Long Day Ends in Loss at SEC Tournament, 9-3



May 22, 2008

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Long Day Ends in Loss at SEC Tournament, 9-3

HOOVER, Ala. - Kentucky scored five unearned runs en route to a 9-3 opening-round win over Alabama in the 2008 Southeastern Conference Tournament at Regions Park in a game that began late Wednesday night before quickly turning into Thursday morning.

The game began at 10:45 p.m. (CDT) ended before 2 a.m. as the four SEC Tournament games were played in a combined 13 hours and 14 minutes on Wednesday. It was the latest start and finish of an Alabama baseball game in the Jim Wells era.

Alabama (32-25) will return to ballpark in less than 12 hours to face top-seeded Georgia in an elimination game at 1 p.m. (CDT). Georgia lost to Ole Miss, 4-1, in an opening round game on Wednesday. Kentucky (42-15) will face Ole Miss at 8 p.m. (CDT) on Thursday night in a winner's bracket game.

A pair of Alabama errors led to five unearned runs in the loss to UK. The Wildcats scored two unearned runs in the first inning and added three more in a four-run sixth inning.

"When you look at the scoreboard, we had the same number of hits, but they scored six more runs," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "We made two errors that gave them (five) runs. When you don't pitch and you don't defend, it makes it tough to win."

Alabama opened the game with four straight hits to take a 2-0 lead. Josh Rutledge, Ross Wilson, Alex Avila and Brandon May accounted for the offense, with Avila and May producing run-scoring singles.

Kentucky scored two run on a two-out throwing error by Rutledge as the Wildcats tied the game at 2-2. Bryan Rose and Sawyer Carroll reached on back-to-back one-out singles and both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Rutledge's throwing error on Chris McClendon's ground ball with two outs allowed both runners to score.

Tyler Odle's towering home run to right field gave Alabama a 3-2 lead in the second inning. It was Odle's third home run of the season and first career post-season home run.

Kentucky tied the game at 3-3 on Brian Spear's RBI double to left in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Alabama's offense sputtered against UK right-hander Aaron Lovett, making his first career start, after the first two innings. The Tide offense managed only three singles over the final seven innings. Lovett (5-1) allowed three runs and eight hits in the win and added a career-high 12 strikeouts.

The Wildcats took the lead with a pair of two-out runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to chase UA starter Jimmy Nelson. Carroll laced a two-out double into the right field corner to start the rally and Cowgill was hit by pitch on a two-strike count. McClendon followed with single up the middle on 3-2 pitch to score Carroll and Cowgill, who was running on the play and scored all the way from first base.

Nelson (3-3) gave up five runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings in his first career start against an SEC team and his first post-season start. He added five strikeouts, three walks, two wild pitches and one hit batter.

Kentucky scored four more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 9-3 lead. Two runs scored on a throwing error by third baseman Jake Smith as UK upped its lead to 7-3. Carroll's sacrifice fly made it 8-3 and McClendon knocked in his third run to make it 9-3.

No Alabama player had more than one hit in the loss. UK was paced by Carroll's two hits and McClendon's two hits and three RBI.

GAME NOTES: *The Alabama -Kentucky game did not start until 10:45 p.m. (CDT), almost four hours pas the original start time. This is the latest start time for an Alabama baseball game in the Jim Wells era. The previous late start was a 9:52 p.m. (CDT) when Alabama met Ole Miss in the first round of the SEC Tournament on May 25, 2005. The Crimson Tide and Jacksonville State Gamecocks met in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional on June 2, 2006 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. That NCAA Regional game began at 9:35 p.m. (CDT).

*The Alabama-Kentucky game ended at 1:54 a.m. on Thursday morning, marking the latest finish for an Alabama baseball game in the Wells era. The three previous early morning finishes all took place before 1 a.m. local time, including 12:55 a.m. (Alabama vs. Jacksonville State, 2006 NCAA Regional), 12:28 a.m. (Alabama vs. Ole Miss, 2005 SEC Tournament) and 12:46 a.m. (Georgia at Alabama, 2003). The Alabama-Georgia game endured two rain delays totaling 2:44 minutes.

*Freshman second baseman Ross Wilson (Hoover, Ala.) extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a first inning single.

*Alabama has lost four consecutive SEC Tournament games, dating back to the 2006 SEC Tournament. The four-game losing streak includes losses to Ole Miss (2006), Arkansas (2007), Florida (2007) and Kentucky (2008).

*The Crimson Tide has also four straight opening round games, dating back to the 2003 season. The losing streak includes losses to Ole Miss (2005), LSU (2006), Arkansas (2007) and Kentucky (2008). Alabama did not make the tournament field in 2004.

*Alabama is 0-4 against Kentucky this season and has been outscored 37-11 in the four losses.

*The attendance for session two was 11,967.

*The four SEC Tournament games took 13 hours and 14 minutes to complete on Wednesday. The Alabama-Kentucky game was the fastest game of the day at 3:04. Ole Miss and Georgia played a 3:06 game.

*Junior RHP Austin Hyatt (3-4, 4.95 ERA) will start Alabama's elimination game against Georgia later today.

*Here are the recaps of Wednesday's first round action at the SEC Tournament:

LSU 5, South Carolina 4 Blake Dean's walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning lifted LSU to a 5-4 come-from-behind win. The Tigers trailed 4-0 in the ninth inning before Matt Clark's three-run home run pulled the Tigers to within 4-3. Ryan Schimpf's double tied the game with two outs. Phil Disher hit his 40th career home run for South Carolina.

Vanderbilt 7, Florida 3 Steven Little and Andrew Giobbi had three hits each, leading Vanderbilt to 7-3 win over No. 3 seed Florida in game two on Wednesday. The Commodores scored three runs in the second inning to take a 4-1 lead. Mike Minor went five innings on the mound for Vandy.

Ole Miss 4, Georgia 1 Ole Miss ace pitcher Lance Lynn struck out a season high 12 batters, leading the Rebels to a 4-1 win over top-seeded Georgia. Cody Overbeck had a two-run single in the first inning as the Rebels never trailed. The 2008 SEC Tournament marked the seventh straight year the No. 1 seed lost its opening round game. Georgia was the last No. 1 seed to win its first game back in 2001.

*Here is the schedule for Thursday, May 22: 10 a.m. South Carolina vs. Florida (elimination game) 1 p.m. Georgia vs. Alabama (elimination game) 5 p.m. LSU vs. Vanderbilt 8 p.m. Ole Miss vs. Kentucky