Saturday, February 14, 2004
» Box Score
TUSCALOOSA – Despite being shutout on three singles through the first seven innings, the University of New Orleans scratched out two runs in the top of the eighth inning en route to a 2-1 come-from-behind win over the University of Alabama in front of a paid crowd of 4,483 fans at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Designated hitter Chris Adams drew a one-out walk in the eighth inning to start the game-winning rally. After the walk, UA starter Wade LeBlanc was replaced by another freshman left-hander Brandon Belcher, who could not hold the lead in his Crimson Tide debut. Belcher (0-1) allowed one run and two hits in 1 2/3 innings. He also added two strikeouts.
After pinch-hitter Mike Nuckles grounded out to third base, UNO shortstop Nate Murray singled past a diving Rocky Scelfo at second base to score pinch-runner Josh Jones with the tying run from second base.
Center fielder Joe Pietro followed with an infield hit, his second base hit of the game, giving the Privateers hope of taking the lead. Belcher then unleashed a wild pitch, allowing both runners to advance. Mike Forbes then followed with a high-bounder to third baseman Allen Rice, who tagged out Pietro in a run down, but not before Murray crossed the plate with the go-ahead run.
UNO (2-2) managed only five singles in the game against Alabama, but came up with two runs in the eighth to win the game.
Alabama (1-1) had a chance to tie the game or perhaps even take the lead in the bottom of the inning, but could not score against relief pitcher Grant Birely, who tossed three shutout innings for the win. Birely (1-0) allowed three hits and added four strikeouts.
Rice led off the eighth inning with a single to left, but was thrown out on a delayed steal attempt at second base on the very next pitch. Senior designated hitter Carlos Sosa walked and freshman Michael McCallister followed with his first collegiate hit into left field.
Junior first baseman Zac Welch grounded out to first base moving both runners into scoring position, but Scelfo struck out to end the inning.
Alabama put the tying run in scoring position in the ninth inning, but junior shortstop Mark Haske, who struck out to end the game.
Both starters were dominating, but neither figured into the decision.
UNO right-hander and potential first-round draft pick Thomas Diamond allowed one unearned run and five hits in six innings on the mound. The junior from Kenner, La., added four walks and six strikeouts in his second start of the year.
LeBlanc was even more impressive in his Crimson Tide debut, allowing one run and three hits in 7 1/3 innings. The Lake Charles, La., native walked one and added 11 strikeouts in his first start at Alabama.
Alabama broke a scoreless tie with an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 1-0 lead.
After a leadoff walk to Welch, Alabama played small ball in attempt to score a run off Diamond. Scelfo reached as a pushed a bunt single past the pitcher. Welch advanced to third base on a throwing error by UNO third baseman Jay Yaconetti. Junior center fielder Matt Grooms followed with a safety squeeze bunt, scoring Welch with the unearned run from third base to give the Tide a 1-0 lead.
The Crimson Tide loaded the bases with no outs in the third inning against Diamond, but again failed to score as Evan Bush and Charlie Lyons both struck out before Haske flied out to end the inning.
UNO’s best chance to score off LeBlanc came in the sixth inning when Justin Guy led off with a single to left field. Nate Murray’s sacrifice bunt moved Guy into scoring position and then the Lake Charles, La., left-hander relied on his defense.
Scelfo made a diving stop on Joe Pietro’s ground ball for the second out of the inning, taking away a sure RBI single to right field. Mike Forbes then popped up to Scelfo to the end the inning and strand the tying run at third base.
The final game of the series is slated for 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon in Tuscaloosa. UNO right-hander Chris Bourgeois will pitch against Alabama junior right-hander Andrew Walker.