Bullpen steals the show in a sweep against High Point

Tzali Nislick, Staff Reporter

The theme of the weekend for No. 20 Alabama was clutch, with several players coming through in high leverage situations during its series sweep of High Point University (3-4). Thanks to the bullpen carrying the pitching staff, some timely hitting and a comeback win on Saturday, the Crimson Tide has improved to 8-0 on the year.  

Bullpen to the rescue 

It was a lackluster start to the series for Alabama’s rotation, with Grayson Hitt and Ben Hess struggling in each of their outings on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Neither lasted a full four innings and combined for six earned runs in 6.2 innings of work. 

“Grayson [Hitt] just didn’t have it, he wasn’t sharp. A lot of traffic, which is uncharacteristic for him,” head coach Brad Bohannon said Friday.  

Walks have been an issue for Hitt so far in the young season, issuing seven free passes in his first two starts. He had a high mark last year as well, walking 30 batters in 60.2 innings, but Bohannon is not worried long term. 

“His stuff has always been a little bit ahead of his command. I think as he continues to pitch, you’ll see him take a step forward. We have a lot of confidence in him,” Bohannon said. 

That meant the bullpen had to come to the rescue, and it did just that. Freshman Brock Blatter was huge for the Crimson Tide on Friday, pitching in relief for Hitt and striking out six Panthers hitters in a row at one point to earn his first career win. Connor Ball, Zane Probst and Braylon Myers combined for six shutout innings on Saturday in the midst of a comeback win. The bullpen blanked High Point in the final four innings of the series finale, capping off a remarkable weekend for the group. 

“What I think is cool about it … you’re talking about several guys. You’re not just talking about riding three guys,” Bohannon said. “Hopefully as the season goes, we can get them in more defined roles, but right now there’s just several guys we feel good about.”  

All in all, nine different Alabama relievers totaled 19 strikeouts in 15.1 innings, while allowing just one run over the weekend. They played an integral role in preserving Alabama’s perfect record and have been lights out so far this season, with a 1.05 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 34.1 innings of work.  

A flare for the dramatic 

High Point made all three games competitive, setting the scene for the Crimson Tide’s offense to deliver hits when it mattered most.  

Graduate transfer Ed Johnson hit a pair of home runs on Friday, his first two in an Alabama uniform. The first gave the Crimson Tide the lead and the second put the game out of reach.  

After falling behind 6-0 the following day, Alabama stormed back via a seven-run fifth inning. Dominic Tamez clobbered a three-run shot to put the Crimson Tide in front, and Drew Williamson delivered the dagger in the eighth inning with a three-run home run of his own. Alabama did a lot of damage with two outs as well, hitting 7-for-15 (.467). 

It was a much different story on Sunday. It was the first time all season that Alabama failed to tally double-digit hits and it stranded the bases loaded twice in its lowest offensive output of the season.  

“I didn’t think we were very sharp offensively today. I certainly understand we’re not going to score 10 runs every game,” Bohannon said. “I thought we chased too many pitches outside of the strike zone, we were really inefficient offensively.”  

On deck 

Alabama will look to rebound offensively and remain undefeated against Jacksonville State University on Wednesday, March 1. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. on SEC Network+.  

Questions or comments? Email Blake Byler (Sports Editor) at [email protected]