Kilcrease Pitches Bama To Hoover
Surely every muscle in diminutive senior righthander Nathan Kilcrease's body must ache after he pitches. Maybe not his heart, but probably even his hair. As he has so often, once again the 5-6, 160-pounder came through for Alabama in a 2-1 win over South Carolina Thursday night.
Alabama went into this final weekend of regular season played tied with Arkansas, Auburn, and Mississippi State for first place in the SEC Western Division. On the first night of three-game series, Alabama won to move to 14-14 in SEC play, while the other three teams that were tied with the Tide lost. That means that regardless of the outcome of games Friday and Saturday, Alabama has clinched a spot in the eight-team SEC Tournament next week at Hoover.
That doesn't mean the work is finished, though. Three of the East representatives will be Florida, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt, all outstanding teams. It would be good for Alabama to take first place in the West so as not to play one of those in the first round at Hoover's Regions Park next week.
The next assignment goes to junior lefthander Adam Morgan (5-4 with a 3.89 earned run average) who takes the mound for Bama at 6:35 p.m. CDT Friday. He'll be pitching against the Gamecocks freshman righthander Forrest Koumas (5-0, 3.17 ERA) at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The series wraps up at noon Saturday.
Alabama is now 32-22 overall. South Carolina fell to 42-12 overall and 20-8 in SEC games.
Kilcrease held the Gamecocks to a season-low five hits, pitching a complete game while allowing just the one run Thursday.
"It was a really good night," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "We clinched a spot to get in the (SEC) Tournament, which was big, and we got a win against the number two team in the country. As I told the team, with (Nathan) Kilcrease, for four years that's what he's done, and then when you really need one and you got to have it he has the ability to deliver and that's what he did tonight. He went a complete game, 114 pitches working on a day's rest, which again shows you the heart of a champion and who he is and how much he competes."
Kilcrease (6-4) pitched his second complete game of the season and the third of his career, striking out five batters and stranding nine base runners. The senior pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the first and then stranded a pair of runners in the fifth, sixth and one in the eighth before needing just five pitches to get through the final inning.
Offensively, the Crimson Tide notched both of its runs in the top of the first courtesy of a two-run double by sophomore third baseman Brett Booth. Booth finished the night 1-for-3 with two RBI while junior center fielder Taylor Dugas paced the UA attack from the top of the lineup, reaching base in all four plate appearances, finishing 2-for-2 with one run scored and two walks.
Gamecock starting pitcher Michael Roth, who came into the game with a 10-2 record and 1.35 ERA, took the loss after allowing two runs (both unearned) on six hits in 5 2/3 innings.
"I'm proud of our team and our resiliency throughout the year to get to this point," Gaspard said. "Now, with everything that happened tonight, us winning and whatever else happened around the league, we have an opportunity to win the Western Division. Now we got to keep our focus tomorrow and come out and win another ballgame."
The Gamecocks and Tide both came out swinging in an action-packed first inning.
USC loaded the bases in the top of the first, but Kilcrease was able to work his way out of the jam.
Alabama got all the runs it would need in the bottom of the first. The Tide loaded the bases with a single, a Gamecocks error, and a walk before Booth ripped a 2-0 pitch to right center field, plating Taylor Dugas and Brock Bennett.
The Gamecocks got on the board in the fifth, cutting the UA advantage in half following a long RBI single by Christian Walker. The Tide avoided further damage on the play with an excellent defensive sequence by Hunter Gregory, Jared Reaves and Brock Bennett.
After Walker's deep shot to left missed clearing the wall by a few feet, Gregory scooped the ball up and hit Reaves in the cutoff position. Reaves fired a quickly and accurately to Bennett, who got USC shortstop Peter Mooney trying to score from second.
And Kilcrease finished the job.
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