Alabama Baseball Falls To Florida

HOOVER -- An early deficit combined with an anemic offense facing a top pitcher combined to send Mitch Gaspard's Alabama baseball game to the loser's bracket of the 2011 SEC Baseball Tournament. The Gators showed why they were league co-champs while dispatching the Tide in workmanlike fashion, 6-0.

Normally steady Alabama starter Adam Morgan was chased by the Gators after just 3.1 innings. The lefty allowed five runs on seven hits, and committed an error in the first inning to hurt his own cause. Four of the runs were earned.

"I left a few balls up, and they made me pay," Morgan said. He dropped to 5-6 with the loss. "Very dominant performance by Florida today," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "(Gator right-hander) Hudson Randall's one of the best guys in the league, and one of the best guys in the country."

As was the case earlier this year in Gainesville, the Tide (33-25) had no answer for Gator ace Randall, who upped his record to 9-3 while allowing four hits, walking one and striking out two in eight innings..

"He's Greg Maddux," Gaspard said, referring to the former Braves/Cubs Hall of Famer. "He keeps it down, and it moves. It's hard to get a barrel on it. He makes pitches."

Said senior outfielder Taylor Dugas, "(Randall) changes speeds really well, and he doesn't ever really leave anything out over the plate. That's why he's so good."

At one point, Randall sat down 12 straight Tiders before Josh Sanders singled to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Dugas also singled, and Brock Bennett legged out a grounder to avoid a double play. With runners on the corners and drizzle falling from the sky, Jared Reaves did hit into a twin-killing to erase a rare Tide threat.

"We need timely hits," Reaves said. "We rolled into three double plays tonight. A couple of timely hits could have changed the situation."

Bama will now face Arkansas again. The Hogs eliminated Mississippi State Thursday. Bama opened the tourney with a 7-4 win over the Razorbacks.

Gaspard will most likely pitch senior lefty Jonathan Smart for the 3:00 p.m. CDT contest. "We'll try to piece it together from there," he said.

As Dugas put it, "We can't dwell on this one. We've got a game to play (Friday). We've got to keep swinging the bats and making pitches."

GAME NOTES: The crowd was sparse, likely due to the threat of severe thunderstorms in the Birmingham area.

The game was played in a crisp 2:14, giving Birmingham area Tide fans time to get home to watch softball on TV.

Morgan's first inning error as he attempted to field a sacrifice bunt was only his second of the year.

There were some Bama bright spots, most notably the defense by the outfield and the relief pitching job by Taylor Wolfe, who went 5.2 frames, allowed one run, and struck out three while walking no one.

"Wolfe was good," said Gaspard. "He threw three pitches for strikes. He can be valuable next week (when the Tide is expected to play in an NCAA Regional)."

Left fielder Hunter Gregory, center field Dugas, and right fielder Andrew Miller all made spectacular catches, or the final tally would have been worse.

"We defended it pretty well but when the outfielders are making great plays, that's both good and bad," Gaspard said.

Dugas and DH Brett Whitaker were the only Tide players with two hits.

No one knows for sure until the field is announced next week, but the three most popular possible Tide destinations for an NCAA Regional seem to be Atlanta, Hattiesburg, Miss and Tallahassee, Fla.

There are several interesting football connections on the Tide roster. Third baseman Brett Booth played quarterback while Gregory played free safety at Tuscaloosa County High. One of Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron's top targets at St Paul's was Miller, while Dugas was a quick and crafty option quarterback in Lafayette, La. And, second sacker Josh Sanders' dad, Terry, was a Tide punter/kicker in the early 80:s.

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