Dylan Smith saves the season and the bullpen as Alabama baseball keeps fighting
Dylan Smith stepped onto the mound Saturday with the season on the line and nine innings in mind.
Alabama baseball’s ace delivered his first complete game, with seven strikeouts and no walks, in the biggest game of the season. A loss would have ended UA's season. The victory extended it.
“I’m not sure why I needed to come in here,” quipped coach Brad Bohannon as he sat down for his postgame press conference. “(Smith]) is the story of the game.”
After struggling to create offense early, a William Hamiter home run gave Alabama the lead in the bottom of the seventh.
After laboring through a long and frustrating season, Smith has arrived at a moment which deserves pause.
After starting 1-8 in 15 starts with a 4.13 ERA and little run support, he finds himself undefeated in the NCAA Tournament with a career-high 116 pitches and a 1.00 ERA.
For Smith, this is nothing out of the ordinary. He has done what he can to help the team all season, even when the offense did not back him up.
“My job is to go out there and pitch as long as I can and give my team a chance to win,” said Smith.
His 5.65 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 1.21 WHIP have caught the eye of MLB scouts and made him an intriguing draft prospect.
While his pitching in this game will surely steal the headlines, Alabama’s future success will inevitably be linked to him as well.
After getting out of Friday’s 8-1 loss to North Carolina State with just three pitchers used, Alabama is able to attack the loser from Ruston’s winners bracket with a full bullpen on Sunday.
“I feel like we’ve got several good options,” said Bohannon, who confirmed converted reliever Jacob McNairy will start the first game.
An extra day of rest for high-leverage relievers Landon Green and Chase Lee could prove critical to pitching coach Jason Jackson’s plan in a potential stay-alive doubleheader.
Will Freeman and Brock Guffey will also be available on one day of rest.
“We’ve got a tall task, trying to win three games in the next two days,” said Bohannon. “The message to the kids will be let’s just play as hard as we can and try to win that first inning of the first game.”