Bama baseball falls to UAB 6-4

HOOVER, Ala. – The Alabama baseball team stranded 10 base runners in its 6-4 loss to the UAB Blazers at Regions Park Wednesday night.

Alabama (17-7) never led in the game but had the go-ahead run at the plate in both the eighth and ninth innings, but could not overtake UAB.

"We continue to miss opportunities offensively, and (we) scratch back in it and didn't get the job done in the bullpen late in the game in the eighth inning there," Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. "Still had opportunities and guys aren't delivering hits right now. Just in a bad-play mode right now. Our energy level is not good. Our confidence level is low. Bottom line is we've got to fix it and fix it in a hurry."

Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge did his part with a 4-for-5 night at the plate to extend his hitting streak to 19 games. The four hits tied a career high for the Cullman native.  He also scored two runs and knocked in one run.

"I thought Rutledge was outstanding tonight," Gaspard said. "The one thing we've worked hard on is back up the middle the other way and he did that tonight and was productive."

The Crimson Tide trailed 4-2 entering the eighth inning and closed the gap to one run on senior third baseman Cal Tinsley's RBI single. Rutledge lined a one-out single to right field as the Tide attempted the comeback.  Senior first baseman Clay Jones drew a two-out walk and Tinsley, who replaced the injured Jake Smith in the fifth inning, knocked in Rutledge as the Tide closed the gap to 4-3.

Freshman right fielder Andrew Miller walked to load the bases before UAB closer Nick Graffeo struck out freshman left fielder Brandt Hendricks with the bases loaded to end the inning.

UAB (15-8) made the Tide's comeback hopes more difficult with two runs in the bottom of the eighth for a 6-3 lead. Harry Clark, who entered the game with only four hits in 21 at-bats, stroked a two-out single to right to score Luke Stewart with an insurance run. Mikael Saway, who had only eight hits in 17 games, followed with an RBI single up the middle to Clark and put the Blazers in front 6-3.  Stewart and Clark both made their way around the bases on three wild pitches in the inning from sophomore right-hander Tyler White.

The two runs loomed large as the Crimson Tide rallied again in the ninth inning and had the winning run at the plate when Graffeo struck out Jones on called third strike to end the game.

Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas drew a one-out walk before sophomore DH Jon Kelton was hit by a pitch to put runners and first and second with one out.  Rutledge then lined a single to center, his fourth hit of the game, to score Dugas from second as the Tide closed the gap to 6-4.  Junior Ross Wilson reached on a fielder's choice before Jones struck out to end the game.

Graffeo, the sixth pitcher used by UAB in the game, recorded his third save of the season with 1 1/3 innings out of the bullpen.  He allowed one run and one hit with one walk, one hit batter and three strikeouts.

UAB grabbed a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning on a pair of solo home runs by Luke Stewart and Ryan Ussery.  Stewart hit his ninth home run of the season, while Ussery hit his first home run.

Alabama cut the lead in half with a run in the fourth inning when Rutledge doubled to left field and scored on Jones RBI single to center to make it 2-1.

The Blazers added single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to extend the lead to 4-1. UAB strung together three straight two-out hits off freshman right-hander Tucker Hawley to take a 3-1 lead in the fourth.  In the fifth, Jamal Austin drew a leadoff walk and scored on John Frost's two-out single as the Blazers took a 4-1 lead.

Alabama trimmed the lead to two runs in the seventh when Miller ripped a leadoff double to left field and scored on Hendricks pinch-hit single to make the score 4-2.

UAB starter Benji Waite (1-0) picked up his first win of the season with four innings of work.  He allowed one run and three hits with two strikeouts and two walks.

Hawley (0-1) took the loss for Alabama after he allowed three runs and five hits in four innings in his second start of the season.

Alabama will host arch-rival Auburn in a three-game Southeastern Conference series beginning Friday, April 2, at 6:06 p.m. (CDT). The game will be televised regionally by Comcast Sports Southeast.  The teams will also play on Saturday, April 3, at 4:05 p.m. and Sunday, April 4, at 2:05 p.m. at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.


*Alabama (17-6) has lost six of its last seven games after a 16-1 start this season.

*Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge went 4-for-5 with two runs scored and one RBI. He extended his hitting streak to 19 games and is hitting .432 (35-for-81) during the streak, which is the longest active streak in the SEC.  Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox went 0-for-4 on Wednesday and has his season-opening 24-game hitting streak snapped against Centenary.

*Rutledge tied his career high with four hits in the loss to UAB, his sixth career four-hit game.  Rutledge leads Alabama with 13 multi-hit games this season and his 65 multi-hit games in his three-year career at Alabama.