TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - A six-run fifth inning proved the difference in the rubber match, as Alabama baseball finished off eighth-ranked Ole Miss, 7-2, on Sunday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd of 6,354 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The series win was the Crimson Tide's sixth of the season and improves the team's overall record to 22-14 and 8-7 in conference play.
"Winning a series always starts on the mound," said Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard. "We got three quality starts this weekend, and I thought the team did a really nice job responding after getting beat on Friday night. Nick (Eicholtz) was able to go out and give us another really good start from the mound. We missed a few opportunities early that I thought we could have scored a couple more, but the offense came through there in the fifth inning with the six-run inning. It was a big series for us."
Alabama was able to clinch the series thanks to another standout performance from its starter. Nick Eicholtz (3-1) earned his third win of the season thanks to 6.0 innings of one-run baseball. He allowed six hits and walked two while striking out three across a season-high 97 pitches. Eicholtz was followed by freshman Dylan Duarte, with the lefty working 3.0 innings and allowing one run on three hits with three strikeouts for his second save of the year.
The Tide bats excelled on Sunday, with every member of the starting lineup reaching base at least once. The effort at the plate was led by Cobie Vance, who finished 3-for-5 with a run scored. Connor Short and Chandler Avant each recorded two hits, with Avant adding a double and a team-high tying two RBI and one run scored.
Sunday's finale saw UA strike first, taking a 1-0 lead in the second. A pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases, and then a fielder's choice groundout from Hunter Webb brought across the game's first run. Ole Miss countered with one of its own in the top of the fifth, also on a loaded bases situation, using a sacrifice fly to center to put things even at 1-1.
Alabama regained the lead in a big way, putting up six runs and batting around in the bottom of the fifth to put the game out of reach. Webb began the rally with a single and was followed by Vance, who recorded a single of his own. Avant followed with a double off the top of the wall in left to score both and force an Ole Miss pitching change. The new pitcher tossed a wild pitch to move Avant to second before walking the batter, leading to another change on the mound.
Cody Henry greeted the new arm with a double down the left field line to score one and move a man to third. With two in scoring position, Chance Vincent doubled, clearing the bases and extending the Crimson Tide's lead. Georgie Salem reached on a fielder's choice that cut down Vincent at third, and then a failed pickoff attempt moved Salem into scoring position. Short rounded out the rally, sending a single to left to score Salem and make it a 7-1 game.
Ole Miss added one run in the ninth, leading off with a double and then using a two-out, two-bagger to score its final run. Duarte finished off the Rebels with a strikeout swinging to end the game in Alabama's favor.
"Obviously, you're at the halfway point," Gaspard said of his team. "We've really established ourselves on the mound now. I think at this point, we've got a chance to really be good and pitch it good throughout the rest of the season. We've got a confident group down there. We've just got to continue to improve on the offensive end and continue to take those steps, and we can fight through this thing for the back half of the season."
Next up for Alabama is a pair of midweek contests against in-state foes. The Crimson Tide will first square off with Troy on Tuesday, April 19, before hosting South Alabama the very next day. Both games are scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. CT start on SECN+.