TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Brad Bohannon era of Alabama baseball began with a 16-2 win over Valparaiso on Friday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The 16 runs scored were the most in a Crimson Tide head coaching debut since 1898.
“It was a fun day,” said Bohannon. “I told the guys in the dugout – I don’t think I could’ve scripted it out any better. We talked so much about throwing strikes and defending the field. After the first time through the order where everybody was trying to hit the ball to the moon, we settled down. I really couldn’t have written a better first day for this group.”
The Crimson Tide used 17 hits to score 16 runs with each of the starters scoring at least one run and eight of the nine starters collecting at least one hit. Alabama’s 16 runs were its most in a season-opening game since 1958 when UA took down Tulane, 20-1, at Tulane on March 28, and the run total was also the highest for the Crimson Tide in a home opener since 1968 when UA defeated Livingston on March 18 by a score of 17-2. Alabama’s 16 runs under the direction of Bohannon were the third most in a head coaching debut in program history and the most since Joseph Black’s 1898 team defeated Massey’s Business College, 20-3.
Alabama’s offense was highlighted by three-hit efforts from a pair of juniors in Cobie Vance, who went 3-for-4 with a double, one RBI, a walk and two runs scored, and Jett Manning with the shortstop finishing a perfect 3-for-3 with a home run, a team-high three RBI and two runs scored. Sophomore Walker McCleney matched his career-high mark and paced the Tide offense with three runs scored as part of his 1-for-3 night that included a double.
Sam Finnerty (1-0) earned his first win of the season behind a strong outing that saw the junior go a career-long 6.0 innings, allowing one earned run on five hits with no walks and two strikeouts. Finnerty tossed 78 pitches before handing the ball off to his bullpen, which saw the trio of Tyler Adams, Brady Greene and Mason Duke finish the remaining three innings to secure the victory.
Valparaiso struck first, using a solo home run in the top of the first to gain the early 1-0 advantage. Alabama would respond three innings later with an eight-run fourth on the power of seven hits to put the game out of reach. The fourth began with back-to-back singles from senior Chandler Avant and Manning to place runners on the corners. Sam Praytor followed with a double to score the first two Tide runs of the season and collect the first two RBI of his freshman career, putting the Tide in front, 2-1.
One batter later, Vance drew a walk before junior Gene Wood sent a single through the right side to plate the man from second. After Joe Breaux, a junior, loaded the bases with a walk, senior Hunter Alexander delivered a double down the line in left to cross two more and force a Valpo pitching change.
Sophomore John Trousdale greeted the new arm with a two-RBI single up the middle to extend the Crimson Tide lead. Avant would continue the inning’s hot hitting, sending a double off the left field wall before Manning capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly to score one more and move the Tide’s lead to 8-1 after four full.
Alabama would extend the lead, scoring six runs across the next two frames, plating one in the fifth and putting up a five-spot in the sixth. McCleney drew a walk to lead off the fifth before Vance reached on an error to place runners on first and second for the Tide. After Wood reached on a fielder’s choice, Breaux got aboard on a Crusader miscue, allowing McCleney to come across and increase the UA advantage to 9-1.
In the sixth, Avant was hit by a pitch before Manning sent a two-run shot to right field for his first career home run at Alabama and the Tide’s first rounder-tripper of the season. One batter later, McCleney sent a double to right field before scoring in the next at-bat as Vance followed suit with a double of his own. A walk and a fielder’s choice put runners on the corners for Alexander, who capitalized in the next at-bat, sending a single to center to plate Vance. One batter later, Breaux would cross to cap the inning’s scoring on an error by the VU left fielder, moving the lead to 14-2.
The Tide would strike for two more in the bottom of the seventh, using a pair of hits to pad its lead and set the score at 16-2, the eventual final.
The Crimson Tide and Crusaders will return to action tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. CT. Alabama will look to senior right-hander Jake Walters for the series victory, while Valparaiso will counter with a senior righty of their own, Trey Ferketic. Fans can catch all of the action on SEC Network+.