TUSCALOOSA, Alabama -- Emeel Salem celebrated his 22nd birthday in style Sunday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
The senior center fielder from Mountain Brook hit two home runs in his first two at-bats to lead the No. 25 University of Alabama baseball team to 9-3 win over Georgia State to complete a three-game sweep of the season-opening series.
Salem went 3-for-4 with two home runs and two RBI in leading the Crimson Tide to a three-game sweep of the Panthers. He homered in the first and second innings and added an infield single in the third inning to lead UA’s 15-hit attack.
“Hitting those home runs, especially on my birthday, you just couldn’t ask for anything more,” Salem said after the game. “I think we hit well all weekend and it always feels great to get a sweep.”
For the third consecutive game, Alabama scored two runs in the first inning to take an early lead. Salem led off the game with a home run to right field to put the Tide in front 1-0. The leadoff home run was the first by an Alabama player since Matt Grooms led off the game against McNeese State on March 5, 2005.
After Salem’s home run, sophomore second baseman Jeff Texada and sophomore right-hander Kent Matthes followed with back-to-back singles, with Texada later scoring on a wild pitch to give UA a 2-0 lead.
Alabama (3-0) broke the game open with five straight two-out hits in the second inning to take a 7-0 lead.
Salem started the rally with his second home run of the game to right field to make it 3-0. Texada, freshman third baseman Jake Smith and Matthes followed with three straight singles, with Matthes’ single up the middle scoring Texada from second base to push the Tide in front 4-0. Sophomore first baseman Alex Avila then ripped a three-run home run to left center field to make it a 7-0 game.
“For the first time out this season, I thought we played well,” Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. “It was good to play some outside competition. Like any game or any weekend, we’ll go over the things we need to work on and maintain the things we did well.”
The Crimson Tide’s five-run second inning knocked GSU starter Jeramy Compton (0-1) out of the game. The right-hander lasted only two innings and allowed seven runs and eight hits with one walk and one strikeout.
Alabama starter Casey Kebodeaux (1-0) benefited from the early barrage to earn his first career win with the Crimson Tide. The Mandeville, La., native turned in five solid innings and allowed just one run and four hits in his 2007 debut with four strikeouts. The five innings and four strikeouts were both career highs.
Georgia State (0-3) scored a run on three hits in the fifth to make it a 7-1 game. Adam McQueary, Matt Van Horn and Chase Childers collected singles, with Childers base hit through the right side scoring McQueary with the first run of the game.
The Crimson Tide tacked on two more runs in the seventh inning on back-to-back doubles by freshman catcher Jared Avchen and senior shortstop Greg Paiml. Texada added a sacrifice fly to give Alabama a 9-1 lead.
The Panthers recorded their first extra base hit of the weekend with one out in the ninth inning when Luke Gordon doubled to left and scored on Charlie Pelt’s two-run home run off Patrick Kelly to make the final 9-3.
Alabama will return to action on Wednesday, Feb. 14 when they host the Troy Trojans in the 6:30 p.m. (CST) game at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Troy lost two of three at home this weekend to sixth-ranked Arkansas.
*Senior centerfielder Emeel Salem (Mountain Brook) led off the game with his first home run of the season. Salem slammed a 1-0 pitch over the right field wall to give Alabama a 1-0 lead. Salem’s leadoff was the first by an Alabama player since Matt Grooms led off the game against McNeese State with a home run on March 5, 2005.
*Salem, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Sunday, was 3-for-4 in the win over Georgia State and recorded his first career multi-home run game for the Crimson Tide.
*The Crimson Tide scored two runs in the first inning in all three games against Georgia State.
*Sophomore Alex Avila (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) hit a three-run home run in the Tide’s five-run second inning to tie Salem for the team lead with two home runs through three games. Avila has two home runs and four RBI this season.
*Alabama has hit seven home runs in its first three games of the 2007 season.
*The Crimson Tide turned four double plays in Sunday’s win over Georgia State falling one short of the single-game school record. Alabama turned five double plays against Huntingdon in 1990 and Kentucky in 2005.
*Alabama’s starting pitchers allowed only one run in 16 2/3 innings against Georgia State. Sophomore Tommy Hunter and senior Brandon Belcher combined for 10 2/3 scoreless innings on Saturday, while sophomore Casey Kebodeaux allowed one run in five innings during Sunday’s series finale.
*Freshman Brandon May (Marietta, Ga.) made his Alabama debut on Sunday and recorded a pinch-hit double in his first collegiate at-bat in the eighth inning.
*Junior Elvin Vargas (New York, N.Y.) made his Alabama debut on Sunday and flied out to right field as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning.
*Alabama is 3-0 for the first time since the 2002 team opened the year with 10 straight wins.