*Courtesy Alabama Media Relations*
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – A strong effort from junior starting pitcher Nick Eicholtz paired with a solid outing from the bullpen helped propel Alabama baseball to the 5-1 victory over Maryland on Sunday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The win improves the Tide to 2-1 and earns the team its first series victory of 2016.
“You just kind of tip your hat today to the pitching,” said Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard. “In particular, the way Nick (Eicholtz) came out and gave us a great start. I think that’s the key to our team. If we can get the good start that takes us deep, I think our bullpen sets up really well for those last couple innings.”
In an efficient outing, Eicholtz (1-0) worked 6.0 innings of one-run baseball, allowing seven hits and one walk while striking out four on 84 total pitches before running into trouble in the top of the seventh. In the frame, the first two hitters reached on singles and then an errant throw on a sacrifice bunt crossed one runner and put two in scoring position, forcing the Tide to call on the bullpen.
Junior college transfer Matt Foster entered the game and extinguished the threat. Foster struck out the first batter he faced before the Tide stopped the Maryland runner from third as he attempted to steal home, but was tagged out by Will Haynie just before he reached third base. One batter later, Foster recorded a flyout to center to end the threat and send the game to the home half of the seventh.
The Crimson Tide moved to Thomas Burrows in the eighth, with the lefty recording a 1-2-3 frame that included two punchouts. Alabama’s offense would then provide Burrows with a cushion in the bottom half of the inning.
Alabama’s eighth began with a leadoff single by Chandler Avant, who then advanced to second on a wild pitch. One out later, a Cody Henry single to center crossed Avant to add a run and force a Maryland pitching change. Cobie Vance greeted the new pitcher with a double to right to put two in scoring position for Connor Short, who came through with a double to center to plate both runners and boost the lead to 5-1.
Burrows finished with a flawless ninth, registering two strikeouts and a groundout to record his second save of the season and 20th of his career, moving him into second place on the Alabama all-time saves list.
"It was fantastic,” said Eicholtz. “I struggled and made that bad play right there throwing it past Henry. I knew he (Matt Foster) was going to come in, throw strikes and compete to win the battle for me and get away with no runs allowed. I trust that guy and all our bullpen arms."
The game’s scoring began Chance Vincent crossed the plate on an Avant double to give UA an early 1-0 advantage in the bottom of the third. One out later, Henry sent a single to center to bring Avant across and make it a 2-0 game in Alabama’s favor.
Maryland rallied for one run in the seventh, beginning the frame with two singles and then a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt attempt allowed one Terrapin to score, setting the game at 2-1. The Crimson Tide did not sit idly, putting together a three-spot in the eighth inning, using four hits to extend the lead and seal the victory.
Next up for Alabama is a midweek contest in Tuscaloosa as the Crimson Tide hosts Nicholls State on Wednesday, Feb. 24. The game is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. CT first pitch on SECN+. Following the lone midweek game, Alabama will welcome North Dakota to Tuscaloosa for a three-game series from Friday, Feb. 26 until Sunday, Feb. 28.
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