Alabama baseball team completes second sweep of the season

Kevin Connell

Add a series sweep over a top-10 team to Alabama baseball’s growing list of accomplishments this season.

For the third straight game on Sunday, the Crimson Tide fell behind and came back against No. 9 Ole Miss to cap off the perfect weekend with a 3-1 win over the Rebels at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

It was also Alabama’s first sweep of Ole Miss since 2006, and its second overall this season.

“We talked before the weekend that it’s time for this team to make a statement, and I thought we did that this weekend,” Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. “Now, it’s time to carry beyond and keep going. These types of wins, these series, really is what gains that confidence to get to the team they want to be.”

Alabama (19-8, 6-3 Southeastern Conference) scored all three of its runs in the fourth inning to take a 3-1 lead over the Rebels (21-8, 4-5 SEC) after falling behind 1-0 in the second.

Sophomore shortstop Mikey White led off the inning with a solo home run that just made it over the glove of Ole Miss left fielder Braxton Lee’s outstretched arm at the wall. Junior catcher Wade Wass singled home a run and senior first baseman Austen Smith had an RBI fielder’s choice to finish off the scoring for the Crimson Tide in the inning.

It was a similar script in the first two games of the series, as well.

In Game 1 on Friday night, Alabama trailed 2-0 after a two-run Ole Miss home run in the first inning, took a 5-2 lead behind two homers of its own after the second, allowed the Rebels to tie it up at 6-6 two innings later and held on to win, 7-6, after an RBI groundout in the sixth.

On Saturday, the Crimson Tide continued a season-long trend of late-game dramatics with its fourth walk-off hit in five home series this season on freshman left fielder Hunter Webb’s RBI single to left field in the 10th inning in a 6-5 win. Alabama rallied from deficits of 4-2 after the seventh and 5-4 in the 10th in the victory.

“The ball carries a little more when it starts to heat up [outside], so you’re starting to see over the last nine, 10 games the ball starting to leave the yard a little bit more for us,” Gaspard said. “And really with our offense the home run needs to be a part of the offense. We’re a pretty physical group that can hit doubles and some homers, and that’s a quick score when you can do that. That’s really what our offense is based on, so we have to continue to do that.”

Junior left-hander Jon Keller (5-1, 1.50 ERA) picked up the win for Alabama behind the first complete-game performance of his career and the first by any Crimson Tide pitcher since last March. It was the first time in his career that Keller has ever gone past seven innings pitched.

But even as his pitch count rose as he progressed deeper into the game, Keller wasn’t looking to be pulled in the decisive ninth inning.

“I told [pitching coach Dax Norris] there’s no way,” said Keller, who struck out eight and allowed three walks and one earned run on a career-high 116 pitches. “I got to finish it now. You’ve come all this way, what’s 10, 12 more pitches?”

Alabama has a midweek date against Louisiana-Monroe at home Tuesday, before it takes to the road to face Texas A&M for a three-game set next weekend.