Despite injury, Carter will start

The SEC Tournament was filled with highlights by the champion Alabama Crimson Tide, but one that may have gone unnoticed was the play by pitcher Brent Carter in the first inning of Alabama's 7-5 win over Auburn on Friday.

With the speedy Sean Gamble on first base with one out, Tug Hulett dropped a bunt down the third base line. Third baseman Evan Bush charged the ball, but bobbled it and Hulett reached easily. Gamble, seeing that no one was covering third base, decided to go for third. Carter, recognizing that no one was covering third base, knew he had to run over and attempt to tag Gamble on his own.

As Gamble dove for third, Carter dove for Gamble, and got the tag on Gamble for the out.

"I had everyone telling me 'I didn't know you were faster than him,'" Carter said after the game with a laugh.

Carter looks in for the sign. Over the past several weeks he has clearly been Bama's most effective starting pitcher.

But Carter landed on his right arm (non-throwing) wrong, and raised up in pain. While he was able to pitch, he had to alter his mechanics because he couldn't raise it to shoulder level due to pain, which is what he does in his windup. It also caused pain when Carter would lift his right arm to catch the ball from catcher Charlie Lyons. The injury was diagnosed as a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right arm.

Carter spoke about his injury on Monday, saying the pain was still there but he would pitch through it. He pitched six innings in Friday's win, allowing four earned runs. He did not factor in the decision, as Taylor Tankersley picked up the win in relief.

"Its day-to-day, it's swollen up real bad," Carter said. "As long as it doesn't alter the way I throw. I went out there and threw in the outfield yesterday and it felt fine. (The pain is) about the same but I'm starting to get used to the pain and what I can and cant do. It's the real sudden movements that can hurt, I can bend it but when I left it real quick, it hurts. They say they're gonna try to put me in a brace but I don't know how comfortable that will be."

Carter said the injury forced him to alter his mechanics, and probably resulted in a slight loss of velocity.

"I think it affected my velocity because whenever I pitch I lift my elbow even to my shoulder and I couldn't do that Friday night," Carter said. "I had to keep it down. It took away from my momentum, but I should be able to pitch this weekend."

Alabama coach Jim Wells said that Carter would likely start today's game against No. 3 seed Houston, saying that he should be good to pitch but would have to pitch through the pain.

It was Houston that handed Alabama a 7-2 loss in the second game of the season, with Carter taking the loss. He said he wanted to pitch against the Cougars again to show them he's not the pitcher he was on February 15.

"With them giving me my first college loss, there were a lot of flaws in my game that I was able to correct shortly after that," Carter said. "I was able to get a few wins after that, but I'd really like to face them again."

Carter answers questions for the media. Despite an elbow injury, he'll pitch Bama's first game in the NCAA Regional versus Houston.

Carter didn't make it out of the fifth inning in that start, allowing four runs and seven hits. Normally a consistent strike-thrower (his strikeout-walk ratio this season is 97 strikeouts to only 19 walks in 113.2 innings), Carter fell behind many Cougar batters and they were able to adjust to his pitches.

"There were jitters and I was doing stuff I didn't realize I was doing as far as tipping my pitches to them," Carter said. "We were able to correct it the next week and I was able to pitch a complete game against SEMO."

Carter ended the regular season with a 9-5 record, pitching a team-high and conference-high five complete games. He established himself as Wells' ace when he was moved to the Friday-night spot against Arkansas, responding with 14 strikeouts in a 10-1 Alabama win. He will likely have to have some similar success in the opener if Alabama is to make a run in this regional and win it.

"I am familiar with Houston, and their three outstanding pitchers," Wells said. "If you can pitch you can win."

Houston will start ace Brad Sullivan (6-6, 2.58), who is likely to be a first-round draft pick in the upcoming draft, but has had his struggles this season. Lefty Danny Zell (8-5, 3.64) was the winning pitcher against Alabama in the regular season, pitching four-hit ball over seven innings.

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