Kilcrease Tosses Complete Game as Baseball Takes Series from Mississippi, 6-3

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM
ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

May 16, 2010

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Junior right hander Nathan Kilcrease tossed his first career complete game, leading Alabama to a 6-3 series-clinching win over the Mississippi Rebels at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Sunday evening.

The Phenix City native pitched the Crimson Tide back into the Southeastern Conference Tournament picture with his 115-pitch performance against the Rebels. 

Alabama (31-21, 12-15 SEC) is in a four-way tie with Kentucky, LSU and Tennessee for seventh place in the overall SEC standings. Two of those four teams will advance to the SEC Tournament at Regions Park in Hoover on May 26-30. The Tide travels to Knoxville, Tenn., next weekend for a three-game series with Tennessee, which begins Thursday, May 20, at 6 p.m. (CDT). Kentucky travels to Georgia and LSU hosts Mississippi State.

Mississippi (36-17, 16-11 SEC) fell into a second-place tie in the SEC Western Division standings with Arkansas, one game behind division-leading Auburn. Mississippi hosts Auburn next weekend in Oxford, Miss.

Alabama and Mississippi waited out a nearly four-hour rain delay and started the series finale at 5:55 p.m. (CDT). Per Southeastern Conference policy the game had to begin by 6 p.m. to avoid the rainout.

Kilcrease (5-2) allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits in nine innings for his second straight SEC win. He matched his career high with seven strikeouts and added two walks. 

"Nathan Kilcrease was outstanding today," Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "For a kid that really didn't start his first game until last weekend, to have back-to-back starts like that really shows what kind of competitor he is. In both starts with our backs up against the wall where we have got to have it, he delivers. Just a lot of credit goes to him."

Kilcrease's gem was the Tide's second straight complete game against the Rebels. Fellow junior Jimmy Nelson tossed his first career complete game in Saturday's 4-1 win over the 14th ranked Rebels. It marked the first time since April 9, 2006 the Crimson Tide had tossed back-to-back complete games as Bernard Robert and Tommy Hunter threw seven-inning complete games in a double header sweep of No. 1 ranked South Carolina.

"I had good command of all three of my pitches," Kilcrease said following the game. "I could get my change-up over for a strike on the first pitch, move it up and down, in and out. (UA pitching) Coach (Kyle) Bunn said he enjoys calling games where you can throw the ball anywhere you want to.

"It feels really good, I guess I'll be starting again next week. I still can't believe I just threw a complete game, it's still unreal to me."

Alabama trailed 3-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning but scored four runs to take a 6-3 lead. The rally was started by a pair of freshman as left fielder Brett Booth and right fielder Andrew Miller posted extra base hits off losing pitcher David Goforth.

Booth ripped a one-out triple off the left-center field wall and Miller followed with double down the right field line to tie the game at 3-3. Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas kept the inning alive with a two-out walk and then stole second to put runners at second and third.

"In the seventh I thought it was great to see the freshmen step up and (Booth) gets a triple then (Andrew) Miller gets the big hit to take the lead; then we just generated more offense from there," Gaspard added.

Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge, who had a clutch two-RBI single in Saturday's win, gave the Tide the lead with an infield single to score Miller and Dugas, who scored when Mississippi second baseman Alex Yarbrough threw the ball away after making a diving stop near second base.

Rutledge stole second base and junior second baseman Ross Wilson singled to center to plate Rutledge with the fourth run of the inning as UA took a 6-3 lead.

Kilcrease worked a perfect eighth and ninth inning to preserve the win. He retired the final nine batters he faced.

Mississippi snapped a scoreless tie with two runs in the fourth inning to take a 2-0 lead. Tim Ferguson reached on a two-out infield hit and scored when Zach Miller smacked a 2-2 pitch over the wall in left field to put the Rebels in front 2-0. It was Miller's second home run of the season.

Alabama plated two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to even the score at 2-2. Wilson singled through the left side of the infield to lead off the inning and scored on senior first baseman Clay Jones' double off the right-center field wall to cut the lead to 2-1.

Jones moved to third base on senior third baseman Jake Smith's ground out and scored on sophomore DH Jon Kelton's sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2-2.

Mississippi snapped the 2-2 tie with an unearned run in the top of the seventh inning to take a 3-2 lead. Ferguson led off the inning with a single and advanced to third base on a two-base error by Dugas. Ferguson scored on a ground out by Miller to give the Rebels a 3-2 lead.

Ferguson had two of the Rebels' five hits and scored two of the three runs. Miller had all three RBI.

Alabama out-hit Mississippi 9-5 in the win, with Rutledge, Wilson and Jones all recording two hits.

GAME NOTES
*Junior right-hander Nathan Kilcrease tossed his first career complete game in the series finale against No. 14 Mississippi. The Phenix City, Ala., native held the Rebels to three runs (two earned) and five hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.

*Kilcrease's gem was the Tide's second straight complete game against the Rebels. Fellow junior Jimmy Nelson tossed his first career complete game in Saturday's 4-1 win over the 14th ranked Rebels. It marked the first time since April 9, 2006 the Crimson Tide had tossed back-to-back complete games as Bernard Robert and Tommy Hunter threw seven-inning complete games in a double header sweep of No. 1 ranked South Carolina.

*The pitching staff was the story of the weekend for the Crimson Tide. Over its final 25 innings of work, Alabama pitchers allowed five runs (four earned) and 13 hits with 25 strikeouts and eight walks against the Rebels. Nelson and Kilcrease closed the series with back-to-back complete game victories. On Friday night, junior RHP Jason Townsend allowed one run and five hits in five innings of relief of sophomore LHP Adam Morgan. Junior RHP Brett Whitaker and Kilcrease added one scoreless inning each in the series opener.

*Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge (2-for-4, R, RBI) extended his SEC hitting streak to 18 games with a first-inning single. The Cullman, Ala., native has hit safely in 26 of the Tide's 27 SEC games this season.  In addition, Rutledge has a 10-game hitting streak, dating back to back to April 30.

*Rutledge has 20 RBI in his last 13 SEC games. He hit a game-tying three-run home run in the ninth inning at South Carolina on April 30 and added a go-ahead two-run single in UA's 6-4 win at South Carolina on May 1. He knocked in six runs in UA's 10-8 win over Florida on May 14 and added three RBI in the final two games of the series with Mississippi.

*Junior second baseman Ross Wilson (2-for-4, R, RBI) has hit safely in 18 of 22 SEC games this season.

*Senior first baseman Clay Jones (2-for-4, R, 2B, RBI) and Rutledge are now tied for the team lead with 52 RBI this season. 

*Alabama scored 11 of its 14 runs in the series after the seventh inning. The Tide had a four-run seventh inning on Sunday and has now scored 64 runs in the seventh inning, the most of any inning.

*Alabama won four of its five home SEC series this season, beating Vanderbilt, Auburn, Mississippi State and Mississippi. The Tide posted a 23-7 home record, including a 10-5 mark in SEC home games.

*The start of the game was delayed three hours and 50 minutes by rain. The game was originally scheduled for a 2:05 p.m. start, but did not begin until 5:55 p.m. Per SEC policy, the game had to begin prior to 6 p.m. to avoid a rainout.

POST GAME QUOTES
Alabama Head Coach Mitch Gaspard
"Nathan Kilcrease was outstanding today. For a kid that really didn't start his first game until last weekend, to have back-to-back starts like that really shows what kind of competitor he is. In both starts with our backs up against the wall where we have got to have it, he delivers. Just a lot of credit goes to him."

"In the seventh I thought it was great to see the freshmen (Brett Booth) step up and get a triple then (Andrew) Miller gets the big hit to take the lead; then we just generated more offense from there."

"The one thing about Kilcrease is he gives our team great energy when he pitches, they know we're going to be right there in the end. I think it started with (Jimmy) Nelson yesterday and kind of built into Kilcrease tonight. Going into the Tennessee weekend, knowing what we have to do, that's how we have to approach it with Nelson on Thursday and Kilcrease on Friday. It's going to be short rest, but right now our team really believes in those guys and I think that's going to give us the best opportunity to go there and win that series."