Alabama baseball rallies and defeats Musketeers with walk-off homer


Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama junior Owen Diodati celebrates with his teammates after a walk-off victory against the Xavier Musketeers on Feb. 18, 2022.

Will Miller, Contributing Writer

Fresh off an NCAA tournament appearance, the Alabama baseball team was back in action Feb. 18 for its 2022 opener against Xavier. Despite appearing down for the count, the Crimson Tide rallied back and stunned the Musketeers after outfielder Owen Diodati hit a two-run walk-off home run.

The Musketeers’ Luke Franzoni sent the very first pitch out for a home run. Another run in the third inning meant Xavier led 2-0 before catcher Dominic Tamez scored Alabama’s first run of the year in the fourth inning. Tamez hit a solo homer to left field. 

Alabama starting pitcher Garrett McMillan went six innings but allowed four runs. The top of the Xavier order paid its dividends, as Franzoni and No. 2 hitter Jack Housinger each collected two hits with one home run apiece. 

The top three in the Alabama batting order, meanwhile, went a combined 3-12, but they added two crucial ninth-inning hits. 

McMillan rallied with easy innings in the second, fourth and fifth, but had no additional support as Alabama could not capitalize on multiple fifth-inning base runners. Xavier extended its lead to a game-best 4-1 in the sixth inning with a two-run home run from Housinger. 

The first hit of the game for Alabama came in the second inning. Center fielder Andrew Pinckney hit a two-out double, but the threat ended when infielder Bryce Eblin flew out. 

In the ninth inning, Tamez led off with his second home run. The second shot made it 4-2, Xavier. 

Tamez said he didn’t encounter any nerves in the game and was sitting on certain pitches, undoubtedly looking for something to send long distance.

Zane Denton doubled after Tamez’s ninth-inning homer, bringing the tying run to the plate with no outs. William Hamiter then Denton scored on a 2-2 pitch to bring up Diodati for a chance to win. 

He didn’t disappoint.

Diodati’s first hit of the season was the deciding two-run homer, scoring himself and base runner Caden Rose, running for Hamiter, for the improbable win. 

Diodati said he didn’t want to try to do too much in the clutch situation and wanted to take “a nice, easy swing.”

“I believe in my approach,” Diodati said. 

Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon said after the game that there are going to be some struggles at the beginning of the season. 

“You’re not going to play your best baseball in February,” Bohannon said. “I know we’re going to be a good hitting team. We just need to stick to our plan and play.”

McMillan, who logged five punch-outs, was replaced by Jacob McNairy to start the seventh frame. McNairy escaped trouble and added two strikeouts before Brock Guffey followed with two of his own in a 1-2-3 eighth. Guffey added a scoreless ninth and was credited with the win.

Xavier starter Trevor Olson put in five innings of three-hit work before being replaced by Luke Bell, who went three innings in perfect relief. Lane Flamm took over the final frame. He failed to record an out prior to surrendering the game. 

Alabama moves to 1-0 on the season and faces Xavier for game two of the series tomorrow at 2 p.m.