the series will be played at noon on Saturday, weather permitting.
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.