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February 16, 2013

Alabama freshman makes big splash in baseball debut

TUSCALOOSA | It wasn't perfect, but it may have been the perfect result for Alabama baseball on its opening night of the 2013 season.

The Crimson Tide's 8-3 win over Virginia Military Institute on Friday night provided just enough good, bad and in between for UA coach Mitch Gaspard to sleep well.

The good came in watching freshman Mikey White start his career with four hits with a run scored and two RBIs. The bad came in falling behind three runs, which gave an opportunity for the coaching staff to drive home teaching points. All in all, not a bad night at the ball park for the guys in crimson and white.

White, named Mr. Baseball his senior season at Spain Park High School, couldn't have dreamt a better beginning to his season or career. Batting second, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound shortstop, wrapped a single in the first. He followed with singles in the fourth, seventh and eighth innings.

He also teamed with fellow freshman Kyle Overstreet (second base) for two double plays, giving Alabama a middle infield it hasn't seen since Josh Rutledge and Ross Wilson.

"I actually, before the game, thought I was going to hit a bomb," White said.

He settled for a .800 batting average, including the game-winning hit in the seventh inning.

"I just tried to stay loose before the game, make some jokes out in the outfield," White said. "I guess it kind of paid off. It kept me comfortable at the plate and in the field."

Freshman right-hander Ray Castillo earned the win in relief of starter Spencer Turnbull and behind three runs. He pitched 3 1/3 innings, none more important than the fifth.

After allowing a lead-off triple, the only one he allowed, Castillo got the first out on a brilliant play by third baseman Kenny Roberts. Two strikeouts followed, getting Castillo out of the inning without putting UA behind another run.

"After that triple I knew I had to fight to keep him on third for us to have a chance to come back and win," Castillo said. "Kenny makes the great play…and I actually don't remember what happened after that."

Told he struck out two hitters, he sheepishly said, "Well that worked out great."

The comeback began immediately after with UA plating two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Senior Brett Booth walked and moved to second on a Cary Baxter walk. Ryan Blanchard then doubled down the left field line scoring Booth. Baxter followed with a run on a Georgie Salem groundout.

In the sixth, Ben Moore tied the game at three on a Booth sacrifice fly. The Crimson Tide added a total of five runs in the seventh and eighth innings to pull away as Castillo, Taylor Guilbeau and Justin Kamplain combined for 5 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen.

"This is the kind of start we talked about and wanted to see," Gaspard said. "After game one, pretty pleased with the effort that we saw."

Game two in the series is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. today.

TideSports.com: UA team coverage Q&A with Chase Goodbread

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron.suttles@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0229.

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