Hess’ incredible relief performance pushes Alabama to second round of SEC Tournament


Courtesy of UA Athletics

(11) Alabama pitcher Ben Hess (27) throws a pitch in the Crimson Tide’s 5-3 victory over the (6) Georgia Bulldogs on May 24 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

Austin Hannon | @austin_hannon1, Sports Editor

Coming into the 2022 SEC Tournament, Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon said that to have success in the event, someone on his team, whether it be a pitcher or a position player, would have to step up. He said it would most likely be someone that hasn’t been that player all year. 

Bohannon found that in relief pitcher Ben Hess in Tuesday’s 5-3 first round win over the sixth-seeded Georgia Bulldogs. 

Hess, a freshman, had a 5.22 ERA entering Tuesday’s game. A first-year player, he has started eight games and has had to learn how to play the college game. But along the way, Bohannon has insisted that he is a player the staff is overly excited about. 

He showed why Tuesday afternoon. 

After a rain delay of over two hours, starting pitcher Garrett McMillan was pulled out of the game. 

Hess stepped right in, delivering 4.1 masterful innings. He struck out seven of his first eight batters and finished his outing with 10 punchouts. On 78 pitches thrown, he surrendered just one hit and one walk. 

“It was huge,” Bohannon said. “It was really the story of the game. I think that was kind of his moment today. He’s somebody we’ve been really high on since day one. I’m not surprised that he pitched so well. I think it says a lot about him as a competitor.” 

After scoring 18 runs in the regular season finale against No. 13 Arkansas, the Crimson Tide kept it going early, scoring five runs in the first two innings before the rain delay. 

Four different Alabama players recorded an RBI. Third baseman Zane Denton went 2-for-5 at the plate, driving in one run in the process. 

After the extended delay, the offense didn’t look the same. But it didn’t matter, as the Crimson Tide bullpen exerted its dominance on the mound. In total, Alabama struck out 17 of 34 Georgia batters faced. 

That is one strikeout for every two hitters. 

Alabama was handed a tough task playing the opening game of the competition at 9:30 a.m. CT. But the players embraced it and brought the energy for the entirety of the long day. 

“Really just going to bed early, taking some melatonin, getting a good breakfast and just trying to come out hot,” right fielder Andrew Pinckney said. 

“You treat it like any other game,” Hess said. “Once you get to the field, it’s the same no matter if it’s 8 in the morning or 10 o’clock at night.” 

Initially scheduled for 9:30 a.m. CT, the game didn’t begin until 10:05 a.m. CT. And then it was stopped again at 11:15 a.m. CT. The final out was recorded at 3:27 p.m. CT. 

Even after all of that, the players didn’t falter. 

“The players deserve all of the credit,” Bohannon said. “These kids really like to play. They like each other. They really like playing the game of baseball. They didn’t need any pep talk.” 

The win keeps the Crimson Tide’s season alive, and now Alabama moves into the double-elimination part of the tournament field. 

“Really proud of our club,” Bohannon said. “Obviously, it was a do-or-die for us. I’m really proud of the way they came out. You could tell that they were really excited. It was tough after the rain delay for both teams. Excited that we get to stick around for a little while.” 

Next up is a familiar opponent in the No. 3 seed Arkansas Razorbacks. The Crimson Tide and Razorbacks will play for the fourth time in the last week.  

The weather in Hoover, Alabama has become a huge storyline for the rest of the tournament. The weather has turned essentially every start time to TBD as of now.