TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama baseball team got another solid pitching performance and used a five-run second inning to post a 6-1 win over Kent State to complete the three-game sweep at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on a chilly Sunday afternoon.
Alabama (5-2) sent eight men to the playe and scored five runs in the bottom of the second inning on three hits, including two bunt singles to post its fourth consecutive win.
Freshman right fielder Ryan Rhoden (Tuscaloosa) started the inning with the lead off walk and moved to third on a hit-and-run single to left-center field by redshirt freshman DH Kyle Moore (Wetumpka).
Sophomore first baseman Matt Bentley's (Hazel Green) fly ball to center field was plenty deep enough to score Rhoden with the first run of the game.
After a walk to sophomore left fielder Andrew Rodgers (Grapevine, Texas), the Crimson Tide then turned to its short game to plate the next four runs.
Junior shortstop Greg Piaml (Hoover) reached on a bunt single that rolled down the first base line and past the bag to score Moore from third base and chase Rodgers to third. Junior centerfielder Emeel Salem (Mountain Brook) followed with another bunt single that rolled past the pitcher and second baseman to score Rodgers from third and send Piaml to third base.
Paiml then scored on a balk and after Salem stole third base, senior second baseman Evan Bush (Rainbow City) grounded out to second base to plate Salem with the fifth run of the inning.
KSU starter Evan Smith (0-1) allowed five runs and three hits in five innings and took the loss.
The five-run inning was more than enough for freshman right-hander Austin Graham (Hoover). Making his second start of the season, Graham allowed one unearned run and three hits, with two walks and four strikeouts for his first collegiate win.
His performance on Sunday was much better than his previous outing, where he allowed four runs and seven hits in two-plus innings in a loss to Winthrop.
"Today was much better than the last one," Graham said. "It was nice for us to get a big early lead this time. It made my job easier."
Kent State (0-3) scored an unearned run off Graham in the fifth inning to snap UA's 16-inning scoreless streak that dated back to the seventh inning of the series opener.
Emmanuel Burris' two-out base hit to center field scored Todd Balduf with the Golden Eagles lone run as KSU made it a 5-1 game. The inning was prolonged by an error by third baseman Matt Downs (Centreville).
Alabama answered in the sixth inning when senior catcher Kody Valverde (Baton Rouge, La.) stroked his fourth home run of the season to left field to give the Tide a 6-1 lead.
Things got a little dicey for the Crimson Tide in the eighth inning. Freshman right-hander Tommy Hunter (Indianapolis, Ind.) relieved Graham and promptly gave up three straight singles to Chris Tremblay, Burriss and pinch-hitter Jason Patton.
Alabama head coach Jim Wells called on his closer David Robertson (Tuscaloosa) with the bases loaded and no outs and the right-hander struck out the next three batters -- Will Vazquez, Kurt Eichorn and Brad Winter -- to leave the bases loaded.
Robertson worked two scoreless innings and had five strikeouts to earn his second straight save.
Alabama is back in action this Tuesday, Feb. 21 when they host the Memphis Tigers in a 6:30 p.m. game at the Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Crimson Tide continues its 15-game homestand next weekend when they host Florida International next weekend.
*Alabama has a four-game winning streak after its 6-1 win over Kent State on Sunday.
*Alabama pitchers allowed just one earned run (27 IP, 0.33 ERA) in the three-game series with Kent State.
*Overall, Alabama has allowed just one earned run in its last 43 innings (0.21 ERA) on the mound, dating back to the third inning of its 4-3 loss to Winthrop on Monday, Feb. 13.
*Alabama pitchers threw 16 consecutive scoreless innings in the series with Kent State. The streak began in the seventh inning of the series opener on Friday and ended in the fifth inning of Sunday's game.
*Salem extended his hitting streak to 11 games (dating back to 2005) with his second-inning bunt single. In seven games, Salem is batting .346 (9-for-26) with seven walks and seven stolen bases. He has six stolen bases in the series win over Kent State.
*Rhoden extended his hitting streak to five games with his sixth-inning single. The freshman leads Alabama with a .348 (8-for-23) average in six games.
*Alabama scored five runs in the second inning, its most productive inning of the season thus far.
*Valverde hit his team-leading fourth home run (solo shot to LF) in the sixth inning on Sunday. He also leads UA with 12 RBI in seven games. His home run Sunday came on a 2-0 pitch against RHP Jason Seelman.
*Alabama has won 33 of 35 non-conference home series under Wells.