March 14, 2010
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Series Stats vs. Stony Brook
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama baseball team escaped a jam in the eighth to hold off the Stony Brook Seawolves 4-3 in the series finale Sunday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
Alabama carried a 4-1 lead into the eighth inning and turned the game over to junior right-hander Brett Whitaker, but saw the Seawolves put the first five men on base as they closed the gap to 4-3.
SBU shortstop Chad Marshall greeted Whitaker with a single to center field and third baseman Stephen Marion followed with a ground ball single to right field. First baseman Robert Dyer singled through the left side of the infield to load the bases with no outs.
Pitcher/designated hitter William Carmona reached on an error by UA first baseman Clay Jones as Marshall scored to narrow the gap to 4-2. Catcher Justin Echevarria followed with a ground ball single to score Marion as the Seawolves pulled to within 4-3.
Alabama made two errors on Sunday, but came up with several critical defensive plays to thwart SBU rallies. One of those gems came in the eighth when SBU second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Jake Smith, who threw out Dyer at home for the first out, and catcher Cody Trotter fired to Jones at first to retire Tissenbaum. Jones was injured on the play and left the game after he and Tissenbaum collided at first base. Sophomore Jon Kelton entered the game as Jones’ replacement.
Pinch-hitter Travis Jankowski hit a slow roller to shortstop Josh Rutledge, who fired late to first base, but Jankowski did not touch the bag and was later ruled out on an appeal play as the Tide maintained its 4-3 lead.
“We went to the pen and all of a sudden in the eighth inning stuff starts happening,” Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said. “It was one of those baseball things, ground balls with eyes. Whitaker has been sharp all year. I thought as much as anything when the game really got on the line, he gets a ground ball we get a double play and we get out of it. I know we had a crazy play at the end, but worked out of it with the lead and White does his job in the ninth inning to shut it down. It’s always good to win a one-run game; you get better in those games.”
Sophomore right-hander Tyler White worked a perfect ninth inning for his first save of the season, giving the Tide its 12th win in 13 games to open the season.
Alabama (12-1) looked poised for a big day on offense with a four-run first inning, highlighted by Jones’ three-run home run to left field. Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on Rutledge’s base hit to left. Wilson followed with an RBI double down the right field line to score Dugas with the 1-0 lead. Jones followed with his fifth home run of the season as the Tide built a quick 4-0 lead just four batters into the game.
Stony Brook starter Adam Brown (0-2) settled down after the rocky start and shutout the Crimson Tide on six hits over the next 6 2/3 innings. He walked three and struck out five.
The Seawolves (2-6) got on the board in the fourth inning when Chad Marshall reached on a leadoff double and scored on William Carmona’s two-out single to right as the Seawolves cut the lead to 4-1.
Alabama starter Jonathan Smart went five strong innings for his first career win. He allowed one run and four hits with no walks and three strikeouts before leaving after five innings and just 51 pitches.
“I thought he was more aggressive with his pitches today,” Gaspard said. “He really attacked the strike zone, both the inner part of the plate and away. All of his pitches looked sharper to me today than last week. We need him and I think he gained a little confidence today. That was good to see.”
Junior right-hander Nathan Kilcrease came on in relief in the sixth and did some quality control to hold the three-run lead. SBU had a chance to get closer in the sixth inning with two hits and one Alabama error, but had two runners thrown out at home and did not score.
Marshall reached base on an error by Rutledge and moved to third on Dyer’s one-out single. Marshall was thrown out at home when Jones fielded Carmona’s sharp ground ball and threw to Trotter for the second out. Echevarria followed with a two-out single to center and Dugas threw a strike to Trotter at home plate forcing Dyer to hold up between third and home. An alert Trotter then fired to Smith, who tagged Dyer for the final out.
In all, Alabama threw out three Stony Brook runners at home in Sunday’s win. The Crimson Tide also turned two double plays.
Alabama will host the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a two-game midweek series on Tuesday, March 16 and Wednesday, March 17 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Both games begin at 6:35 p.m. (CST). The Crimson Tide opens SEC play next weekend against Vanderbilt in Tuscaloosa.
*Alabama (12-1) is off to its best start since the 1997 season, when the Crimson Tide opened with a school-record 15-game winning streak.
*The Crimson Tide won all four games of the series with Stony Brook and now owns a 14-game home winning streak, dating back to last season.
*Alabama swept a four-game series with Stony Brook marking the first time since 1946 the Tide swept a four-game series. In 1946, first-year Coach Millard “Dixie” Howell led the Tide to a four-game sweep of Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide outscored the Bulldogs 54-21 in the series.
*Senior first baseman Clay Jones hit his team-leading fifth home run of the season in the first inning. Jones has five home runs and 21 RBI in 12 games for Alabama.
*Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge went 2-for-3 on Sunday to extend his hitting streak to eight games. It is the longest of the season by an Alabama player.
*Junior left fielder John David Smelser went 1-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to six games.
*Alabama unveiled a new white cap, which will be worn at selected games this season. The Crimson Tide is wearing white caps for the first time since the 2001 season.
POST GAME QUOTES
Alabama Head Coach Mitch Gaspard
“Obviously the first inning we got off to a really good start offensively. Smart gave us a really good start. We went to the pen and all of a sudden in the eighth inning stuff starts happening. It was one of those baseball things, ground balls with eyes. Whitaker has been sharp all year. I thought as much as anything when the game really got on the line, he gets a ground ball we get a double play and we get out of it. I know we had a crazy play at the end, but worked out of it with the lead and White does his job in the ninth inning to shut it down. It’s always good to win a one-run game; you get better in those games."
On his team’s solid defensive play:
“No question and that’s something our defense has been good all year long. We did kick a couple of balls today, but overall we’ve made plays when we have to make plays and we’ve been very steady on the defensive side of it."
On Jonathan Smart:
“I thought he was more aggressive with his pitches today. He really attacked the strike zone, both the inner part of the plate and away. All of his pitches looked sharper to me today than last week. We need him and I think he gained a little confidence today, that was good to see. We are still trying to put that staff together and build depth as we go along, we need everybody we’ve run out there.”