Alabama shows power and resolve in Friday doubleheader sweep of UNLV


CW / Kelsey Mullins

Carey Reeder | @realCareyReeder, Staff Reporter

A challenge by coach Brad Bohannon to his Alabama (6-0) baseball club to have a more focused mindset seemed to resonate, as the Crimson Tide captured two wins in its Friday doubleheader over UNLV.

Redshirt sophomore Sam Praytor and freshman starting pitcher Connor Prielipp led Alabama to a comfortable 8-0 win in Game 1 while junior Jackson Tate’s ninth-inning home run sealed the 5-4 comeback win in Game 2 in Las Vegas.

Bohannon rolled the dice and started Tate, the Lawson State Community College transfer, in center field after sitting him for Game 1. Prior to his ninth-inning leadoff at bat, Tate was 0 for 3 on the night, reaching base once on a fielder’s choice in the second inning.

With the game tied 4-4, an opposite-field solo shot by the junior put Alabama ahead 5-4. Sophomore pitcher Chase Lee earned his second save of the season, coming on in the bottom half of the ninth to close for the Crimson Tide.

After rocking Game 1, Praytor impacted Game 2 early with a sacrifice fly in the first to score senior Brett Auerbach. Alabama added single runs in the second and third innings as well. Senior Kolby Robinson doubled to left field to score Tate in the second, followed by junior Tyler Gentry’s double that scored Auerbach the next inning.

Robinson went 2 for 4 to extend his hitting streak to five games, the longest on the Alabama club this season. The senior is hitting .389 with three RBIs and three doubles, which is tied for the team lead.

Gentry went 3 for 4, faring the best of any Crimson Tide hitter.

Game 2 starter Connor Shamblin was roughed up in his second outing of the season, going five innings and surrendering seven hits and four runs (three earned) while striking out four hitters on 83 pitches.

After one run in the first, UNLV responded again in the third inning with a bases-clearing single by Eric Bigani that scored two Rebels to tie the game at 3-3. UNLV left fielder Grant Robbins sent a double down the left-field line in the fourth inning to put the Rebels up 4-3 and end Shamblin’s day.

Praytor’s groundout in the eighth inning scored sophomore T.J. Reeves to tie the game and set up Tate’s game-winning home run.

In Game 1, Prielipp blanked the Rebels throwing five innings of no-hit baseball while striking out eight hitters and allowed just one baserunner with a walk in the fifth inning. The freshman has racked up 15 strikeouts in 9.0 innings through his first two starts.

If Praytor’s true return to the Alabama lineup from elbow surgery happened on Opening Day against Northeastern on Feb. 14, Friday was deemed his welcome-back party.

The sophomore launched his first home run of the season to left field over the scoreboard at Earl E. Wilson Stadium in the second inning to open the Alabama scoring at 1-0. In the sixth, Praytor hit his second solo shot of the game over the left-field fence. It’s the first multi-homer game for Praytor in his Alabama career and the second for the club this season (freshman Owen Diodati homered twice on opening day). Praytor finished the game perfect, going 3 for 3 with two dingers, two RBIs, a pair of runs scored and an intentional walk.

Reeves turned a routine single into a run in the third inning. After an error by UNLV in right field, Reeves stormed around the bases and scored just behind Auerbach to make it 3-0 Alabama.

Auerbach added a sacrifice fly to plate Robinson and, with Praytor’s second homer, added on to make it 5-0, Crimson Tide after six innings. Auerbach would add the third solo home run for Alabama in the game in the eighth inning. Sacrifice fly outs from Diodati and fellow freshman Zane Denton the same inning closed out the 8-0 win. Auerbach went 1 for 4 with two RBIs, two runs scored and his team-leading fourth stolen base of the season.

Saturday is an off day for the two clubs due to rain forcing the doubleheader on Friday. The series finale on Sunday will feature a pairing of true freshmen in Alabama’s Antoine Jean and the Rebels’ Josh Sherman. First pitch is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. CT.