TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — No. 25 Alabama baseball (3-0) finished its season-opening series against McNeese State (0-3) on Sunday afternoon in Sewell-Thomas Stadium with a 9-5 win, sweeping the series for the Crimson Tide over the Cowboys.
Four and two-thirds innings of solid pitching from junior right-handed pitcher Dylan Smith along with four late runs thanks to a grand slam from sophomore right fielder Owen Diodati helped the Crimson Tide complete the series sweep.
"I couldn't be more pleased with this first weekend," Alabama coach Brad Bohannon said. "The first thing I'll say is hats off to McNeese. I think [McNeese head coach Justin Hill] does a great job with that team. They're older, they have really competitive at-bats, they don't chase a lot — they make you earn everything that you get."
The Cowboys jumped out to an early lead in the top of the second with a sacrifice groundout by left fielder Julian Gonzales, advancing first baseman Jake Dickerson across the plate.
At the bottom of the inning, though, Alabama responded with a sacrifice fly-out by left fielder Will Hamiter, scoring catcher Sam Praytor.
A solo home run by Crimson Tide first baseman Drew Williamson and an RBI-single from center fielder Caden Rose gave Alabama a brief 3-1 lead.
In the top of the fifth, the Crimson Tide replaced starting pitcher Smith with freshman reliever Grayson Hitt with two outs. McNeese State subsequently added three runs on four-consecutive hits, putting the Cowboys back out in front, 4-3.
Smith left the game with two runs off of five hits, a walk and five strikeouts in his four and two-thirds innings on the mound.
"I was very encouraged by Dylan," Bohannon said. "He didn't quite have the bite on his breaking ball that he normally does and didn't land his changeup for strikes as often as he has and will , but his first outing I thought he did a great job."
Third baseman Zane Denton — who hit the walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday — continued to swing a hot bat with two-run home run over the left-field wall in the bottom of the fifth.
An inning later in the bottom of the sixth, it was Diodati's turn. With the bases loaded, he sent the grand slam into the children's playground over the left-field wall.
Diodati revealed after the game that it was a fastball away that he smacked over the fence to give Alabama some breathing room.
"I've kinda this season tried to get into a really good routine of never really guessing and just trying to be relaxed up there and see the pitch as it comes in and just see it really big," Diodati said after the game. "That's kind of what happened in that at-bat."
McNeese State attempted to rally in the top of the eighth, loading the bases. Hitt walked pinch-hitter Jordan Yeatts, giving the Cowboys another run. However, senior reliever Brock Guffey came in and made quick work of McNeese State shortstop Kade Morris, ending the inning.
Denton continued celebrating his birthday weekend with his second solid game in a row from the batter's box. Denton went 3-for-4 on the day with two runs and two RBIs.
"Anybody that's been around here the last six months is not surprised at all that he's doing well," Bohannon said. "He's a good player."
Diodati finished the game 1-for-3 with two runs and four RBIs.
Despite giving up three runs after debuting in the fifth, Hitt (1-0) was credited with the win for his three innings and four hits allowed. He also struck out four and walked only one.
Guffey was awarded the save.
Relief pitcher Brody Strahan (0-1) for McNeese State was saddled with the loss.
Up next, Alabama gets Monday off but will resume play with a Tuesday game at Jacksonville State before returning to Tuscaloosa on Wednesday to face UT-Martin (3 p.m. CT, SEC Network+).