May 8, 2011
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Senior left-hander Jonathan Smart pitched 8.1 scoreless innings, striking out four while scattering eight hits to lift the Alabama baseball team to a 9-0 series clinching win over the LSU Tigers on Sunday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. With the win, the Crimson Tide improves to 30-20 overall and 12-12 in Southeastern Conference play while LSU falls to 30-19 (8-16 SEC) on the year.
In addition to the sterling performance from Smart (4-1), who was making just his third start of the year, the Alabama bats pounded out an SEC-high 15 hits on the day, including a season-high three home runs.
"This was probably our best game all year," UA head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "Jonathan Smart was just tremendous all day long. We had really good offense early on and Austen Smith capped off the second with a grand slam. We had a lot of good swings throughout the day. Offense, defense and pitching were just tremendous all day. It was a complete game and one that we needed."
Junior center fielder Taylor Dugas led the hitting barrage, going 3-for-5 with three runs scored, a double and a home run, finishing a triple short of the cycle. Freshman designated hitter Austen Smith went 2-for-4 with four RBI, including a second inning grand slam. The grand slam for Smith was his second of the season, individually, and second for the team. Smith hit a grand slam against Alabama State in the fourth game of the season.
Junior shortstop Jared Reaves totaled a 2-for-4, two-run, one-RBI performance at the plate, freshman first baseman Patrick McGavin registered a career-high three hits, finishing 3-for-4 with one run scored on the day, and senior catcher Brock Bennett chipped in with a 2-for-5, one-run performance for the Tide.
Coupled with Saturday's 4-0 win, Sunday marked the first time Alabama shut out an opponent in back-to-back games since 2004 when the Tide blanked Southeast Missouri State 2-0 and 20-0 in consecutive games.
Sunday also marked the first time Alabama shut out an SEC opponent in back-to-back games since 1990, when the Tide defeated Mississippi 2-0 and 9-0 in consecutive games. Moreover, LSU was held scoreless in back-to-back games for the first time since 1982.
With the win versus the Tigers, Alabama has now captured series victories versus all four SEC West opponents it has faced this year. The Tide has 2-1 series wins against Mississippi, Arkansas, Mississippi State and LSU.
"The big thing for us is that we kept pace with where we needed to go," Gaspard said. "I think every time you get another quality win, and this being 30, you are that much closer to postseason play, and that much closer to going to Hoover. Right now it's about winning series' and when you can win a series, you are really close. We control our own destiny and that's all you can ask with six games remaining."
The Crimson Tide started strong for the second consecutive game, plating two runs on four hits in the first inning before exploding for five runs on four hits in the second inning.
Dugas led off the game with a double, advanced to third on a grounder by Bennett, and then scored on Reaves' RBI single. Following the run, Reaves moved to third on a double by Smith and then later scored on Andrew Miller's RBI single to close out the scoring in the first.
The Tide bats weren't done yet, as Alabama put a five spot on the board in the second inning to take a commanding 7-0 lead.
McGavin led off with a single, then later scored after Dugas was able to leg out an infield hit, resulting in an RBI single. Bennett followed with a ground rule double to left, advancing Dugas to third, before LSU issued an intentional walk to Reaves. Following the free pass, Smith slammed the first pitch he saw over the left field wall for a grand slam home run, clearing the bases and giving the Tide the 7-0 advantage.
The Tide would add a run in the fourth and a run in the fifth behind a pair of solo home runs from Dugas and Brett Booth. Dugas launched his team-leading fifth home run, hammering a 2-2 pitch over the wall in right field. One inning later, Booth got in on the action, recording his first home run of the year with a high shot over the left field wall.
Smart held the Tigers at bay over the closing innings, giving way to junior Josh Rosecrans after recording an out in the ninth inning. Rosecrans was able to keep the Tigers from scoring, recording the final two outs to seal the victory for Alabama.
The Crimson Tide will travel next to Auburn for its final SEC road series of the year. The three-game series is slated to start Friday, May 13 with the Saturday game set to be televised by CSS.