Strong defense shuts down Northeastern for second straight game


CW / Hannah Saad

Carey Reeder | @realCareyReeder, Staff Reporter

While the power of the Alabama baseball team took center stage in Game 1 of its series against Northeastern, it was the Crimson Tide pitching staff and defense that shined in Game 2 on Saturday for an 8-0 win.

Sophomore starting pitcher Connor Shamblin was rattled a bit in the first inning, giving up a single and two hit batsmen within his first five pitches, but escaped unscathed. In the following four innings, Shamblin gave up two hits and one walk and struck out five batters on 57 pitches to earn the win.

“It’s about trusting my stuff knowing that it’s good enough to beat them,” Shamblin said. “I trusted the defense behind me, too. They helped me get into a rhythm throughout the whole game.”

The defense, which has given up four hits in each of the first two games, is clicking and making plays to back up the young pitching staff. Alabama converted 4-6-3 double play in the first inning, which helped Shamblin get out of that early jam, and a 1-6-3 double play in the third. Senior shortstop Kolby Robinson turned both of those plays and has been an anchor in the middle of the infield for the Crimson Tide through its first two games and is encouraging his pitchers to pitch for contact.

“We pound infield defense hard in practice and in the preseason,” Robinson said. “I trust our pitchers and we’ll make plays for them.”

Senior pitcher Casey Cobb relieved Shamblin in the sixth inning and posted two shutout innings with no baserunners and three strikeouts. Redshirt junior Garret Rukes and junior Brock Guffey each pitched one inning to close the game, giving up one hit combined.

The Crimson Tide offense did most of its scoring during the opening two innings. Senior Brett Auerbach, who moved to catcher for the game, laced a double to the right field wall on the first pitch of the game. Junior outfielder Tyler Gentry singled to drive in Auerbach and freshman infielder Zane Denton had a two-RBI double that gave the Crimson Tide a 3-0 lead after the opening inning.

Gentry added another RBI single in the bottom half of the second inning. Redshirt sophomore catcher Sam Praytor busted it down the first-base line to try and beat out a grounder to shallow left field. Praytor’s hustle forced the Huskies’ first baseman Corey DiLoreto to mishandle the throw, allowing sophomore outfielder T.J. Reeves to score to make it 5-0. It would be the first of two Northeastern errors that would lead directly to a Crimson Tide run.

Gentry went 3 for 4 with two runs scored. Praytor bounced back from stranding the bases loaded twice in Friday’s game with a 3-for-5 performance and one run scored. An RBI single by Praytor in the bottom of the eighth inning capped the scoring for the Crimson Tide.

“They’re just good ball players,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “It’s another day we have production throughout the lineup and those guys can really hit.”

Between the top half of the third inning and the bottom half of the seventh, the teams combined for four hits as the production slowed significantly.

In the seventh inning, Gentry earned his third hit and advanced to second base on an error by DiLoreto on a pickoff attempt. A walk by sophomore infielder Drew Williamson set up freshman outfielder Owen Diodati to send a two-RBI double to right field for his only hit in the game and bring the score to 7-0. Diodati has five RBIs through his first two career Alabama games.

Alabama will try to complete the series sweep of Northeastern on Sunday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium at 1 p.m.

“Really glad we’re putting up zeros,” Bohannon said. “It’s a sign of maturity. Overall for Game 2 I’m really pleased.”