BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Under cloudy skies inside Regions Field in downtown Birmingham, Alabama baseball defeated UAB 9-3 in solid fashion to improve to 25-15 on the season.
However, Tuesday's game represented more than just a midweek game for both programs.
On April 27, 2011, both the communities of Tuscaloosa and Birmingham were heavily impacted by an EF-4 tornado that swept through the area. In total, the tornado killed 64 people between to two communities, including six Alabama students, and caused approximately $2.4 billion in property and infrastructure damage.
“I wasn’t here, but I remember distinctly — I talked with [former Alabama baseball coach] Mitch Gaspard about it at length in the past," Alabama coach Brad Bohannon said. "I’ve seen pictures, it’s just devastating when you see the power, the destruction. I know a lot of people were affected by it and just thankful that we’ve been able to heal as a community and move forward from it.”
While it's fitting that the Crimson Tide and the Blazers played each other on April 27, 2011, it's even more appropriate when you consider that the only reason that the two teams played on Tuesday was due to a weather postponement that forced the game to move from its original date of March 2.
On Tuesday, exactly 10 years to the date since the tragedy, Alabama and UAB played each other on the baseball diamond inside Regions Field, a venue that didn't even exist when the tornado struck a decade ago.
Prior to the game's start, the UAB public announcer requested a moment of silence from the fans in honor of those that suffered during the harsh tornado. After the moment of silence concluded, it was time for some baseball.
The same occurred a decade ago, albeit against different teams.
On April 30 — just three days after the tornado struck Tuscaloosa and Birmingham — baseball was the first sport for the University of Alabama to resume play. The Crimson Tide took a three-game road trip to Starkville, Miss., to play Mississippi State. In the series, Alabama took two of the three games, including a 5-4 10-inning game on Saturday in the Crimson Tide's first appearance after the tornado.
It took UAB even less time to get back into action, playing at Tulane on April 29. While the Crimson Tide had been able to take its first game against the Bulldogs, the Blazers were not so lucky against the Green Wave, falling 6-3.
A decade later, the end result for each team went the same as it did a decade ago.
Alabama scored runs in each side through the first four innings, highlighted by a solo home run in the top of the fourth by freshman center fielder Caden Rose. After four, the Crimson Tide possessed a 5-2 lead.
In the sixth, Crimson Tide sophomore second baseman Jim Jarvis grounded out to second but picked up an RBI as junior first baseman Drew Williamson crossed the plate for Alabama's sixth run of the game.
UAB was able to add a run of their own in the bottom of the sixth, but it was too little too late for the Blazers. A three-run top of the eighth for the Crimson Tide sealed the deal, and Alabama defeated UAB 9-3.
At the plate, Rose led the Alabama bats with a solid performance. The Crimson Tide center fielder went 3-for-4 from the plate with a single, a double, a home run. On the night, Rose finished with three runs and two RBIs.
In total, Alabama registered 12 hits, with seven of those being for extra bases.
On the mound, Alabama split three pitchers with three innings pitched apiece. Jake Eddington started on the mound for the Crimson Tide and allowed two runs off of five hits, striking out four and walking none.
After Eddington came Eli Giles, who allowed one run off of four hits and struck out two batters. Hunter Ruth closed out the game for the Crimson Tide and allowed no runs off of two hits and struck out four.
"Really proud of the three kids that pitched tonight," Bohannon said. "Jake Eddington found out about 20 minutes before the game that he would be starting — Connor Shamblin was a late scratch and Jake set the tone for us and Eli threw the ball well and Hunter Ruth was outstanding for his second time in a row.”
Eddington was credited with the win, his first of the season, while Ruth was credited with the save. UAB starter Brady Greene was saddled with the loss.
10 years after the tragic tornado resulted in the loss of so much life, Tuesday's game served as a positive reminder of how each community has progressed and grown from the adversity of that fateful day. While both teams and their respective communities had to overcome challenges due to the tornado, both emerged triumphant.
Tuesday night's game served as a fitting reminder to display how far each community has come.
Alabama will return to Tuscaloosa on Friday to take on Missouri in a three-game series (6 p.m. CT, SEC Network+). For the Blazers, the team will remain in Birmingham but will return to Young Memorial Field to play a three-game series against UTSA.
Both teams will reunite on May 11, when UAB will take its turn as the away team against Alabama inside Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
“I was really proud of our kids,” Bohannon said. “We scored in six different innings, a lot of hard contact and a couple of really nice defensive plays,” Bohannon said. “Just a really well-rounded game for us.”