Tide Eliminated From SEC Tournament



HOOVER, Ala. -- The University of Alabama of baseball team was eliminated from the Southeastern Conference tournament with a 3-2 loss to the Florida Gators Thursday morning at Regions Park in Hoover.

Alabama (31-26) managed only two runs and 10 hits in its two SEC Tournament losses to Arkansas and Florida and was eliminated in two games for the first time since 1994.

Florida (29-29) generated little offense of its own, but single runs in each of the first three innings were more than enough for junior right-hander Bryan Augenstein, who tossed the second straight complete game against Bama in the SEC Tournament.

One day after being shutout on just two hits against Arkansas left-hander Nick Schmidt, Alabama did not find any offense until a ninth-inning rally that left the tying run at third base when the game ended.

"The first thing you look at is we scored two runs in two games and that makes it very difficult to win," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said.  "(Starting pitcher Will) Stroup settled down and (relief pitcher Austin) Hyatt did a nice job of keeping us in the game.  I was proud of the way we made a run in the ninth inning. There was not a lot of offense over a two-day period and that is frustrating."

Alabama closed the gap to 3-2 when sophomore third baseman Alex Avila led off the ninth inning with his team-leading 14th home run of the season.  Sophomore right fielder Kent Matthes followed with a line-drive single to center to put the tying run on base with no outs.

First baseman Matt Bentley's sacrifice bunt moved Matthes into scoring position, but Augenstein finished off the complete game when he struck out freshman designated hitter Del Howell and freshman second baseman Brandon May to end the game.

Augenstein improved to 3-0 in his career against the Crimson Tide with another dominating performance. Augenstein has limited Alabama to six runs and 19 hits in three career starts with four walks and 22 strikeouts. He beat Alabama on May 12, 2006 in Tuscaloosa and May 5, 2007 in Gainesville. 

In Thursday's SEC Tournament elimination game, Augenstein (8-5) held the Tide to two runs and eight hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. The Florida junior has won his last four starts this season.

Florida scored single runs in each of the first three innings to take a 3-1 lead.  In the first inning, Austin Pride's two-out RBI single to left scored Cole Figueroa for the Gators first run.

Alabama ended its 10-inning SEC Tournament scoring drought with a run in the second inning to tie the game at 1-1.  Matthes led off the inning with a double over the head of right fielder Brian LeClerc.  Bentley followed with a base hit to right field to send Matthes to third base to put runners on the corners with no outs.  Howell reached on a fielder's choice to break Bama into the SEC Tournament scoring column and tie the game at 1-1, before May and Moore grounded out to end the inning.

Florida regained the lead in the second inning on Hampton Tignor's sacrifice fly that scored Cody Neer to put the Gators back on top 2-1.

The Gators increased the lead to 3-1 in the third inning. Avery Barnes led off the inning with a single to left and moved to second when Matt LaPorta drew a walk. Pride fouled out to Matthes in right field, allowing Barnes to move to third with one out.

Alabama appeared to be out of the inning with a double play ground ball off the bat of LeClerc, but Stroup's failure to cover first base cost the Tide a run. Bentley back-handed LeClerc's sharp ground ball and threw out LaPorta at second base, but Paiml had to hold the ball when Stroup did not cover first, allowing Barnes to score from third.

Stroup (3-1) suffered his first loss of the season for Alabama. He allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings with three walks and one strikeout.