LeBlanc Blanks Gators

Alabama freshman left hander Wade LeBlanc continues to build his resume for national and Southeastern Conference "Freshman of the Year" honors as he tossed a nine-inning, four-hit shutout over the No.10 Florida Gators in the Crimson Tide's 2-0 win in front of a paid crowd of 4,371 fans at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Friday night.

Alabama (27-20, 8-14 SEC) won its third SEC series opener of the season and second in row with the win over Florida . The win is also the first Friday night SEC home win since beating No. 15 Arkansas 10-2 on April 25, 2003 . 

The Lake Charles ,La. , native held the high-powered Florida offense to just four singles and did not allow a Gator base runner to reach third base as he notched his SEC-leading seventh complete game of the 2004 season.

LeBlanc (7-4) also pitched his third complete-game shutout of the year, leaving him one shy of the single-season record at Alabama held by Freddy Glass in 1968.  LeBlanc has recorded complete-game shutouts against Centenary, SE Missouri State and No. 10 Florida.

He has also been involved in four of the Crimson Tide's six shutouts this season, leaving him one shutout shy of the single-season for most combined shutouts.

"Wade LeBlanc did an outstanding job against a very good hitting team," Alabama Head Coach Jim Wells said.  "He had command of his pitches and spotted the ball well all night. He battled hard, just like has all year.  He has done a tremendous job."

The left-hander added nine strikeouts and walked only one in the win over the Gators and set the UA single-season freshman record for strikeouts in the process.  LeBlanc now has 85 strikeouts this season surpassing the previous record of 79 strikeouts set by Al Drumheller in 1991.

After being retired in order for the first three innings, Alabama scored one run on three hits in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 1-0 lead.  Junior second baseman Mark Haske started the rally with a single through the left side and moved into scoring position on freshman center fielder Emeel Salem's sacrifice bunt.  

Junior left fielder Gabe Scott followed with a sharp single to right field and sophomore third baseman Evan Bush drove in the first run of the game with a base hit to left field, sending Scott to third base.  Bush took second when C.J. Smith's throw from left field missed the cut off man.

UF starter Tommy Boss avoided further damage when junior first baseman Zac Welch popped up a 1-0 pitch to center field and freshman Michael McCallister flied out to left to end the threat as UA stranded two runners in scoring position.

Florida (34-13, 14-8 SEC) managed only seven base runners in the loss to Alabama and only two base runners reach base in the same inning only once.  That came in the fifth inning when the Gators missed out on their only chance to score off LeBlanc.

Shortstop Justin Tordi opened the fifth inning with a push-bunt base hit on the infield and then No. 8 hitter and catcher Matt LaPorta drew a four-pitch walk.

LeBlanc then settled down and retired the next three batters on infield pop ups to strand two runners on base and the Gators never threatened again.

In fact, Florida had only one more base runner as Corsaletti led off the seventh inning with a single to right field.  LeBlanc then retired the last nine UF batters in order for the his seventh win of the year and second in a row against a Top 10 team.

Alabama doubled its lead with an unearned run in the fifth inning to take a 2-0 lead.  

Junior second baseman Allen Rice opened the inning with a single to left and moved into scoring position on freshman shortstop Greg Paiml's sacrifice bunt.  Rice then moved to third on a wild pitch by Boss and scored on LaPorte's throwing error.

The Crimson Tide managed only five hits in the win, but none after the sixth inning.  Bush led UA with two hits, including his team-leading fifth game-winning RBI of the season.

  For the season LeBlanc is now 7-4 with a 1.57 ERA in 14 appearances and 13 starts for the Tide.  He has worked 97 2/3 innings, also a UA freshman record, and allowed 70 hits, 28 runs, 17 earned runs, with 22 walks and 85 strikeouts.  He also logged his team-leading 10th quality start (6 IP, 3 ER or less) in the win over Florida .

In his last three starts, all complete games, LeBlanc has allowed one earned run and 16 hits in 26 innings against No. 9 South Carolina, No. 6 LSU and No. 10 Florida.  Those three teams are also the top three hitting teams in the SEC.

The Crimson Tide and Gators meet in game two of this SEC series on Saturday at 4 p.m.  Junior LHP Brent Carter (6-3, 3.88 ERA) will pitch for Alabama , while junior RHP Justin Hoyman (9-0, 2.54 ERA) will pitch for the Gators.

GAME NOTES:

 *Junior LF Gabe Scott extended his hitting streak to a career best eight games with his fourth-inning single.  During the streak, Scott is batting .321 (9-for-28), with three runs scored and two RBI.  In addition, Scott has hit safely in 11 of his last 14 games and 15 of his last 19 games since April 3.  Scott also has a seven-game SEC hitting streak for Alabama .

 *Sophomore third baseman Evan Bush extended his hitting streak to a career best eight games with his fourth-inning single.  During the streak, Bush is batting .429 (12-for-28), with three doubles, three runs scored and three RBI.  The Rainbow City native has also hit safely in 10 of his last 12 games and 14 of 17 games since April 3.  Bush also has a six-game SEC hitting streak.


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