Baseball holds on in emotional win over No. 3 Arkansas to advance again in SEC Tournament


Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama third baseman Zane Denton (44) smiles after sliding into home plate in the Crimson Tide’s 4-3 victory over the (3) Arkansas Razorbacks on May 25 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

Austin Hannon | @austin_hannon1, Sports Editor

After the final out in the Alabama Crimson Tide’s 4-3 victory over the third-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks, the away dugout erupted. 

It felt like potentially the most important and most emotional win since head coach Brad Bohannon’s tenure began five years ago. 

For the second day in a row, the tournament schedule has been chaotic. Games have been delayed, postponed and played until after midnight. The one constant through the confusion has been Alabama’s effort to earn a second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. 

From the moment the Crimson Tide stepped foot in Hoover, the energy has been obvious. The players want to keep playing, and they will get that wish if they continue the results on the field. 

Although it has been and will continue to be labeled the road team this week, Alabama doesn’t feel like it’s on the road. The Crimson Tide are surrounded by all their fans and have had a lot of success at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in the past. 

This place is awesome,” Alabama first baseman Drew Williamson said. “I can’t tell you enough how much I love to play here, man. It’s just the environment, the field, the fans, everything about it. It’s so much fun. Being able to lock in the first day and be able to guarantee two more days was awesome. And coming out here and winning the second one and putting yourself in good position was even better.” 

The Crimson Tide play a gritty style of baseball. Alabama ranks 11th in the SEC in home runs, but when at their best, they will take anything you give them. The Crimson Tide scored four runs on just four hits. To make it even tougher, Alabama went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. 

In back-to-back days, a Crimson Tide baserunner has scored from third base on a foul out. 

“I don’t think we’re the team that can just sit up there and hit home runs all day long, so we kind of have to find a way to score runs when we can, move guys in run, steal,” Williamson said. “I’m not the best at that, but I do what I can, and at the end of the day it worked out today.” 

“You know, we’ve really done more of that out of necessity than what I think our personnel is,” Bohannon said. “I really thought going into the season that we would get more extra-base hits and we would be more of an offense that just strung hits together. We got in the middle of the season and that just wasn’t working. We spent a lot of time on that stuff, the short game and baserunning, and really glad that we’re doing that well right now.” 

Trailing 4-1 after five innings, the Razorbacks fought back. Right fielder Chris Lanzilli hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth to cut the deficit to 1. 

With its NCAA Tournament dreams hanging in the balance, Alabama turned to LHP Antoine Jean out of the bullpen to throw a few crucial innings. Jean began the season as a weekend starter, but after some injuries and inconsistent play, he found himself on the bench. 

When he was called upon Wednesday, he answered the bell, throwing two full innings allowing just one hit. He struck out three. 

“It felt really good,” Jean said. “I was waiting to hear my name, and once they told me to go, it was time to go. The stadium got loud I knew it was a big situation. Usually that’s what brings my game up. But it just felt great to be out there and I had a lot of fun tonight for sure.” 

It’s been quite the up-and-down season for the Crimson Tide. There have been plenty of highs, as well as crushing lows. Alabama is 6-12 in one-run games this season. After the threat of missing the SEC Tournament was staring the team in the face just a fleeting time ago, the Crimson Tide is now on the cusp of another trip to regionals. 

“It’s been a tough year, I don’t shy away from that, especially the three weeks going into last weekend,” Bohannon said. “We were in a very good position when we got to the middle of league play, and we had four weeks where we just didn’t play as well as we could or should or things didn’t go our way or whatever. We’ve been in an unbelievable amount of one-run games and have come out on the wrong side of more of those than we’ve won. Now maybe it’s paying off a little bit that we’ve been in so many tight games.” 

With all the unknowns currently surrounding the SEC Tournament, one thing is for sure. The Alabama Crimson Tide is the first team to stamp its name into the winner’s bracket. 

With all the scheduling mayhem, Alabama now has a day off. 

The Crimson Tide will play either the second-seeded Texas A&M Aggies or the seventh-seeded Florida Gators sometime on Friday. That is unless something changes. There’s a good chance it does.