Alabama Sweeps Vanderbilt; Moves Into First-Place in SEC



Alabama 9, Vanderbilt 3 (Game One)
Alabama 14, Vanderbilt 7 (Game Two)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama offense generated 23 runs and 40 hits against the best pitching staff ERA-wise in the Southeastern Conference and cruised to a double header sweep of the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

The Crimson Tide won the opener 9-3 against ace left-hander David Price and then rouged up Cody Crowell and VU bullpen for a 14-7 win in the nightcap.

The double header sweep moves Alabama into sole possession of first place in the SEC standings after South Carolina's loss at Kentucky on Saturday night. The Crimson Tide (30-12, 12-5 SEC) owns a one-game lead over the Gamecocks (11-6 SEC) in the SEC standings. Alabama extended its lead to three games in the SEC Western Division. Arkansas (9-8 SEC) and Ole Miss (9-8 SEC) are tied for second heading into Sunday's play.

Vanderbilt (25-15, 10-7 SEC) falls to third place in the SEC standings and has now lost three straight games for the first time this year.

Freshman DH Alex Avila (Hialeah, Fla.) and senior catcher Kody Valverde (Baton Rouge) were a combined 11-for-18 in the double header with seven runs scored, five doubles, one home run and nine RBI. Avila was 6-for-10 with three doubles, four runs scored and five RBI. He was 4-for-6 in game two with three doubles and two RBI. Valverde was 3-for-5 in the nightcap with a home run and three RBI.

In what was billed as a classic pitching matchup between to of the best left-handers in the Southeastern Conference, it was the Alabama offense that stole the show.

The 11th ranked Crimson Tide scored three runs in the fourth and fifth innings and pounded out 12 hits en route to a 9-3 win over the 16th ranked Commodores in the opener.

Alabama roughed up Vandy starter and sophomore left-hander David Price for eight runs and 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings. Price (5-3), who ranks second in the NCAA with 14.4 strikeouts per nine innings, struck out four and walked one in the loss.

Freshman right fielder Ryan Rhoden had a career three-hits, including two doubles, to lead the UA attack. Senior third baseman Matt Downs had two hits, including a solo home run and junior left fielder Brandon Belcher added a three-run home run.

The trio provided more than enough offense for UA junior left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who blanked Vandy on four hits through eight innings, for his eighth straight win dating back to the 2005 season. LeBlanc (7-0) struck out three, walked three and hit one batter for his first career win in two starts against the Commodores.

Alabama took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning as junior center fielder Emeel Salem led off the game with a single to left and moved into scoring position on Downs' sacrifice bunt. After Salem stole third, Vandy elected the play the infield in with a 3-2 count on freshman DH Alex Avila, who singled past the third baseman to give UA the lead.

The Crimson Tide extended its lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning when Belcher ripped a three-run home run to right field with two outs. It was his fourth career home run and second of the season.

Alabama built a 7-0 lead in the fifth inning as they scored three more runs on four hits. Downs led off the inning with a double into the left field corner and moved to third base on Avila's single through the left side of the infield. Avila had two hits and two RBI in the win.

Valverde smashed an RBI double over the head of left fielder Matt Meingasner to score Downs and Bush followed with 20th career sac fly to score Avila as the Tide built a 6-0 lead. Rhoden then slapped a single to left field to score Valverde with final run of the inning as the Tide took a 7-0 lead.

Downs solo home run to lead off the seventh inning gave the Crimson Tide an 8-0 lead. It was Downs' fourth home run of the season and third in SEC play.

Rhoden doubled and scored on junior shortstop Greg Paiml's two-out single in the eighth as UA went up 9-0.

Vanderbilt scored three runs off Josh Copeland in the ninth inning to avoid the shutout. Pinch-hitter Jonathan White hit a two-run home run and third baseman Pedro Alvarez added an RBI double as the Commodores made the final score 9-3.

The ninth-inning momentum carried over into game two as the Commodores scored two runs on two hits to take a quick 2-0 lead. Ryan Davis' two-out, two-run single to right scored David Macias and Alvarez as Vandy took a 2-0 lead.

Alabama scored a run in the second inning when Rhoden walked and scored on Wes Henderson's double into the field corner to cut the lead to 2-1. Henderson went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and sac bunt in his first career start at first base in the finale.

The Crimson Tide stretched its lead to 10-2 after five innings by scoring three runs in each of the next three innings. In the third, Downs led off with a single up the middle and scored when Avila doubled into the right field corner to tie the game at 2-2. Valverde then launched his 10th home run of the season over the scoreboard in left field to give UA a 4-2 lead.

Bush followed with a single and Rhoden drew a walk to chase Vandy starter Cody Crowell. Crowell (4-1) was charged with four runs and six hits in two-plus innings on the mound as he took his first loss of the season.

Tyler Rhoden did not fare much better as the Crimson Tide scored six runs on eight hits of the right-hander in the next two innings.

UA scored three more runs in the fourth inning, which included a pair of triples by Salem and Rhoden. Salem tripled and scored on Downs' sac fly to center and Bush and Rhoden each added an RBI for the 7-2 lead.

Bama put three more runs on the board in the fifth inning to take a 10-2 lead. Belcher started the scoring with a solo home run to right field, his second homer of the double header. Avila plated another run with an RBI double, his third of the game. Valverde capped the scoring with an RBI single to left.

Cameron Betourne replaced Tyler Rhoden on the mound and held the Tide to unearned runs over the next 2 1/3 innings.

UA tacked on two more runs in the seventh to take a 12-2 lead. Downs walked and Valverde doubled and both scored when Bush reached on an error by shortstop Dominic de la Osa as the Tide built a 10-run lead. Valverde was 3-for-5 with a double, home run and three RBI.

Vanderbilt scored four runs in the eighth inning to close the gap to 12-6 and chase Robert. Rucker Taylor was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to plate one run and wild pitch sent home another run as Vandy cut the lead to 12-4. Matt Meingasner followed with a two-run double to close the gap to 12-6 and chase Robert.

Robert (6-2) allowed six runs and nine hits in 7 1/3 innings, with three walks and a season-high nine strikeouts. He is the fourth UA pitcher with six or more wins this year.

Avila drove in two more runs with a bases loaded single in the eighth to give UA a 14-6 lead. Vandy added a run in the ninth against junior RHP Patrick Kelly, who recorded the final five outs, in his SEC debut.

Vanderbilt added a run in the ninth when de la Osa reached on an infield hit, stole second and moved around on successive ground outs.

The two teams will wrap up this three-game series at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Alabama will send freshman RHP Tommy Hunter (6-2, 3.94 ERA) to the mound, while Vandy was undecided about its starter in the series finale.

GAME NOTES: *Alabama and Vanderbilt played a double header on Saturday afternoon after the series opener was rained out on Friday as a series of thunderstorms rolled through Tuscaloosa in the late afternoon and most of the night.

*Alabama played its third double header of the season on Saturday. The Crimson Tide swept its two previous double headers with Florida International (W 12-2 and 7-0) on Feb. 26 and No. 1 South Carolina (W 8-6 and 6-1) on April 9.

*Alabama is 6-0 in its three double headers this season, with sweeps over Fla. International, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

*Alabama has now four consecutive games following Saturday's sweep over Vandy. Bama has also won four straight home games, dating back to April 5.

*The Crimson Tide has pounded out 57 hits in its last three SEC games, dating back to last Sunday's win at LSU. Bama has 27 hits in the win over LSU and 30 hits in Saturday's double header with Vandy.