Tide Baseball First After Sweeping Cats

Ladies and gentlemen, please direct your attention to the Southeastern Conference baseball standings. That's Alabama on top with a 5-1 record. Sure, it's only two weeks into the SEC schedule, but it's nice to be a game ahead of 2010 national champion South Carolina and Florida, the team picked to win the 2011 title. The Gamecocks took two of three from the Gators this weekend and both are now 4-2.

Also at 4-2 is Mississippi State, which swept Auburn, and Vanderbilt which took two of three from Arkansas.

But enough about those back in the pack.

The Alabama baseball team completed a series sweep of the Kentucky Wildcats with an 8-3 victory on Sunday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Crimson Tide (18-7, 5-1 SEC) has now won seven games in a row, including five straight in the SEC, and improves to 16-1 at home. Kentucky drops to 14-11 overall and 2-4 in SEC play.

"Anytime you can sweep someone in the SEC you are doing something right, but I think it all starts on the mound," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "The difference in the series to me was that our guys were able to take us into the sixth and seventh innings and that shortens down the bullpen for you. It was a good week for us, we played fairly well in all five games, so we get five wins. Now we have to take that into next week."

Alabama returns to action Tuesday when the Crimson Tide takes on UAB at 6:05 p.m. at Regions Park in Hoover. Bama hosts South Alabama Wednesday, and then hosts Arkansas in a three-game SEC series beginning Friday.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Tucker Hawley (5-1) threw seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits while striking out three to earn the victory. Senior Jonathan Smart pitched two scoreless innings in relief to earn his fifth save of the season. Kentucky starter Taylor Rogers (2-2) took the loss after allowing six runs on nine hits in four and a third innings.

"Tucker Hawley gave us another good start," Gaspard said. "That gave us three quality starts throughout the weekend. We had a really good first inning offensively, and then when they made their run at us we responded, once in the middle of the game and then we did it again late."

Freshman first baseman Austen Smith was 2-for-4 with three runs batted in and a run scored, while senior catcher Brock Bennett and junior shortstop Jared Reaves each collected a pair of hits and a pair of runs for the Tide. Junior designated hitter Jose Rosecrans added to his team-leading home run total with a two-run blast in the first inning.

The Crimson Tide jumped on Kentucky early, plating four runs on six hits in the first inning. Smith got the scoring started with a hit that scored Bennett and Reaves. Rosecrans followed with his third home run of the year, an opposite field shot to right, to give the Tide a 4-0 advantage.

Kentucky got one run in the third and two in the fourth to make the score 4-3 before the Tide added two runs in the fifth inning.

Reaves brought home Bennett from first with a sharp double down the left field line. Smith followed with an RBI grounder up the middle to give Alabama a 6-3 lead.

The Tide added a pair in the eighth on sophomore right fielder Brandt Hendricks' double.

Smart pitched the final two innings, allowing three hits and no run for his fourth save in the last seven games. Smart leads the Tide with 11 appearances and now has a 1.57 ERA in 23 innings pitched.

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