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April 3, 2013

BASEBALL: Alabama hits 2 homers in sixth

TUSCALOOSA | For half an inning, it was like it used to be. Back before the bat change that changed the game, baseballs flying out of Sewell-Thomas Stadium were a regular occurrence.

Since then, home runs have become a rarity for the University of Alabama baseball team.

Until Tuesday night in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Kenny Roberts and Austen Smith both blasted two-out, three-run homers over the left field wall in the sixth inning as Alabama (19-11) blew by Southeastern Louisiana 9-1.

It had been 153 games since the last time UA had a multi-home run inning on June 6, 2010.

The big inning began innocently enough when the nine-hole hitter Andrew Miller drew a two-out walk. Georgie Salem followed with a single, setting the stage for Roberts.

"To be honest, I kinda felt it," Roberts said. "I got a slider up and put a good swing on it. My first two at-bats, they were pretty good at-bats. He started me out with two sliders, and I figured he would come back with it and he left it up."

It was hard to tell who was happier after the home run cleared the left-field wall to erase a one-run deficit, Roberts or his teammates.

"I think my teammates because they absolutely beat me up when I got over there. Ninety percent of them said they called it," Roberts said.

The inning didn't end there.

Ben Moore reached after being hit and Brett Booth walked to put runners on first and second with Smith at the plate.

With a 0-1 count, Smith launched a slider into the tree beyond left field.

"I definitely thought it was gone off the bat," Smith said. "Kenny's was definitely bigger. I called that, by the way. I said, 'He's about to get one right away,' and he did. I think all those other guys were lying."

The six-run inning was more than enough runs for the UA pitching staff.

Tucker Hawley threw five scoreless innings in a no-decision. Mike Oczypok, Justin Kamplain, Mitch Greer and Ray Castillo each threw an inning of relief.

Three runs in the seventh inning finished the scoring.

Asked the last time he remembered getting two home runs in the same inning, UA coach Mitch Gaspard deadpanned, "1997."

"No, it's been a while since we've had two in the same inning," Gaspard said. "That was good to see. Hopefully, the ball will start flying a little more and we'll see some more of those.

"I've got no problem with three-run homers, I promise you."

Alabama players honored former UA athletic director Mal Moore with the initials CMM written in silver on their hats.

"It was Coach (Andy) Phillips," Roberts said. "Coach Gaspard told us the news (Saturday), and four or five minutes after, Coach Phillips was writing it on our hats. (Moore) meant a lot to this university, and to honor him is special."

Alabama (19-11) hosts Arkansas for a three-game series beginning Thursday.

Reach Aaron Suttles at Aaron@TideSports.com or at 205-722-0229.

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