BIRMINGHAM — Alabama added what looked like an insurance run in the top of the ninth to take a 3-1 lead against UAB. The Crimson Tide (24-14) would have to cash in on that policy in the bottom half of the inning.
UAB (16-22) hit a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth to cut the lead to 3-2, but closer Jeremy Randolph got a fly ball to left fielder T.J. Reeves to end the game on the next pitch to secure the win.
“It felt really good,” Reeves said. “We needed that insurance run because as you can see, they hit a bomb in the last inning that tied it up.”
Alabama got two singles and a walk to load the bases in the top of the ninth, but still had to fight for its third and final run. Designated hitter Keith Holcombe started the inning and was called out at home on a force play. Reeves, who had singled behind Holcombe, scored the game-winning run on a bases-loaded walk to freshman first baseman Drew Williamson.
Reeves is from Birmingham and grew up going to Barons games, but had never played at Regions Field until Tuesday. He had about 20 family and friends in attendance.
The top half of Alabama’s order supplied nearly all the offense for the Crimson Tide. The Nos. 1-5 hitters were 6-19 with six walks; the bottom four hitters were 1-14 with one walk.
“Getting that third run was big,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “We have to get more efficient offensively. We’re really inexperienced on positionally. Our percent of scoring runners from third with less than two outs, scoring leadoff doubles, the runs we’re driving in with bases loaded and less than two outs is very, very poor. It’s got to get better in a hurry or we’re going to be really challenged to put up crooked numbers these last five weeks of league play.”
The Crimson Tide kept UAB’s offense in check thanks in part to a strong start from freshman Tyler Ras, who allowed one run in four innings. He needed just 38 pitches to get through four frames, allowing three hits and no walks while striking out one.
The bullpen worked quickly behind him as well. Righty Chase Lee needed just seven pitches for an inning and lefty Garret Rukes needed 21 pitches for two innings. Freshman righty Connor Shamblin pitched the eighth and Randolph earned his sixth save of the season in the ninth.
“Ras has been really good at times this year,” Bohannon said. “He’s somebody we really believe in. I thought everybody who pitched tonight was really good. Chase Lee, Garret Rukes, Connor Shamblin, some other pitchers we’re really excited about. Jeremy left the one ball up and gave up a home run, but he’s been outstanding for us. We pitched it really, really well.”
Alabama scored one run each in the fourth and fifth. UAB tied the game at 1-1 with its lone run in the bottom of the inning; left fielder Colton Schultz reached on a hit by pitch and eventually scored on a single from designated hitter Ian Ladner.
Alabama had previously beat UAB 4-3 on March 5 in Tuscaloosa and swept the season series with Tuesday’s win. Alabama’s record in midweek games is now 10-1 on the season. The Crimson Tide also has a 10-1 record against in-state teams.
The win also gets Alabama out of a three-game losing streak it sustained over the weekend at Mississippi State before returning to SEC play this weekend.
“We needed to win,” Bohannon said. “It was a tough weekend. You can tell the kids how much you believe in them and how good they are until you’re blue in the face, but putting up numbers, whether you’re a pitcher or a hitter and winning does more for their psyche than anything I can say or do.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.