UWA defeats UNA in 15 to win conference series

Published 9:06 am Monday, March 3, 2014

Tanner Rainey the hitter singled through the left side of a drawn-in infield in the bottom of the 15th to drive in Mitch Holgate and hand Tanner Rainey the pitcher his first win as West Alabama defeated North Alabama, 3-2, in 15 innings Sunday at Tartt Field.

West Alabama improved to 13-5 overall, 5-4 in Gulf South Conference play, by winning for the second straight Sunday in a school-record 15 innings. North Alabama feel to 5-12 and 2-7.

“That was a great baseball game where you get to show your true character,” UWA head coach Gary Rundles said. “Although we didn’t execute everything like we needed to, we battled and battled until we got the big hit at the end. There are a lot of things to be learned from a game like this.”

Rainey (1-0), who doubles as the Tigers everyday first baseman and closer, worked four innings in relief for the pitching win. He struck out three and allowed one hit. UWA starter Fernando Gonzalez pitched 8.1 innings, allowing just one earned run and four hits in a no decision. Lion reliever Jacob Westerhouse (0-1) took the loss.

“Fernando (Gonzalez) was outstanding. He commanded the strike zone and kept putting up zeros,” Rundles said. “Our bullpen did a great job again today getting big outs when we needed them. Anytime you can get four innings out of your closer it shows you a lot about that player.”

West Alabama had an opportunity to win in the 14th with bases loaded and nobody out, but a botched squeeze attempt and two ground balls sent the game to the 15th. The Tigers loaded the bases again in the 15th when Holgate doubled and Tyler Richburg singled to open the frame. Westerhouse struck out Adam Chamblee before intentionally walking Jack Cockrum. Rainey then guided a single between the shortstop and third baseman for the game winner.

“I was just looking for anything I could handle,” Rainey said of his game-winning at bat. “With bases loaded and one out you have to get something you can put in play, and I was able to do something to help this team win.”

West Alabama scored two runs in the sixth when Cockrum doubled in Holgate and Richburg, but UNA answered with two of its own in the top of the seventh. Kyle Conkle doubled with two outs and the Chamblee misplayed Bradley Noland’s single into a three-base error and two Lion runs.

UNA loaded the bases in the 13th, but Rainey coaxed Conkle into a ground ball to get out of the inning. Five Tiger pitchers allowed just five UNA hits, survived five Tiger errors and stranded 10 North Alabama base runners.

“Those four innings are probably the most I’ve thrown since high school, but it’s my job to hang zeros when we aren’t scoring runs,” Rainey said. “I really like this team. It’s probably the closest one I’ve every played on with everyone picking one another up.”

Richburg had three hits to lead a 12-hit West Alabama attack. Chamblee, Holgate and Jocobby Robinson each had a pair of hits for the Tigers.

West Alabama begins a five-game road swing Tuesday at Stillman College and returns to GSC play, beginning a three-game series Saturday in Cleveland, Tenn., against Lee. North Alabama returns home to face Maryville on Wednesday and Valdosta State on Saturday.