Baseball swept in consecutive series by top-10 teams


CW/ Joe Will Field

Cody Estremera, Sports Editor

In its second-straight matchup against teams ranked in the top 10 of the NCAA rankings, Alabama baseball was swept by Vanderbilt.

The hardest player for the Crimson Tide to stop was JJ Bleday, who went 5-for-14 with four home runs and six RBIs.

“A really talented young man,” coach Brad Bohannon said of Bleday. “He’s pretty special. He’ll be a high draft pick and he’s going to play baseball for a long time. … He should not be swinging a metal bat in a small ball park.”

Game one

The Commodores were propelled to a 7-4 victory from a three-run fifth inning.

After tying the game at two in the top in the fourth, Vanderbilt captured the lead in the top of the fifth and kept it for the rest of the series.

The frame started with a double by Ty Duvall. He scored two batters later when Austin Martin singled to center. A double scored Martin, while a single brought in the third and final run of the inning.

Alabama battled back, adding two in the bottom of the inning when Morgan McCullough sent a double down the right-field line.

The Commodores added a run in the sixth off an infield single and one in the ninth when Ethan Paul sent a solo home run to left field.

As it has for most of the year, Alabama’s pitching struggled to retire left-handed hitters. Of the 14 hits it allowed, 10 were from the five left-handed hitters.

“You have to have some left-handed breaking balls to offset those guys and/or some right-handed changeups,” Bohannon said. “I thought the guys that pitched tonight competed well and did a pretty good job. That’s just a tough matchup for us.”

Game two

Vanderbilt continued its offensive production from game one, as it hit five home runs in the 13-4 win.

The Commodores hit the first long ball in the second inning. On a full count and two runners on, Pat DeMarco drilled a pitch from Brock Love to dead-center field putting Vanderbilt up three. In the next inning, Bleday sent an 0-2 pitch into his team’s bullpen, putting the Commodores up five before the bottom of the third.

Alabama scored four consecutive runs. Only one of the four runs scored from a ball being hit to the outfield, as two came from slow-infield dribblers, and one came from a wild pitch. The other run was a sacrifice fly to center.

The Commodores scored three more runs in the seventh, two scored from a two-run home run by Duval. They scored four runs in the ninth, scored by two different two-run home runs.

Love lasted four innings, allowing six runs (five earned) off six hits. He also struck out six.

“I thought Brock [Love] pitched a lot better than his stat line tonight,” Bohannon said. “The park was playing really offensive tonight. The wind was blowing out, and Brock is a guy that gives up more fly balls than ground balls. … I was not disappointed in Brock’s outing.”

Game three

The series finale was much calmer than the first two games, as the Commodores won 2-0.

Jeremy Randolph started for the Crimson Tide and was solid in his 2 2/3 innings of work. He allowed one run off three hits. The run was Bleday’s 20th of the year, which is tied for the NCAA lead.

The only other run to cross the plate was later in the third. Bohannon replaced Randolph with Casey Cobb, who allowed a double and a single to plate the last run.

After the third inning, Alabama’s bullpen was on cruise control, allowing just three hits for the remaining five innings. It also struck out 14 batters, seven of which were by junior Deacon Medders. Only three of the 11 batters he faced reached base.

“Today I had a really good fastball that I was able to locate on both sides of the plate,” Medders said. “I used a couple pitches, changeup and slider, that I haven’t used much this year, and they were all there today.”

Alabama’s offense was kept in control by Vanderbilt starter Patrick Raby. The senior struck out eight across his six innings of work. He allowed four walks and two hits.

Alabama’s biggest chance to avoid the shutout was in the bottom of the seventh inning. It led off the inning with a walk followed by a strikeout and hit by pitch. The next two batters fell into 0-2 counts and were retired.

“We’re scuffling offensively right now, there’s no secret,” Bohannon said. “It’s tough to beat a top-five opponent when you only get [15] hits, and three of them don’t even leave the infield. … We’re just in a rough spot offensively right now.”