FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Eight runs after four innings provided Alabama baseball with enough insurance to hold off Arkansas late for the 8-6 victory over the Razorbacks on Friday evening. The win was Alabama's second opening night victory in as many weeks and improves the team's record to 28-21 overall and 13-12 in conference play.
"We received another great start from Geoffrey Bramblett," said Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard. "We did some good things on offense, particularly early in the game when some guys were able to leave the yard and stretch the lead. Arkansas did a good job of responding late to get back in the game, but (Thomas) Burrows was able to close it down. This was a good Friday night win for us."
Alabama jumped out to an early lead, scoring all eight of its runs through the first four frames. Arkansas put up single tallies in the first and the second, but the Razorbacks rallied for two in the seventh and two in the eighth before the Tide eventually stalled the scoring for the 8-6 win.
Crimson Tide starter Geoffrey Bramblett (5-3) picked up his fifth win of the season thanks to another quality start that spanned 6.0 innings of work. The junior allowed two earned runs on five hits and three walks while striking out three in the process. It was his second win in as many weeks and marked the first time since March 18 at LSU and March 25 against Tennessee in which he earned the win in back-to-back starts.
Thomas Burrows ensured the victory for Alabama, entering with one down and one on in the eighth to record the next two outs. Burrows walked one in the ninth, but the runner would get no further than first base as the junior picked up his 11th save of the season. His 11 saves this year ties his career-high mark, which he accomplished as a freshman in 2014.
Seven of the nine Crimson Tide bats recorded at least one hit, with freshman Cobie Vance recording a team-high two hits on the night. Vance notched his second home run of the season and added one RBI to go with his team-high three runs scored. Also homering was fellow freshman Chandler Taylor, with the right fielder recording his team-high tying seventh home run and adding a career-high four RBI on the night. Will Haynie recorded the Tide's third home run of the night, a solo shot, and finished with one RBI and a run scored. Haynie's homer was his sixth during SEC play, a total that leads the team.
The Crimson Tide struck first in Friday's game, putting up one run in the first thanks to Vance's solo home run. Arkansas answered back to even things with one of their own in the bottom of the frame, using a leadoff double, an interference call and then an infield groundout to bring the man around to make it 1-1 after one.
Arkansas took its first lead in the bottom of the second, using a one-out double and a single up the middle one out later to make it a 2-1 game. In the top half of the third, Alabama would regain its lead with a three-spot. Keith Holcombe drew a leadoff walk and Vance followed with his second hit of the day, a single, to put two on. After a sacrifice bunt put both runners in scoring position, a groundout to first from Taylor brought Holcombe in to even it at 2-2.
In the next at-bat, a wild pitch allowed Vance to come across and allowed Alabama to take the lead once again. The wild pitch was the first pitch Will Haynie saw before the junior took the second pitch of his at-bat deep to left-center for a solo home run, increasing the Tide's advantage to 4-2.
The Tide added four runs in the fourth, using a two-out rally to make it an 8-2 game. Holcombe began the sequence by beating out an infield grounder to short for a single. A four-pitch walk to Vance gave the Tide a pair of baserunners before Georgie Salem singled to center, plating one and putting runners on the corners. Taylor capped off the scoring in the next at-bat, sending a home run to the opposite field to clear the bases for three RBI.
Arkansas chipped away at the Alabama lead the rest of the night. The Razorbacks first scored two in the bottom of the seventh, both runs coming with two outs. A solo home run, then a single and a triple in back-to-back-to-back at-bats made it 8-4. In the eighth, Arkansas was able to add two more before Burrows entered to shut down the Hogs' offense for his 11th save of the season.
"You enjoy this win tonight, and tomorrow we have to get our focus back on what we have to do," Gaspard added. "We have an opportunity to win a series on the road tomorrow. There is a lot at stake in this weekend and moving forward, so our guys have to lock in and be ready to play baseball at a high level again tomorrow."
The two teams return to the diamond tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. CT. Alabama calls on sophomore right-hander Jake Walters while the Razorbacks counter with sophomore Keaton McKinney, also a righty. The game will air live on SECN+.