Power is one of Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon’s favorite selling points for his team. He has repeated his prediction of 60 to 70 home runs by season’s end, as recently as after UA’s Wednesday game.
Yet, UA doesn’t need home runs to generate runs in bunches.
Without a single home run, UA generated a seven-run third inning and a four-run seventh to beat Harvard 15-3 on Friday.
“I think it goes to show all the talent we have, up and down the lineup. It’s awesome,” senior shortstop Kolby Robinson said. “You have confidence, one through nine, that the guy that’s in the box can get a hit. Tonight showed that.”
The two frames on Harvard (0-1) were the seventh and eighth time this season UA has scored four or more runs in an inning; in most of them were earned, not given. Those eight innings featured just eight walks; the lone error in those innings was the one Harvard committed in the seventh. UA’s seven-run third on Friday was a product of six hits, a walk and a hit batsman, and the four-run seventh featured three more hits. UA finished with 19 hits on Friday.
In the third inning, UA strung five of those hits together in six at-bats: a Tyler Gentry RBI single, a Sam Praytor single, a Drew Williamson two-run single and T.J. Reeves taking a pitch on his hand before Peyton Wilson’s two-run single and Robinson’s one-run single. It was after Robinson’s single that Harvard relieved starter Kieran Shaw (0-1).
An error started UA’s scoring in the seventh, but the next run came on one of designated hitter Owen Diodati’s five walks, tying the school single-game record set by Joe Breaux on Feb. 23, 2018 against Washington State. Jackson Tate, who entered the game in the fifth as a pinch-hitter, followed with a two-run double.
All told, UA hit .406 with runners on base (13-for-32) and .385 with runners in scoring position (10-for-26). The result: UA’s 10-0 record is its best start since 2002.
“We try to be aggressive,” Robinson said. “(Assistant) Coach (Jerry) Zulli pounds us, does a great job of giving us the right mentality of trying to drive in runs.”
Auerbach, Wilson and Robinson all finished with three hits each. Williamson drove in three runs, his first three RBI of the season.
It all was more than enough support for freshman pitcher Connor Prielipp (3-0), who struck out nine while allowing two hits and a walk in six innings.
The first hit allowed, a ground rule double in the third inning, broke a streak of 9 1/3 hitless innings, spanning 34 consecutive batters faced. Prielipp retired eight of the first nine Crimson batters he faced, allowing only a walk, after five hitless innings against UNLV in his previous start. Prielipp has yet to allow a run in three collegiate starts, spanning 15 innings with three hits and six walks allowed for a 0.600 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched).
Prielipp’s most recent start was a significant step forward for him in one aspect: pitch count. His first two starts spanned 68 and 64 pitches, but throwing 78 pitches — 56 of them for strikes — continued his maturation process.
“When you have a freshman, I’m really concerned that he’s sharp in May, so that’s why we’re taking it slower with him and Antoine (Jean) and maybe some of the other guys,” Bohannon said. “His stuff hasn’t dropped off as we’ve extended him gradually, his velocity and his command in the fifth and sixth inning has been good. Hopefully that’ll continue to be the trend.”
That strong sixth inning — the first time Prielipp has pitched that late in a UA game — was a three up, three down inning. Prielipp earned first-pitch strikes on the first two batters and got ahead 1-2 on the third. He struck out the final two batters he faced.
“He’s got a great fastball, a great slider and a developing changeup,” Bohannon said.
UA continues the series 2 p.m. Saturday, with sophomore right-hander Connor Shamblin projected to start against Harvard’s sophomore righty Owen Holt.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson