Ninth-Inning Single Propels Alabama Baseball to 3-2 Victory

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM Austen Smith tripled to lead of the ninth inning, setting up the game-winning run.
Austen Smith tripled to lead of the ninth inning, setting up the game-winning run.

March 11, 2011

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Josh Rosecrans smacked a pinch-hit single to center to plate the winning run in the ninth inning, giving the Alabama baseball team a 3-2 win over the Eastern Illinois Panthers in walk-off fashion Friday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

The Tide (9-5) took a 2-1 lead into the ninth, but lost it on an Eastern Illinois (1-8) bases-loaded single to left field that scored the tying run. On that very same play the Panthers attempted to score the go-ahead run, but a sharp relay from Austen Smith to Brett Booth combined with a quick swipe from catcher Brock Bennett cut down the runner at home plate.

Alabama did not want to play extras, scoring a run in the bottom of the inning to send everyone home. Smith led off the inning with a triple to right center and was then replaced by Jeremiah Tullidge, setting up the Rosecrans pinch-hit, walk-off single.

"We were trying to get Rosecrans going and that was a great opportunity that paid off where he came out and delivered the hit," UA head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "Hopefully, that will carry on into tomorrow and through the weekend and get some confidence for him where he can start getting some hits throughout the rest of the way."

The game got off to a quiet start with no runs and only one combined hit for the two teams through the first three innings. The scoring finally began in the top of the fourth when Eastern Illinois struck first. T.J. McManus, who was 3-for-4, singled with one out in the fourth, advanced to second on an infield out and eventually scored on a throwing error by Booth.

The Tide answered back in that same inning, scoring a run of its own. Three singles in a row loaded the bases for Austen Smith who helped get the run across when he grounded into a double-play, scoring Taylor Dugas, to even the score at 1-1.

Alabama took the lead in the sixth when the inning started with a leadoff triple from Dugas. Bennett pushed Dugas across the plate in the very next at-bat, lining a single up the middle to give the Tide the lead at 2-1. Dugas was 2-for-4 and accounted for two of the three Tide runs while also getting a stolen base on the night.

"Offensively it wasn't a really good night for us," Gaspard said. "We're still trying to find that offensive rhythm on our side, but we're really starting to pitch it better, and I thought we defended pretty well tonight as well."

Another solid performance from starter Nathan Kilcrease helped the Tide notch its ninth win of the season. The senior righty went 7.0 innings, allowing only one unearned run on five hits while striking out nine batters and walking one. The win, however, went to reliever Jay Shaw (1-0) while the loss goes to Matt Miller (0-1).

Alabama returns to action on Saturday when the Crimson Tide plays game two of three against Eastern Illinois. The Tide looks to throw junior left-hander Adam Morgan (1-1) while the Panthers counter with freshman righty Luke Bushur (0-1). The game at Sewell-Thomas is scheduled for a 2:05 p.m. start.