Roberts, Smith push UA to 9-1 victory with home runs

Kevin Connell

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Third baseman Kenny Roberts and first baseman Austen Smith hit a pair of three-run home runs in the sixth inning to take a commanding 6-1 lead for the Crimson Tide en route to a 9-1 victory Tuesday night against the Southeastern Louisiana Lions at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. It was the first time since June 6, 2010, – 141 games ago – that the Tide hit two home runs in the same inning in a game.

Roberts said his home run, his first of the season, was the biggest of his Tide career.

“It was pretty big, and to be honest, I kind of felt it,” Roberts said. “I needed to step up at the moment, and I did. I put a good swing on it.”

Alabama (19-11, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) is now 6-3 in midweek games this season, sitting in second place in the SEC standings behind LSU and Vanderbilt.

The home runs came at a perfect time for the Tide, who improved its record to 17-0 when leading after six innings. Alabama is now 9-2 in its last 11 games played.

Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard described the result as a good win ahead of a three-game series beginning Thursday night against the No. 13 Arkansas Razorbacks.

“We talked about it before the game, we wanted to keep the momentum going, obviously, with Arkansas coming in,” Gaspard said. “I thought it was a quality win against a team that has a top 50 RPI in Southeastern. They’re in position to win the Southland Conference, so good opponent and good win tonight.”

Freshman reliever Mike Oczypok (1-0) picked up the win after allowing two hits and one run in one inning of work in the sixth. Although he failed to pick up the run support, redshirt junior starter Tucker Hawley had another quality start, throwing two strikeouts with no runs while allowing just two walks and five hits in five innings.

“Tucker gave us a good start, and the bullpen all came in and did a nice job,” Gaspard said. “I had some guys we wanted to get some work in tonight. Those guys all did a pretty solid job.”

“Pitching’s been carrying us,” Austen Smith added. “They’ve shown up every game, and that’s all you can ask for.”

After a slow start from both teams through five innings, the Lions took the first lead of the game in the top of the sixth inning at 1-0 after a single from freshman first baseman Jameson Fisher scored junior designated hitter Aaron Haag from second.

Southeastern Louisiana (21-9, 6-0 Southland Conference) outhit Alabama 11 to 8 in the loss.

Senior left fielder Andrew Miller and freshman center fielder Georgie Salem hit back-to-back RBI singles in the seventh inning to push the Tide’s lead to 8-1. Miller later scored from third in the inning after Roberts grounded out into a double play to make it a 9-1 game.

Freshman closer Ray Castillo struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth to raise his season total to 27, all of which have come in relief.

The Tide is as confident as ever when it hosts the Razorbacks in its toughest series of the season to date.

“The way we’ve been playing lately, we’ll compete well, and it’ll be a great series,” Roberts said.