TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- There’s something about Saturdays at the Joe.
For the third consecutive time this season, the University of Alabama ended a Saturday at home with a walk-off home run, beating Vanderbilt 8-6 on an Austen Smith three-run homer with two outs and the Crimson Tide trailing by one.
Smith, who came into the game with a batting average of .205, had not hit a home run since June 3 against Central Florida. But on a high fastball from Will Clinard, he got just enough to send the ball just beyond the left-center field fence.
“It was a good feeling,” Smith said after the game. “I’m still kind of in shock. I was looking for a pitch to hit. ... He threw me a fastball up and I put a good swing on it. I didn’t think it was going to get out. I thought it was going to hit off the fence or something, so I was just running and saw it go over and lost my mind.”
Freshman Ben Moore was the first to score on Smith’s home run. Even he didn’t think the ball had enough to get out, but after seeing his third-base coach’s reaction, he knew the game was over and the celebration was just beginning.
“I wanted to watch it because I thought it had a chance, but I was booking it trying to score and I saw coach (Bobby) Barbier give the fist pump and I knew he hit it over so I just chunked my helmet,” Moore said.
As far as the Saturday success, neither Moore nor coach Mitch Gaspard could put a finger on it.
“There’s something to it. I’m not sure what it is,” Moore said. “But there definitely is something to it.”
Said Gaspard: “Obviously, the third Saturday in a row with walk-off homers. I don’t think I’ve seen that in 24 years of coaching but I’ll take it.”
Maybe it’s just home cooking. The Crimson Tide are 14-9 at home compared to a 2-14 record on the road. In the friendly confines of the Joe, the Alabama bats have been hot. The last home series against Auburn, Kenny Roberts broke out of a slump in a big way. This weekend it was Smith’s turn.
Gaspard added the root of Smith’s struggles was a lack of confidence and he needed a couple of hits to really get going. For his part, Smith said the home run was a “huge boost of confidence.”
“It was big for Austen and our team,” Gaspard said of the home run. “He certainly has struggled, there’s no question, along with a couple of other guys. ... It’s big for him. Hopefully this will get him going in the right direction.”
Alabama will wrap up the series against Vanderbilt tomorrow at 1:05 p.m. CST.