Alabama-Georgia Split Double Header; Tide Clinches SEC Tournament Berth
ATHENS, Ga. - Alabama and Georgia played two vastly different games on Friday at Frank Foley Field in Athens, Ga., with the two teams splitting a double header on the next-to-last day of the regular season.
The Crimson Tide walloped five home runs and won a 17-13 slugfest in the opener, while the Bulldogs earned the slit with a 5-4 game in tightly contested game in the nightcap.
"We swung the bats really well in the first game," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "We had a lot of good at-bats and we just out-slugged them. The second game was more like real baseball."
Alabama now stands at 31-24 overall and 15-14 in SEC play and clinched an SEC Tournament berth with its win in game one. The Crimson Tide will also finish second in the SEC Western Division, as Ole Miss dropped a 9-0 decision at Kentucky on Friday night. Georgia is 35-18-1 overall and 20-8-1 in league play after the split.
Game 2: No. 7 Georgia 5, Alabama 4
Georgia took advantage of leadoff walk and an error in the bottom of the ninth inning to post a 5-4 win in the nightcap.
Third baseman Ryan Peisel drew a lead off walk against losing pitcher Will Stroup and scored all the way from first base on Matt Olson's single to left-center field and Alex Kubal's error that allowed the winning run to cross the plate.
Stroup (5-3) allowed two runs and two hits in two-plus innings as he suffered his third loss of the season.
"The lead off walk really hurt us," Wells said. "We really had a hard time with their No. 4 and No. 5 hitters today."
First baseman Rich Poythress and catcher Bryce Massanari were a combined 13 for 15 with five home runs and 12 RBI in the double header.
Georgia All-American closer Joshua Fields (2-1) picked up the win after retired all four Alabama batters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings.
The two teams traded leads throughout the second game, before Fields entered the game with a two outs and the go-ahead run at second base. Fields struck out pinch-hitter Del Howell on three pitches to end the inning. He also worked a perfect ninth and benefitted from the error in the bottom of the frame to pick up the win.
Georgia All-American shortstop Gordon Beckham hit his school-record tying 23rd home run of the season off Stroup in the seventh inning to tie the game at 4-4.
Beckham's home run came after Alabama had tied the game with a two-out home run in the top of the inning.
Freshman shortstop Josh Rutledge roped a single up the middle with two outs and scored on Wilson's two-run home run to right field to give the Tide a 4-3 lead. It was Wilson's 12th home run of the season and second of the day.
Wilson's home run came an inning after Georgia had grabbed its first lead of the day when Massanari, who went 7 for 7 with three home runs and eight RBI in the double header, slammed a two-run home run off UA starter Austin Hyatt to give the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead.
Georgia starter Stephen Dodson held Alabama to two runs and four hits in six innings of work. Hyatt held the Bulldogs to three runs and seven his in six innings. Neither starter was involved in the decision.
"Hyatt pitched his best game in a long time," Wells added. "That was good to see and he did a really good job."
Alabama continued the hot-hitting in game two with a run in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead. Avila stroked a two-out single to right and scored on May's double to left-center field.
The Tide and Bulldogs traded solo home runs in the fourth inning as the Crimson Tide took a 2-1 lead. Avila's 15th home run of the season and second of the double header gave Alabama a brief 2-0 lead in the top of the inning, before Poythress hit his 12th home run of the season and second of the twin bill in the bottom of the frame.
Game 1: Alabama 17, No. 7 Georgia 13
Alabama matched its season high with five home runs, including two by sophomore third baseman Jake Smith, as the Crimson Tide knocked off No. 7 Georgia, 17-13.
The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs combined for 30 runs and 34 hits, including nine home runs in Friday's opener.
Junior Tyler Odle paced the Tide's 20-hit attack with a career high four hits. Wilson (3 for 6, 3 R, HR, 5 RBI) and Avila (3 for 6, 2 R, HR, 5 RBI) combined for six hits and 10 RBI in the win.
"I thought we really swung the bats well all day," Wells said. "The guys did a real good job swinging the bats and we had a lot of quality at-bats. Del Howell hit a long home run that nearly hit a house in right field."
Massanari went 4 for 4 with three runs scored, two home runs and three RBI. Poythress had four hits and three RBI, including a two-run home run for the Bulldogs.
Junior Miers Quigley (5-4) pitched five innings for the win for the Tide, despite allowing six runs, five hits and six walks. It was his first SEC win since beating Tennessee on March 16, 2007, a span of 15 starts.
Austin Graham allowed one run in 1 2/3 innings for his fourth save of the season.
Alabama also turned a season-high four double plays in the win, thwarting Georgia rallies in the first and second innings and the seventh and eighth innings.
Georgia starter Trevor Holder (7-4) was the losing pitcher after allowing six runs and seven hits in 1 2/3 innings.
Alabama erupted for six two-out runs in the top of the second inning, highlighted by home runs from Smith and Avila to take a 6-0 lead. Junior right fielder Kent Matthes led off the inning with a double down the left field line and scored on Smith's two-out home run to right center field as the Tide took a 2-0 lead.
Odle followed with a base hit to right field and Josh Rutledge rifled a single up the middle to send Odle to third. Wilson kept the inning alive as he drew a four-pitch walk before Avila crushed a first pitch fast ball to right-center field to make hit 6-0. It was his 14th home run of the season and second career grand slam.
After Avila's home run, Brandon May singled to left to knock Holder out of the game. Georgia reliever Steve Esmonde then hit Matt Bentley and walked Matthes to load the bases, before he struck out Del Howell to end the inning.
The Bulldogs got one run back in the bottom of inning when Matt Cerione drew a bases loaded walk to score Bryce Massanari. Cerione's walk was the third straight walk in the inning by Quigley, who got out of the jam when Miles Starr hit into an inning-ending double play.
The Tide scored four more runs in the third inning, hitting two more home runs to take a 10-1 lead. Smith led off the inning with his second home run of the game, a solo blast to left-center field. Smith now has six home runs on the season. Odle followed with a triple and Rutledge was hit by pitch before Wilson stroked a three-run home run off the batters eye in dead center field to give the Tide a nine-run lead. It was Wilson's 11th home run of the season.
Georgia hit a pair of home runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to shave the lead to 10-6. Poythress' two-run home run to right center field cut the lead to 10-5 and Massanari followed with a solo shot to left field the Bulldogs cut the deficit to 10-6.
"I've been around long enough to know a 10-1 lead is never safe," Wells said. "A walk here, a home run there and the other team is back in the game. We just outslugged them."
Alabama's offense answered right back with three more runs in the top of the sixth to stretch its lead to 14-6. Odle, who had a career high four hits, drove in the first run with an RBI single to right to score Howell. Wilson followed with a two-run triple into the left field corner to score Smith and Odle to make it 13-6. Avila then ripped a double to center to drive in Wilson as the Tide extended its lead to 14-6.
The slugfest continued as Georgia scored three more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on back-to-back RBI doubles by Ryan Peisel and Olson. Poythress' two-out single scored Olson to make the score 14-9.
Massanari's three-run home run off Josh Copeland in the bottom of the eighth inning brought the Bulldogs to within 14-12.
Austin Graham came on out of the pen and walked pinch-hitter Jake Crane, before David Thoms rapped into the inning-ending double play, the fourth turned by the Tide defense in the shootout.
Howell's three-run home run with two outs in the ninth inning off Will Harvil gave Alabama a 17-12 cushion.
Cerione led off the bottom of the inning with a solo home run to cap the scoring in a wild game.
*Alabama has equaled its win total of last season with one game remaining in the regular season. The Tide is 31-24 this season after posting a 31-26 record last year.
*The Crimson Tide matched its season-high with five home runs in the first game of Friday's double header. The Tide also hit five home runs in an 11-7 win at Arkansas on May 3. For the season, Alabama has hit 73 home runs, compared to only 54 home runs last year.
*Alabama (7) and Georgia (7) combined for 14 home runs in the double header and the 14 homers accounted for 27 of the 40 total runs on Friday.
*Alabama scored 15 of its 21 runs in Friday's twin bill with two outs, including 12 runs in game one.
*Junior catcher/DH Alex Avila (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) went 5 for 10 (.500) in the double header with two home runs, six RBI and four runs scored. He homered in both games and leads UA with 15 home runs this season. With the two home runs at Georgia, Avila has now homered against SEC team he has faced except Auburn. He was 2 for 5 with a home run and six RBI in game one and stroked his second career grand slam in the second inning.
*Avila's second-inning grand slam was the second of his career for the Tide. His only other grand slam came at Mississippi State on May 16, 2007. Alabama has three grand slams this season by Ross Wilson (vs. Youngstown State, March 7), Del Howell (vs. Mississippi State, April 19) and Avila (vs. Georgia, May 16).
*Junior center fielder Tyler Odle (Vestavia Hills, Ala.) was 4 for 8 with three runs scored in the double header, including a career-high four hits in the opener. He also recorded his fourth triple of the season in game one, with all four three-base hits coming since April 27.
*Freshman second baseman Ross Wilson (Hoover, Ala.) went 4 for 9 with four runs, two home runs and seven RBI in the double header with Georgia. He was 3 for 5 in the first game on Friday's double header and missed the cycle by a single. Wilson doubled in the first inning, homered (3 RBI) in the third inning and tripled (2 RBI) in the sixth inning. The Georgia game marked the second time this season Wilson fell a single short of the cycle a he doubled, tripled and homered against Texas Arlington on Feb. 28. He hit a two-run home run in the nightcap, giving him a home run in both games and 12 for the season. The freshman home run record is 15 by Jeremy Brown in 1999.
*Sophomore third baseman Jake Smith (Shannon, Ala.) was 3 for 9 with three runs, two homers and three RBI on Friday. Smith recorded his first career multi-home run game for the Tide in game one on Friday. Smith now has six home runs this season, matching his total as a freshman in 2007.
*Junior Miers Quigley (Marietta, Ga.) was the winning pitcher for Alabama in game one. It was his first SEC win since beating Tennessee on March 16, 2007, a span of 15 league starts. The Tide is now riding a three-game SEC winning streak in Quigley's last three starts. The three-game winning streak came on the heels of a 12-game SEC losing streak, which dated back to March 30, 2007.