Jean bounces back after rough first inning as Alabama sweeps Northeastern


CW / Hannah Saad

Carey Reeder | @realCareyReeder, Staff Reporter

The Alabama baseball club got its first taste of trailing in a game this season after a quick start by Northeastern on Sunday. The Crimson Tide erased that deficit in just 1.1 innings, going on to post 12 hits and cruise to a 6-3 win over the Huskies and earn the series sweep.

Freshman starting pitcher Antoine Jean had a memorable first inning of college baseball. The Huskies (0-3) put two men on to start the game with a walk and single. An error was charged to Jean, the first for Alabama (3-0) during the series, when a throw to get the lead runner got away at third base and the Huskies put their first run of the series on the board.

“I was amped up, and [three runs] in the first isn’t what you want,” Jean said. “My team got it back though, and I got back into my game.”

A fielder’s choice and an RBI single added two more Northeastern runs to make it 3-0 after the top half of the first inning. Then the Alabama offense got it all back for the Canadian, Jean.

A leadoff double by senior third baseman Brett Auerbach and advancement to third on an error got the comeback started for the Crimson Tide. Sophomore outfielder T.J. Reeves’ RBI single plated Auerbach for the first run. The first of three RBIs by freshman outfielder Owen Diodati made it 3-2 after the first inning.

A towering ball from Auerbach in the second inning clears the right field wall by inches for a solo homer to complete the early game turnaround for Alabama.

“We settled down after Antoine almost lost his mind through the first inning,” coach Brad Bohannon said light-heartedly. “We have a mix of strong hitters throughout our lineup and that’s a strength of ours – that’s how you have a consistent offense.”

Jean sat down six straight Huskie batters in the second and third innings. The freshman finished his first career Alabama start with four hits, three runs (two earned) and two strikeouts on 62 pitches thrown.

In the top half of the fourth inning, Northeastern was deflated with a close call at first base.

With two runners on and two out, Huskies’ shortstop Spenser Smith hit a grounder to second base and seemed to beat out the throw with a head-first slide to plate the fourth Northeastern run, but he was ruled out at first. The call was reviewed, and despite the press box announcer declaring that the call would be overturned and the run would count, the ruling was upheld.

Northeastern earned one hit the remainder of the game.

A two-run home run to right field for Diodati in the third inning put Alabama ahead 5-3. The Niagara Falls, Ontario, native added a triple in the fifth inning and was a double short of the cycle. Senior shortstop Kolby Robinson plated Diodati after his triple for the final run of the game to make it 6-3.

In his fourth time at the plate the freshman was intentionally walked in his ninth college at bat. Diodati went 6 for 9 over the three-game series with three home runs, eight RBIs, a double, triple and six runs scored.

“I didn’t expect it. It was special but the key is to stay level – not too high or low,” Diodati said. “It won’t always be this great but I handle failure well – as a team we do.”

The Alabama pitching staff did everything but fail after the first inning. Sophomore Jacob McNairy relieved Jean in the fifth and threw four scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out four batters.

Sophomore Chase Lee closed the game for Alabama and looked “unhittable” on the mound, according to Bohannon, posting two hitless innings with four strikeouts to earn the save. Both sophomore pitchers managed their fastballs well and threw multiple pitches for strikes to blank the Huskies in the second half of the game.

“Throughout the weekend I think you can see now there isn’t much separation for us [on the pitching staff],” Bohannon said. “Those two guys were awesome today.”

Alabama outscored the Huskies 24-3 over the series, outhit them 36-13 and had an almost flawless three games in the field minus the sole error today.

Up next, Alabama begins a busy week, hosting Troy on Tuesday and Alabama State on Wednesday for its first midweek contests of the year. Then it goes on a cross-country trip to UNLV starting Friday.

“Everyone pitched great but all have something to work on. If you had told me a week ago the pitching would go the way it did this weekend, I would’ve been fired up,” Bohannon said. “I thought the quality of the at bats today were better than the first few days. Overall a really good opening weekend.”