Power throughout lineup propels baseball to 8-0


CW / Hannah Saad

Carey Reeder | @realCareyReeder, Staff Reporter

UT-Martin (4-4) outhit Alabama (8-0) on Tuesday, but eight of the nine Crimson Tide starters earned a hit and, combined with another solid outing by its bullpen, captured the 10-5 win.

The Skyhawks roughed up starting Alabama pitcher sophomore Dylan Smith for four runs on seven hits in 2.1 innings pitched. It is the most runs given up by a single Crimson Tide pitcher this season. The Alabama bullpen entered Tuesday coming off 13.0 combined scoreless innings over the weekend against UNLV and it shined again after Smith’s exit.

Junior Garret Rukes relieved Smith with two runners in scoring position and one out in the third inning. Rukes allowed one run across, which was charged to Smith, but blanked UT-Martin in the rest of his 3.2 innings of work for one hit, one walk and a career-high six strikeouts.

“That’s what we prepare for mentally. In the preseason [the coaches] will throw us into tough situations like that,” Rukes said. “It helps you slow it down when you get out there.”

Senior Brett Auerbach got Alabama on the board first, scoring off of junior Tyler Gentry’s sacrifice fly to center field in the first inning. Gentry had the most unique day for an Alabama hitter, going a perfect 1 for 1 with two walks, a hit-by-pitch and a sac fly. Auerbach went 2 for 3 with two walks and a stolen base. Alabama earned six walks in the game.

The Skyhawks responded with a run in the top half of the second inning. The bottom half featured senior Kolby Robinson extending his hitting streak to seven games with a two-run double. Freshman Owen Diodati was moved to No. 2 in the lineup for Tuesday’s game and he showed why in the second inning. The Canadian put a two-run home run, his first homer since Feb. 16, into the UT-Martin bullpen to make it 5-1 in favor of Alabama.

“That’s a strength of our club: We have some strength to our lineup,” Alabama coach Brad Bohannon said. “They helped us and gave us some baserunners, and to our credit we took advantage of it and made it hurt.”

The top half of the third inning is where the Skyhawks did their most damage on Smith, beginning with a leadoff homer from designated hitter Christian Hall. After a meeting on the mound with Alabama pitching coach Jason Jackson while two runners were on base, Smith gave up a double, which scored another run and ended his day.

Rukes got Alabama out of the inning, retaining the lead 5-4. He, junior Brock Guffey and senior Dylan Oliver allowing one more run the remainder of the game; a solo shot by Skyhawks’ center fielder Sean Dixson in the sixth inning.

The lone Crimson Tide player to not earn a hit was sophomore T.J. Reeves, who reached first on a walk and an error that scored two runs in the fourth inning. Reeves went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and a run scored. The sophomore is batting .167 this year with 12 strikeouts but has earned seven walks and an on-base percentage of .342.

“We got a lot of baseball left – I think we’re talking about T.J. because he is a good player and we have high expectations for him,” Bohannon said. “If he’s worried about it, he’s the only one.”

Sophomore Sam Praytor and freshman Zane Denton, who started at first base for the first time this season, each recorded two hits. Denton added two RBIs. Freshman Myles Austin got his first start in center field on Tuesday and went 1 for 4 with a double and a run scored. Eight of the nine Crimson Tide starters scored a run to match a solid performance from the bullpen.

Alabama will host Middle Tennessee State on Wednesday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Senior William Freeman will start for Alabama.

“We’ve pitched really well out of the bullpen to this point this year,” Bohannon said. “If we continue to do that we’ll continue to win our share of games, good win for us.”