Bama Rallies for 8-5 at No. 13 Ole Miss

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM
ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

OXFORD,  Miss. -- The University of Alabama baseball team playing its first road series of the 2007 season, scored five runs in the eighth inning, highlighted by senior left fielder Brandon Belcher's two-run single, for an 8-5 come-from-behind win in front of 5,683 fans at Swayze Field Friday night.

Alabama (17-8, 3-1 SEC) scored five runs in the eighth inning to erase a three-run deficit, and pick up its first road win of the 2007 season.

"This the first time we have battled back to win a game, something we haven't been able to all year," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said.  "It was a great effort by the whole team.  It was a team effort, not only from the guys in the starting lineup, but the guys coming off the bench, too."
 
The Crimson Tide trailed 5-2 heading into the eighth inning before putting five straight runners on base against Ole Miss starter Will Kline and closer Scott Bittle to take a two-run lead.

After senior shortstop Greg Paiml was robbed of base hit by third baseman Kyle Overbeck to open the inning, the Crimson Tide put the next five batters on base.  Senior center fielder Emeel Salem started the rally with single up the middle.  Freshman third base Jake Smith was hit by a pitch and sophomore designated hitter Alex Avila walked to load the bases.

The bases loaded walk chased Ole Miss starter Will Kline, who had held the Crimson Tide to two runs on four hits through seven innings.

Sophomore right fielder Kent Matthes, after fouling off a pair of two-strike pitches, lined a single to right to score Salem and cut the lead to 5-3.

Ole Miss turned to relief ace Scott Bittle, who leads the SEC with seven saves and sports a 1.13 ERA.  Bittle walked junior first baseman Matt Bentley to force home Smith and make it a 5-4 game.  After he struck out freshman pinch hitter Del Howell for the second out of the inning, Bittle then walked freshman second baseman Brandon May on a 3-2 pitch to score sophomore pinch-runner Jeff Texada with the tying run.

Belcher then drilled a 1-2 pitch back up the middle to score Matthes and Bentley and give UA its first lead of the game at 7-5 as the Crimson Tide batted around for the win.

"Belcher is a veteran player and he has stepped up for us many times," Wells said.  "He is a tough competitor and a fighter for this team.  I like having him up in that situation.  He gained a lot of confidence after the home run."

Belcher went 2-for-4 with a solo home run and three RBI in the win.

Kline (3-1) allowed six runs and six hits in  7 1/3 innings for his second loss of the season.  He walked two and added five strikeouts.  Bittle, who suffered his fifth blown save of the year, gave up one run and one hit in one-third of an inning.

Junior left-hander Josh Copeland (1-2), who retired the only batter he faced, picked up the win.  Sophomore right-hander Tommy Hunter worked two scoreless innings for his second save of the year.

Alabama added an insurance run in the ninth inning off lefty Craig Rodriguez when Salem singled and later scored when freshman catcher Jared Avchen was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Ole Miss (16-9, 1-3 SEC) took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning with a pair of infield hits and two infield ground outs.  Jordan and Justin Henry led off the game with back-to-back infield singles and moved up one base on sophomore catcher Ryan Rhoden's passed ball.  Zack Cozart's slow roller to third base scored Jordan Henry and Justin Henry scored on C.J. Ketchum's ground out two batters later.

The Rebels extended the lead to 3-0 in the second inning on a pair of two-out hits by Brian Basham and Jordan Henry.  Basham doubled in front of a diving Salem in center field and Jordan Henry laced a 3-0 pitch back up the middle for an RBI single.

Alabama answered with two runs in the third inning to close the gap to 3-2.  Belcher yanked a 2-0 fastball, 380-feet to  right-center field for his first home run of the season to narrow the lead to 3-1.  Paiml followed with a double down the left field line and later scored on Smith's infield ground to cut the Ole Miss lead to 3-2.

Overbeck led off the bottom of the sixth inning with his sixth home run of the season to up the Rebels lead to 4-2.

Ole Miss made it a 5-2 game in the seventh when Zach Miller singled to left to lead off then inning and scored on a two-out wild pitch by sophomore left-hander Miers Quigley.  Quigley, who left the game after a two-out walk to Justin Henry, allowed five runs and eight hits with one walk and one strikeout in his first SEC road start.

The three-run lead was not enough as the Tide sent 17 batters to the plate in the last two innings for the comeback win.

In addition to Belcher, Paiml and Salem had two hits each to pace UA's eight-hit attack.

The Henry brothers combined for four hits to lead Ole Miss' eight-hit attack.

Alabama and Ole Miss will meet in game two of this three-game SEC series Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (CDT).

GAME NOTES:
*Alabama scored six runs in the final two innings for an 8-5 come-from-behind win Friday night.

*The Crimson Tide has won five straight regular season games against the Rebels, dating back to the 2005 season.

*Freshman Brandon May (Marietta, Ga.) made his first career SEC start at Ole Miss Friday.  He went 1-for-3 and recorded first career SEC hit with one out in the seventh inning.

*Senior left fielder Brandon Belcher (Ruston, La.) hit his first home run of the season to lead off the third inning and snap the longest homer-less drought on the team.  It was Belcher's first home run in 36 and 128 at-bats, dating back to April 22, 2006 against Vanderbilt.  Belcher now has six career home runs at Alabama.

*Sophomore first baseman Wes Henderson (Oxford) has now played in more games (45) than any UA player without a home run, while senior shortstop Greg Paiml (Hoover) has had the most at-bats (76) without a home run, dating back to the 2007 season opener.

*Paiml continued his hot-hitting against the Ole Miss Rebels.  Paiml went 3-for-4 with a double and scored one run in Friday's series opener.  In 11 career games, Paiml is batting .394 (13-for-33) against Ole Miss with four doubles, one home run and nine RBI.

*Alabama used two first-time SEC players in its win over Ole Miss, including freshman Del Howell and freshman Jared Avchen.  Howell struck out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and Avchen was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning.