May 27, 2010
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HOOVER, Ala. - Alabama junior Nathan Kilcrease pitched into the ninth inning in his third consecutive start while the Crimson Tide offense scored three of its six runs with two outs en route to a 6-3 win over No. 21 Mississippi in the second round of the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament at Regions Park on Thursday evening.
Kilcrease was masterful once again as he took a shutout into the seventh inning. He threw only 45 pitches in the first five innings, including a four-pitch third inning and a five-pitch fifth inning. The Phenix City, Ala., native allowed back-to-back two-out singles to Matt Snyder and Matt Smith in the first inning and then promptly retired the next 17 Mississippi hitters until Smith stroked a one-out double to right in the seventh inning.
He got offensive support from junior second baseman Ross Wilson and junior catcher Brock Bennett, who had three hits each. Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge added two hits and two RBI to increase his team lead to 61 RBI this season.
Alabama (36-21) took a 6-2 lead into the final inning before Kilcrease allowed three straight hits as the Rebels cut the lead to 6-3.
Mississippi first baseman Matt Smith collected his third hit of the game with a single to center to lead off the ninth inning. After David Phillips grounded out to UA senior first baseman Clay Jones, Alex Yarbrough followed with an RBI single to right to make the score 6-3. Taylor Hashman followed with a single through the left side of the infield to bring the tying run to the plate.
Senior right-hander Jake Smith replaced Kilcrease and retired the next two hitters for his fourth save of the season. Smith got Miles Hamblin to foul out to Jones on a 2-2 pitch and then struck out Kevin Mort on a called third strike to end the game and send the Tide into the semifinals with an undefeated record for the first time since 2003.
Kilcrease (6-2) held the Rebels to three runs on nine hits in 8 1/3 innings for the win. He added three strikeouts and no walks to extend his streak to 25 2/3 innings without a walk.
Mississippi right-hander Aaron Barrett took a shutout of his own into the fifth inning before the Tide put a two-out run on the board.
Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas drew a two-out walk and then immediately stole second base. Rutledge slapped a 2-0 pitch into left field and Dugas scored just ahead of Hashman's throw to put the Tide in front 1-0.
Alabama extended its lead to 3-0 in the sixth inning as it utilized the short game to score a pair of runs. Junior DH David Kindred led off the inning with a tapper back the mound that was ruled an infield hit. After Smith struck out, junior left fielder Jon Kelton ripped a triple into the right-center field gap that easily scored Kindred to give the Tide a 2-0 lead.
From there, freshman right fielder Andrew Miller laid down a bunt that was mishandled by Barrett for an error and Bennett followed with a bunt single back to the mound that scored Kelton to push the lead to 3-0.
Alabama added another run in the seventh inning to go up 4-0. Wilson led off the inning with a single to left that chased Barrett from the game.
Rory McKean replaced Barrett on the mound and his first pitch bounced to backstop as Wilson took second on the wild pitch. McKean then hit Jones and Kindred moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Smith lifted a fly ball to center and Wilson raced home just ahead of Ferguson's throw to give the Tide a four-run lead.
Mississippi (37-21) got on the board in the seventh when Smith stroked a one-out double and scored on David Phillips' RBI single to right to make it 4-1.
Alabama quickly answered with two runs in the eighth to take a 6-1 lead. Bennett reached on a one-out single to right and moved to second on a balk before Rutledge delivered an RBI single to left to score Bennett from second base to put the Tide up 5-1.
Wilson, who reached base five times, was hit by a pitch to chase McKean. Eric Callender replaced McKen on the mound and Jones greeted him with an RBI single to make it 6-1.
Hamblin's second home run of the SEC Tournament cut the lead to 6-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Alabama will face the winner of Friday's Florida-Vanderbilt game in the second semifinal game on Saturday, May 29. LSU will take on the Auburn-Mississippi winner in the first semifinal game Saturday at 9:36 a.m. (CDT).
*Alabama (36-21, 15-15 SEC) won its seventh straight game on Thursday and is 12-5 in its last 17 games against SEC opponents, dating back to April 23. Including a pair of non-conference games with Georgia (W, 13-2) and Auburn (L, 6-8), Alabama is 19-16 against SEC teams this season.
*Alabama is 2-0 in the SEC Tournament for the sixth time and the first time since 2003. The Crimson Tide also started 2-0 in 1996, 1997, 1999, 2002 and 2003 and won the SEC Tournament each time.
*Alabama scored three of its six runs against Mississippi with two outs and has scored 10 of its 13 runs in the tournament with two outs.
*The Crimson Tide scored three of its six runs in the final three innings and has scored 36 of its last 51 runs in the seventh inning or later.
*Junior second baseman Ross Wilson went 3-for-3 and reached base five times on Thursday. He collected his 200th career hit with a two-out single in the first inning. Wilson joins junior shortstop Josh Rutledge and senior third baseman Jake Smith as the current UA players with 200 career hits. The 2010 Alabama team is one of two teams in school history to have three players with 200 or more career hits. The 2002 team also had three players with 200 or more hits, including Brent Boyd, Jeremy Brown and Scott McClanahan.
*Junior catcher Brock Bennett went 3-for-4 with one run scored and one RBI on Thursday. In two SEC Tournament games, Bennett is 5-for-8 with three runs scored, one double and one RBI.
*Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas extended his on-base streak to 46 consecutive games with a two-out walk in the third inning and he has reached base safely in 56 of 57 games this year. He finished the game with two walks and now leads the SEC with 59 walks this season. The 59 walks are the third-most in a season in school history.
*Junior right-hander Nathan Kilcrease improved to 6-2 on the season with another outstanding performance on the mound. He worked 8 1/3 innings and allowed three runs on nine hits with three strikeouts and no walks. He has had back-to-back outings without a walk and not issued a base on balls in his last 25 2/3 innings.
*Senior third baseman Jake Smith recorded his fourth save of the season as he retired the final two batters in the ninth inning.
POST GAME QUOTES
Alabama Head Coach Mitch Gaspard:
"It was another great outing today from our pitcher. Nathan Kilcrease, much like yesterday from (Jimmy) Nelson, had command of all three pitches, was very dominant and allowed our offense to get going. We were able to execute some runs and do a few things with our bunt game. Again, our pitching and defense has been tremendous during this seven game run. When you get that kind of performance on the mound, it relaxes your offense and you are able to do some things. When you do get those runs you are able to extend your lead like we were able to do today. The energy of our players right now in Birmingham with all the fans plays a huge part in our success."
Alabama RHP Nathan Kilcrease:
"I located well with my fast ball, my slider was pretty sharp and my change-up, used as a third pitch, was kind of off and on. I feel like Ole Miss changed their approach a little bit mid-game. They huddled up and came out more energized and tried to take the slider away. They were able to get a few hits and put a few things together."