White’s home run claims series


Kevin Connell

Another series, another walk-off win for the Alabama baseball team.

For the third time in four weekend home series, Alabama clinched a three-game set with a walk-off winner, this time off a two-run home run from sophomore shortstop Mikey White. The homer led to a 5-3 victory in the second game of a doubleheader against No. 20 Kentucky on Saturday.

“It’s big,” Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. “These are the ones that, momentum-wise, that can really carry you for a while.”

(See also “Alabama baseball team continues making history in shutout win over No. 20 Kentucky“)

The Crimson Tide (12-6, 2-1 SEC) struggled to string hits together Saturday in a 7-2 loss in the first game of the doubleheader against the Wildcats (14-6, 1-2 SEC), but found life in the final at bats in the second game.

First, in the bottom of the ninth inning, trailing 3-1 with two outs, senior first baseman Austen Smith hit a two-run home run over the left field wall on the first pitch he saw to send the game to extra innings. Then, in the bottom of the 10th, White duplicated what Smith had already done with a two-run, first-pitch blast of his own to left field to lift Alabama to the series win on the opening weekend of SEC play.

White said he knew exactly what he was going up against in Kentucky pitcher Spencer Jack after facing the junior right-hander in the first game earlier in the day.

“I knew that he threw a lot of fastballs, so I was trying to get a fastball and put a good swing on it and maybe drop something in the gap, so that [Daniel Cucjen] could get around and score from first,” White said.

Instead, White came up with his first career walk-off home run at any level on the only pitch Jack threw.

“I would be just fine winning a couple games 8-2 and going through it, but hey, whatever you got to do to find a way to win,” Gaspard said.

(See also “Alabama baseball claims series vs. Saint Louis“)

For the majority of both games, the Wildcats were in control.

“Honestly, we were outplayed today probably 17 innings,” Gaspard said. “We didn’t do a good job coming out, responding from a big win last night. But really, at the end of the day, the way this game finished, it’s about competing. I think our guys had a will about them today and just found a way to get it done.”

In the top of the fifth inning, Kentucky’s A.J. Reed, who leads the nation in home runs, hit his ninth home run of the season with a three-run shot over the right field wall to put the Wildcats up 3-1.

In the first game, Kentucky did most of its damage with a pair of two-run home runs – including the first by an opponent into the new right field section at Sewell-Thomas Stadium – in the top of the first inning to take an early 4-0 lead.

Alabama’s best chance at a rally in that game came trailing 7-2 in the eighth inning when the Crimson Tide loaded the bases with two outs but was unable to get anything out of it.

Saturday’s results came one day after a 3-0 Alabama win in the series opener Friday night when the Crimson Tide held Kentucky’s top-ranked offense in check with a number of key defensive plays, including the program’s first triple play in 15 years.

(See also “UA baseball team sees expectations rise for 2014 season“)