Kolby Robinson didn’t have to force anything. Getting the ball in play would have been more than enough.
When Alabama baseball’s senior shortstop stepped into the batter’s box in the eighth inning, UA had just taken a 4-3 lead with no outs. The worst possible outcome — grounding into a double play — would still have been enough to bring in an insurance run and keep the inning alive.
That worst possible outcome looked as if it were coming to fruition, when Robinson’s chopper was collected by Harvard first baseman Logan Bravo. The three throws that followed scored two more UA runs, turning a thrilling come-from-behind win into Alabama’s eighth win of five runs or more.
Three errors in one play — on top of another one earlier in the eighth — preserved Alabama’s undefeated start in a 10-5 win. The Tide improving to 11-0 makes it tied for the second-best start in school history with the 1998 team; the 1997 team holds the record with 15 straight wins to start its season.
“I have no idea, it was crazy,” Robinson said. “I just put it in play with two strikes and was running. Every time I went to a bag, overthrew the next guy so I kept going, overthrew the next guy so I kept going, overthrew the guy at home so I just went.”
Putting the ball in play was enough to score Peyton Wilson from third; the first overthrow, from Bravo, gave pinch runner Jackson Tate room to move to third and Robinson to advance to second behind him. Harvard left fielder Ben Rounds misfired to third base trying to get Tate, an error that scored Tate and let Robinson round third. Harvard third baseman Will Jacobsen copied Rounds’ mistake, throwing errantly in an attempt to get Tate at home, a miss that allowed Robinson to score.
The play gave UA a four-run lead without an out recorded in the inning — a far cry from the danger of losing that hung over the Tide for most of the game.
UA could not solve Harvard starting pitcher Owen Holt, who held the Tide to four hits and three walks in five scoreless innings. Harvard’s three-run homer in the fifth from center fielder Tommy Seidl forced the Tide to chase the Crimson.
Alabama scratched a run across in both the sixth and the seventh, putting UA in a situation it is unfamiliar with by design: sacrifice bunting.
Designated hitter Sam Praytor led off the frame with a single, putting the Tide’s tying run on base with no outs. The poor defense that followed — two sacrifice bunts attempts that did not result in outs — was a sign of things to come.
“It’s not a huge part of our offense,” UA coach Brad Bohannon said of sacrifice bunting. “I’ve talked a lot about how we’re a physical team, I think we’re going to get a lot of extra-base hits. I’m not jacked about giving up outs for the other team, but obviously the game was kind of calling for it there, being tied so late. I thought our guys did a really good job of pressuring them and contributing to the mistakes they made.”
Not everything in the comeback was given. Bohannon took a risk on pinch-hitter Owen Diodati, down one with the bases loaded. A wild pitch ultimately tied the game, but Diodati gave UA the lead with a single, one at-bat before the chaos of Robinson’s three-error grounder.
“I was just sitting there thinking about what my mother-in-law was going to say about bringing in a left-handed batter to face a left-handed pitcher,” Bohannon said. “You know, you just don’t do everything by the book when you’re dealing with college kids.
“I told the team, ‘I looked up in the top of the sixth, we’re down 3-0 and we’ve actually played pretty well.’ Really proud of the resolve and the growth that our guys showed to come back.”
UA concludes the series with the Crimson (0-2) at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson