Feb. 23, 2013
Boca Raton, Fla. – Alabama used a three-run first inning en route to a 4-2 win over Florida Atlantic from the FAU Baseball Stadium on Saturday afternoon to win the first two games of the three-game series. The Crimson Tide is now 6-0 to open the season, while FAU falls to 3-3 after dropping three straight games.
“This was another good win and a good effort with good energy by our team,” Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said. “We got off to a good start in the first. We had some really good at-bats from the top half of the lineup and we delivered a couple big hits to get the lead to three and I thought the run in the fourth was big. Keller pitched well, giving us our longest outing of the year at six innings and Castillo came in and did a nice job by attacking the strike zone.
Florida Atlantic made the game interesting in the ninth as the Owls had the tying run on first base with now outs after a single, a walk and another single loaded the bases off reliever Ray Castillo. Gaspard stuck with the freshmen , who got a pair of fly outs, one a sac fly for FAU’s second run of the game with no outs, and a strikeout to end the game to earn his first career save.
“We really wanted to stay with Ray in the ninth and not have to use another guy,” Gaspard said. “But for his development and growth, we trust him. We felt like he was going to shove it in there, and with the way the game was going, if they made contact we could make a play and get out of it. It was the first time for him to be in a hairy spot and he passed the test.”
UA starting pitcher Jon Keller (2-0) got the win after throwing six innings, allowing one unearned run on four hits with three walks and five strikeouts. Florida Atlantic starter, Jake Meiers (1-1) took the loss after throwing five innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts. Castillo threw the final three innings, allowing one run on four hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
Offensively, Alabama collected nine total hits, as Georgie Salem paced the Tide with three hits, going 3-for-4 and is now 6-for-9 in the series. Salem also had an RBI, a walk and scored a run. “Georgie is a really talented player and is locked in right now and is making quality swings at the plate,” Gaspard said. “He is taking some pitching and having some real quality at-bats. He’s setting the table for us and it’s really helping the offense.”
Brett Booth was 1-for-4 with two RBI, Kenny Roberts was 1-for-1 with an RBI, Ryan Blanchard was 1-for-4 with a run scored and Austen Smith was 2-for-3.
Alabama jumped on FAU starter Jake Meiers, scoring three times in the opening inning. The Tide got its first run on a ground ball by Roberts to score Salem, then a two-run single by Booth scored Mikey White and Ben Moore, who singled and walked earlier in the inning.
Florida Atlantic got on the scoreboard in the third inning when they scored an unearned run off Keller. Keller limited the damage in the inning thanks to a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning with two runners on. The Alabama defense turned double plays behind Keller to end threats in the third and sixth innings. The Tide has turned six double plays in the two games of the series, bring the season total to 11.
“We played well defensively, turning a couple double plays at key times. Overall this was another quality win and a quality effort from our team in general. This team continues to play free-and-easy and attacking baseball and are getting paid back for their efforts,” Gaspard said.
Alabama answered in the top of the fourth when Salem’s two-out RBI single to center field scored Blanchard, making the score 4-1 in favor of the Tide. Blanchard singled with two outs then moved up to second on a wild pitch. “I thought the run in the fourth was a big run,” Gaspard said. “After Blanchard singles and moved to second on the dirt ball, Salem picks him up to stretch the lead back to three at 4-1.”
FAU threatened in the seventh as well. After two were out a pair of singles put runners on first and second, before a ground ball to third ended the innings.
Alabama and Florida Atlantic will complete the series on Sunday, with first pitch scheduled for 12 p.m. CT, from the FAU Baseball Stadium. Alabama is scheduled to start sophomore right-hander Spencer Turnbull (0-0, 2.45) and the Owls will counter with junior righty Jeremy Strawn (0-0, 3.00).
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