Alabama walks off No. 9 Florida, avoids sweep

The Alabama baseball team storms the field after defeating the No. 9 Florida Gators 8-7 on March 20, at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

CW / Morgan Gray

The Alabama baseball team storms the field after defeating the No. 9 Florida Gators 8-7 on March 20, at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

Austin Hannon, Staff Reporter

After seven innings at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, the Alabama Crimson Tide led the ninth-ranked Florida Gators 5-4. The Gators took control in the eighth on a two-run homer by center fielder Jud Fabian. 

But the Crimson Tide weren’t finished, crawling back in the ninth. 

After loading the bases, third baseman Zane Denton stepped up to the plate as four Gator infielders shifted in. Denton ripped the ball through the stacked Florida infield, sealing a walk-off 8-7 win.

“My plan was to get the ball in the air in the outfield deep enough to score a run,” Denton said. “That didn’t happen, but luckily it found a hole and worked out. I was confident that I could get the job done.”

Denton, who made an error earlier in the game, told relief pitcher Jacob McNairy that he would make up for his mistake. 

“That’s just how our team works,” Denton said. “We never had a doubt. No matter how many runs we’re down, we think we can win any game.”

A loss on Sunday would have meant a sweep on Alabama’s home field to start conference play, but the Crimson Tide prevailed. The win moves Alabama to 1-2 in the early going of conference play.

“SEC wins are hard to come by,” Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon said. “An overall great win for our team today on so many levels. It’s kind of ironic, but it happened on a day where we made a lot of mistakes. We certainly weren’t perfect. Coaches preach to not play to the scoreboard, and I think our kids did a really good job of that this weekend.”

There were plenty of mistakes for both teams. The game saw a total of six errors, including four by the Crimson Tide.

Denton and left fielder Owen Diodati both homered. The two combined for five of Alabama’s 10 hits. Denton now has seven home runs on the season, which ties him for third in the SEC.

Left-hander Grayson Hitt threw 67 pitches in five innings, allowing six hits and three runs, but the bullpen had its struggles. Dylan Ray threw two solid innings but surrendered the go-ahead deep shot in the eighth. McNairy allowed another run to cross in the same inning.

Florida’s offense was clicking again, mostly because of the enormous series from left fielder Wyatt Langford. Langford finished the series 7-for-14 with three home runs and six RBIs.

Gators starting pitcher Timmy Manning pitched just 1.1 innings. He walked almost as many batters as he retired. 

Alabama’s first hit came in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Diodati sent a ball over the right field wall.

After grabbing a game in the home opener series, Alabama will head to Starkville, Mississippi, to take on the defending national champions next weekend. Mississippi State is sitting at 12-9 on the young season.

Before that, the Crimson Tide has a midweek contest in Birmingham, taking on the UAB Blazers on Tuesday, March 22. First pitch from Regions Field is at 6 p.m. CT.