Feb. 20, 2010
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Sophomore left-hander Adam Morgan struck out a career-high 11 batters and senior third baseman Jake Smith picked up a career-high four hits, leading Alabama to a 12-4 win over South Alabama in the 2010 season opener Saturday afternoon in front of 4,848 energetic fans at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
The Crimson Tide gave head Coach Mitch Gaspard the win his UA coaching debut. Gaspard is in his 10th season on the UA coaching staff, with nine seasons coming as an assistant coach under Jim Wells.
"Obviously, for me personally, I want to put a stamp on this team. I realize this is a good team. This is a talented team, particularly in the field," Gaspard said. "So we want to take advantage of what we've got. As I've said all along we've been really pleased with the development of the pitchers. It's just one game, but I think we're going to see that as we move along. I would have liked to make more impact personally in the game, but a lot of credit goes to our assistant coaches, they've been busting their cans along with the players every day."
Morgan fanned 11 batters through six innings, striking out the side in the first and sixth innings. He had seven strikeouts in the first three innings, including five of the first six hitters. He held the Jags to three runs and three hits and did not walk a batter en route to the win. He threw 66 total pitches, with 54 strikes.
Smith went 4-for-5 with two RBI to lead the Tide's 16-hit attack. He put Alabama on the board with a first-inning single and added another RBI single in UA's three-run eighth inning.
"It was good for me to get off to a good start and help the team win," Smith said. "We're just taking it one game at a time now. That's what coach (Mitch Gaspard) preaches. It's an honor to play for him and I'm happy for him to get his first win."
In addition to Smith, junior second baseman Ross Wilson added three hits, while sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas, senior first baseman Clay Jones, junior DH Jon Kelton and freshman Brett Booth added two hits apiece. Jones hit the Tide's only home run, while Dugas also scored three times.
Alabama (1-0) scored in five of the eight innings on Saturday, including a run in the first inning when Smith stroked a two-out single to score Dugas with the first run of the Gaspard era.
The Crimson Tide added two more runs in the third to take a 3-0 lead. Dugas led off with a triple to center and scored on Rutledge's ground out to second base. Jones made it 3-0 with a two-out solo home run to right.
South Alabama (1-2) scored three runs in the fourth to tie the game at 3-3. Tyler Vick's two-out, two-run home was the big blow in the inning.
Alabama answered back with four runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 7-3 lead. Freshman right fielder Andrew Miller lined a two-run single to center to give the Tide the lead for good at 5-3. Dugas then drove in junior left fielder John David Smelser with a safety squeeze bunt and Miller later scored the fourth run on a wild pitch, one of four in the game by USA right-hander Lance Brown.
Sean Laird's solo home run with two outs in the seventh off UA junior right-hander Jason Townsend cut the lead to 7-4, but the Tide quickly answered with two runs in the bottom of the seventh and tacked on three more in the eighth.
Wilson led off the seventh inning with a double and later scored on a wild pitch. Freshman Brett Booth collected his first career hit with a pinch-hit single that scored Smith.
Wilson, Jones and Smith collected three straight RBI singles in the eighth inning off Jake LeBlanc to put the game out of reach at 12-4.
South Alabama starter Jarrett Bailey (0-1) allowed five runs and six hits in three-plus innings and was charged with the loss.
Alabama and South Alabama meet again on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 1:30 p.m. at Stanky Field in Mobile to close out this two-game, home-and-home series.
*Alabama's opening day starting lineup featured three newcomers including junior catcher Chris Smelley, freshman left fielder John David Smelser and freshman right fielder Andrew Miller. In all, Alabama played 13 position players and used three pitchers in the win over South Alabama.
*The Crimson Tide used seven first-time players in the 2010 season opener, including freshmen Brett Booth and Matt Taylor and junior-college transfer pitchers Jason Townsend and Brett Whitaker.
*Alabama improves to 76-39-1 all-time in series openers and has won 15 of its last 17 openers. The Tide is now 82-33-1 all-time in home openers and has won 28 of its last 33, dating back to 1979.
*Mitch Gaspard picked up the win in his Alabama coaching debut. Alabama head coaches are now 19-11 in their first game with the Tide, winning four of the last five. Joe Sewell (1968), Barry Shollenberger (1980) and Jim Wells (1995) also won their first game at Alabama.
*Sophomore Adam Morgan struck out a career high 11 batters in his first career opening day start. Morgan's previous best was 10 strikeouts last season at Auburn. In the win over South Alabama, Morgan threw 66 pitches in six innings, including 54 (82 percent) strikes.
*Senior Jake Smith went 4-for-5 with two RBI in his 2010 debut. In four career opening day games, Smith is 8-for-15 (.533) with five RBI and has hit safely in all four games.
*Freshman right fielder Andrew Miller stroked a two-run single in the Tide's four-run fourth inning to put the Tide ahead to stay at 5-3. Miller was 1-for-3 with two RBI in his debut.
*Freshman Brett Booth was 2-for-2 with one RBI in his Crimson Tide debut, including a pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh inning.
*Alabama has a 46-6 scoring advantage in its last five opening day games, including wins over Georgia State (12-3, 7-0 in 2007), Cal Poly (10-1 in 2008), Southeast Missouri State (5-1 in 2009) and South Alabama (12-4 in 2010).
POST GAME QUOTES
Head Coach Mitch Gaspard
On the Tide's offensive strategy:
"When I talk about pressuring the defense, those things offensively, we're not looking to steal every base. But I think the threat of the running game, you can see today, caused them some problems. A lot of picks, some balls left up to our hitters - we just want to be ultra aggressive and take advantage of everything we can offensively, keep pressure on their defense and cause them to make some mistakes throughout the ballgame."
On Adam Morgan's performance:
"I thought he was outstanding. More so after he gave up the three (runs in the third inning), then came back and dominated the next two innings - that was important. Then obviously the bullpen came in and did a nice job as well."
On his Alabama head coaching debut:
"Obviously, for me personally, I want to put a stamp on this team. I realize this is a good team. This is a talented team, particularly in the infield. So we want to take advantage of what we've got. As I've said all along we've been really pleased with the development of the pitchers. It's just one game, but I think we're going to see that as we move along. I would have liked to make more impact personally in the game, but a lot of credit goes to our assistant coaches, they've been busting their cans along with the players every day."
On the energy of the fan base:
"I want our fans to feel what our players feel throughout the course of the game. I thought tonight was the start of doing that. We've got to take that on the road tomorrow. That's where we've had some hiccups in the past. We've played extremely well at home and we don't play as well on the road. Our thought process now goes straight to South Alabama tomorrow on the road."
Senior Third Baseman Jake Smith
On starting the season on a good note:
"It was good for me to get off to a good start and help the team win. We're just taking it one game at a time now. That's what coach (Mitch Gaspard) preaches. It's an honor to play for him and I'm happy for him to get his first win."
On the difference between this year and last year:
"It's more relaxed. He (Gaspard) wants us to come out and have fun. He doesn't try to put too much pressure on us as far as reps and everything like that. We just come out and play hard and everything will take care of itself."
Sophomore LHP Adam Morgan
On the season opener:
"It was great. There were a lot of people in the stands. It was a good turnout."
On his performance:
"I just had a good day. It felt good on the mound; that was about it. I just did what we practiced all fall and it paid off."
On the high number of strikes:
"We try to get better every day. So if I have a bad day, the next day I'm trying to change something or fix it."
On new pitching coach Kyle Bunn:
"It's been really good. He's great to have around, a lot of energy. He's been really good for all the guys."