Tide Tops Arkansas In SEC Baseball

Last week's Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week was the first star of the SEC Baseball Tournament at Regions Park in Hoover Wednesday. Nathan Kilcrease ran his record to 7-4 as Alabama scored five first inning runs in a 7-4 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first game of the day.



Alabama advances to second round play at 4:30 p.m. CDT Thursday against the winner of the Florida - Mississippi State game being played later today. Arkansas will play the loser of that game in a 9:30 a.m. Thursday elimination contest. The championship game of the double elimination tournament is at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Alabama, which improved to 33-24 on the season, has now beaten 18th ranked Arkansas in three of four games played this year. The Razorbacks fell to 36-19. Bama was the seventh seed in the tournament and the Hogs, winners of the SEC Western Division, were the number two seed.

Kilcrease went eight innings, allowing seven hits and four runs (but only one earned) and struck out 10 batters (equaling his personal best). He walked only one batter. Jonathan Smart, who will likely be Alabama's starting pitcher on Friday, came in for the final inning and put down three batters, two on strikeouts.

Crimson Tide Coach Mitch Gaspard said, "One thing about Nathan that needs to be said this guy has delivered for us time and time again. Today was no different, it seems like every time we need one he gives one of his best outings. Today was the most strikeouts he has had in a game with 10 against an SEC team. A lot of credit goes to Nathan. I thought our team just competed extremely hard and did a great job coming out in an early ball game ready to play. "

Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn agreed. "I'd say Nathan had a great ball game, pitched really well, pitched away a lot, pretty much got after us."

Kilcrease said, "You don't really know what to expect with a 9:30 a.m. game. The offense comes out with scoring five runs in the first inning which makes it real easy to pitch. You know what to do, just attack the strike zone, get ahead and put them away early. Coach called a great game for me; he mixed and matched all my pitches and gave a good flow to the game."

Kilcrease had been named SEC Pitcher of the Week last week after his winning gem against second ranked South Carolina to put Bama in the SEC Tournament.

Alabama got off to a great start in the game. Taylor Dugas and Jared Reaves got singles and Austen Smith was hit by a pitch to load the bases. A balk was called on Arkansas pitcher Randall Fant to give Bama the 1-0 lead. Brett Booth delivered a two-RBI single and Booth came in on a double by Andrew Miller. Miller went to third on the play and came in on a single by Hunter Gregory.

Fant, who started because Arkansas ace D.J. Baxendale needed an extra day of rest, was pulled before the end of the inning. In 2/3 of an inning for the Razorbacks, Fant gave up five hits, hit a batter, and was charged with his third balk of the season. It was his shortest outing of the season.

Van Horn said, "They came out and just jumped all over (Arkansas starter) Randall Fant. I think in the first inning (Alabama) got four hits with two strikes, one up with the 0-2 (count) I think went to the wall. Dugas started off coming off two pitches. He did a nice job of slinging a couple sliders, hit it to left center. (We) just didn't do a good job locating pitches in that first inning. They did a great job hitting the ball.

Gaspard said, "Obviously, we had a quick start to the game, had a really good first inning. I thought the balk really kind of energized us to get started and then we delivered some heat and took advantage of some opportunities there to get off to a 5-0 lead."

Alabama increased its lead in the third with singles by Booth and Miller. A sacrifice bunt by Gregory scored Booth.

Collin Kuhn and Kyle Atkins had doubles that along with an Alabama error accounted for three Arkansas runs in the fifth. In the sixth Arkansas had its final flurry as Matt Reynolds had a double and scored.

Bama's final run came on a sixth inning solo home run by Dugas.

Kilcrease and Smart would retired the final 12 Razorbacks in the game.

TIDE NOTES:

• Last time Arkansas and Alabama met in the conference tournament was in the first round of 2006. Arkansas defeated Alabama in that game 6-0.

• With the win, Alabama is 43-34 in the SEC Tournament. Arkansas falls to 19-29 in the conference tournament.

• This is the seventh straight appearance in the conference tournament for the Crimson Tide.

• Dugas extended his hitting streak in the first inning to six games after singling an 0-2 pitch off Fant. He has the longest hitting streak on the team currently.

• Alabama has now scored 51 runs in the first inning this year. The most in any inning of any game this season. When scoring in the first inning the Crimson Tide are now 18-7 this season.

• Alabama had two sacrifice bunts on the day bringing its total to 55 for the season. Catcher Brock Bennett had the first sacrifice bunt and was his 20th sacrifice bunt of the season, good for first on the team and now tied for first in the nation.

• Dugas hit the first home run of the 2011 SEC Baseball Tournament on a 3-1 pitch from Brandon Moore over the right field fence in the sixth inning. That is his sixth homer of the year, which leads the team. His home run made the score 7-3.

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