TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A wild eighth inning, with Alabama able to load the bases without needing to swing a bat, resulted in an 8-6 victory for the Crimson Tide over North Alabama on Tuesday night inside Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
“Not how we scripted it this morning when we were in the office talking about the game but glad to get a win," Alabama coach Brad Bohannon said after the game. "Winning’s hard and there’s probably been times in the past when we wouldn’t have found a way to win a game like this and North Alabama certainly helped a little bit at the end."
The victory is Alabama's seventh victory in its last eight games.
North Alabama jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the top of the first. Due to a wild pitch by Alabama starter Grayson Hitt with runners on second and third, one runner scored while one advanced to third, giving the Lions their first run of the game.
An RBI-groundout along with an error credited to Alabama third baseman Zane Denton, and the Crimson Tide found themselves down by three runs.
In the bottom of the first, Alabama designated hitter Sam Praytor hit a home run down the left field line with second baseman Peyton Wilson on base for two RBIs. In the second, the Crimson Tide tied the game with an RBI line out by catcher Johnny Hawk.
The next three innings went by scoreless for both teams until the top of the sixth inning when the Lions added two runs with a single by North Alabama catcher Luke Harper.
Alabama was unable to respond in the sixth, but managed to tie the game once again in the bottom of the seventh thanks to a two-RBI double to left field by Praytor. In the top of the eighth, the game was tied 5-5. However, Alabama wouldn't hold onto the tie for long.
North Alabama took a one-run lead in the top of the eighth due to another RBI-single by Harper. Down 6-5, Alabama took its turn at the plate for what would be one of the team's wildest innings of the season.
Up first was center fielder Jackson Tate, who took a five-pitch walk. After a balk advanced him to second, a wild pitch saw him advance to third base. Up next, first baseman Drew Williamson drew a four-pitch walk. With runners at the corners, shortstop Jim Jarvis took his turn inside the batter's box.
A wild pitch advanced Williamson, putting the potentially-leading run on second base for Jarvis. With nobody out and without Alabama batters having to make any contact with the ball, the Crimson Tide had the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.
Jarvis was hit by the pitch while making a check swing, but the ball appeared to bounce off of Jarvis' bat before it hit his shoulder. The umpires went to review the play, and the call ultimately stood despite video seemingly showing the ball deflect off of Jarvis' bat.
After a lengthy conversation between North Alabama coach Mike Keehn, play resumed with the bases loaded and nobody out for pinch-hitter Andrew Pinckney.
Pinckney made the first bat-on-ball contact of the side, hitting a sac-fly high to right field to score Tate and advance Williamson to third and Jarvis to second. With one out, Wilson smacked a ball to Lions second baseman Drew Hudson, who made an incredible catch to give the Crimson Tide two outs.
Alabama left fielder William Hamiter took his turn at the plate and made the most of it, hitting a two-RBI single that bounced over Hudson's head. The Crimson Tide took an 8-6 lead, which was all it needed as closer Chase Lee retired the Lions in order in the ninth.
Regarding performances in the batter's box, Praytor had a solid day in his first game following being named SEC Player of the Week on Monday. Against the Lions, Praytor batted 3-for-4 with one run and four RBIs.
In his three at-bats, he was just a triple short of a cycle.
"I can tell you, it's going to be hard for Sam to hit a triple in our park," Bohannon chuckled. "Sam's a great player and I'm not surprised at what he's doing right now or what he did last week.
"He's a heck of a player. Not just a great defensive catcher but he can really hit."
Lee (6-0) picked up the win for his one and two-thirds innings to close out the game. Lee struck out three of his four batters faced.
North Alabama reliever John Lundgren (0-2) was saddled with the loss for North Alabama.
With the win, the Crimson Tide moves to 23-13 on the season. The Lions drop to 4-30 with the loss.
Up next, Alabama has Wednesday and Thursday off before traveling to Kentucky for a three-game road SEC series. Friday's game is scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. CT first pitch (SEC Network+).
"[It] wasn’t our best effort but glad to get a win and glad to have today behind us and excited to get to Lexington this weekend,” Bohannon said.