Freshman shortstop Mikey White went 4-for-5 and had the game-winning RBI in the seventh inning in his Alabama debut, as the Crimson Tide defeated the VMI Keydets, 8-3, in the season opener for both teams from Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Friday night. The winning pitcher was freshman right-hander Ray Castillo (1-0) and the losing pitcher was the Keydets’ Rian Ellis (0-1).
White had a monster night in his Alabama debut, with four singles, two RBI, a stolen base and a run scored. Sophomore outfielder Ben Moore went 2-for-3 with two singles, a walk, an RBI and a run scored and sophomore designated hitter Cary Baxter was 1-for-2 with a single, two walks and two runs scored. Castillo relieved Alabama starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull (3.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K) in the fourth inning, going 3.1 innings, while allowing no runs on one hit and one walk with five strikeouts.
“For starters, I thought a couple of freshmen were keys to the game,” UA Coach Mitch Gaspard said. “Ray Castillo’s outing – to keep the game right there at 3-0, really on the heels of Kenny [Robert’s] great play at third after the leadoff triple and Mikey White had a tremendous night for his debut with us. I thought the biggest thing tonight was just we showed some fight and some grit that we have talked about and that we had wanted to see. After game one, I am pretty pleased with the effort that we saw. Now it’s putting those type games back-to-back and execute and do some of the good things that we did tonight.”
Freshman left fielder Ryan Blanchard, freshman center fielder Georgie Salem, freshman shortstop White, senior catcher Brett Booth and Moore all drove in the runs for the Crimson Tide.
Spencer Turnbull gave up a walk and a hit to his first two batters faced, but struck a batter out and drew a double play to get out of a first inning early jam. VMI struck first in the second inning, scoring two runs on two hits and one error. VMI added to the lead on a triple and sacrifice fly to center in the fourth inning.
After a leadoff triple by VMI’s Matt Winn opened the fifth, a great diving play by UA third baseman Kenny Roberts produced the first out of the inning. Castillo struck out Jordan Tarsovich, then after a walk to Ray Lopez, Castillo ended the inning with a swinging strikeout of Rob Dickinson.
The Tide cut the deficit to 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth when Blanchard and Salem cashed in on walks drawn earlier in the inning by Booth and Baxter. An RBI single by Blanchard plated Booth and a RBI on an infield groundout pushed Baxter across. Booth continued his clutch play in the sixth inning when his RBI sacrifice fly tied the game, 3-3.
White made a statement with two outs in the seventh inning, where he delivered a game-winning RBI single up the middle. Moore added to that lead when he stroked an RBI single of his own, putting the Tide up 5-3. Castillo pitched through the seventh inning, retiring seven straight to end his outing.
The Tide stretched the lead to 6-3 in the eighth when Booth scored on a passed ball. After Blanchard drew a walk on a 3-2 count, he stole second and third to put himself in position for a Mikey White RBI single. Salem scored the third run in the inning when VMI failed to pick off White at first base. Sophomore left hander Justin Kamplain threw a scoreless ninth inning to seal the victory for the Tide.
Alabama and VMI are scheduled to play game two of the series on Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 2:05 p.m., from Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Tide will start sophomore left-hander Jon Keller (0-0) and the Keydets will counter with junior lefty Campbell Henkel.