Tide Sweeps

The Alabama baseball team opened its 2005 SEC campaign with a sweep of the Kentucky Wildcats, picking up a 10-4 victory and tying a school record by turning five double plays Sunday afternoon at "The Joe." Bama had taken 5-3 wins over the Wildcats on both Friday and Saturday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium to give the Tide its first Southeastern Conference series win since April, 2003.

After a shaky inning on defense in the top of the third inning, which featured a dropped fly ball and misplayed bunt that allowed UK to tie the game at 3-3, Alabama put the game out of reach with a five-run, sixth inning to build a 9-3 lead.

The Crimson loaded the bases with no outs thanks to two throwing errors by losing pitcher Kalen Gibson.

Greg Paiml drew a bases-loaded walk to force home Gabe Scott to extend UA's lead to 5-3. Cale Iorg reached on a fielder's choice to score Charlie Lyons and then Rocky Scelfo delivered the big blow with a two-run triple to score Paiml and Iorg. Allen Rice grounded out to second to score Scelfo with the final run of the inning.

Alabama (18-5, 3-0 SEC) had built a 3-0 lead after two innings, only to see the Cats tie the game.

Junior 1B Evan Bush slammed a two-run home run in the first inning to give Alabama a quick 2-0 lead. Cale Iorg reached on a fielder's choice with the bases loaded in the second inning to score Lyons to push the lead to 3-0.

Kentucky (12-7, 0-3 SEC) tied the game with a three-run third inning, taking advantage of a dropped fly ball by Emeel Salem in center field and a misplayed bunt when second baseman Greg Paiml did not cover first base.

JP Lowen singled to open the inning and scored on Antone DeJesus' triple to right-center field. DeJesus scored when Salem dropped a fly ball to center by Michael Bertram. Billy Grace was hit by the pitch with the bases loaded to force home Ryan Wilkes with the tying run.

Belcher (3-0) came on in the third inning with the bases loaded and no outs and pitched five innings for the win. He allowed one run and three hits, with one walk and four strikeouts.

"Coach (Jim) Wells told me that I would come into the game if there was a jam", said Belcher, "so I was ready. We had some unfortunate breaks here and there, but we were lucky to get out of them with double plays."

Salem atoned for his defensive miscue with a one-out triple in the bottom of the inning and scored when Iorg reached on an error to give the Tide a 4-3 lead.

Alabama added five runs in the sixth to take a 9-3 lead.

UK loaded the bases in the eighth inning with no outs, but managed only one run. Shaun Lehmann singled to open the inning and scored when John Hastings grounded into a double play against Jordan Davis.

Bama capped the scoring with a a run in the eighth inning. Iorg singled with one out, moved to third on Scelfo's double and scored on a bases loaded walk to Morrow Thomley to make the final 10-4.

The sweep would give Bama (18-5) its first 3-0 start in conference play since 2003.

The Tide's 16-game home stand concludes on Wednesday when Alabama takes on Jacksonville State at "The Joe." First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 pm. Bama takes the road for its first SEC road series next weekend, heading to Nashville for a three game series against the Vanderbilt Commodores.


*Alabama is 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference for the first time since the 2003 season when it opened the season with a three-game sweep of the Georgia Bulldogs here in Tuscaloosa.

*Alabama recorded its first three-game sweep of a SEC opponent since a three-game sweep of No. 15 Arkansas on April 25-27, 2003, in Tuscaloosa.

*Alabama tied a school record by turning five double plays in the win over Kentucky. Alabama also turned five double plays in a win over Huntingdon on April 27, 1990. The Crimson Tide turned a double play in each of the first three innings on Sunday and added two more double plays in the eighth and ninth innings. UK had three inning-ending double plays in the loss.

*The first inning double play came when Billy Grace struck out and Scott Lehmann was thrown out on a steal attempt at second base to end the inning.

*In the second inning, second baseman JB Schmidt hit into a 643 double play to end the inning.

*The key of the game came in the third inning when UK had the bases loaded and no outs in a 3-3 game. Brandon Belcher struck out John Shelby and then pinch-hitter John Hastings swung at the first pitch and hit into the shortstop-to-first twin killing to leave the game tied 3-3.

*Hastings hit into another double play with the bases loaded in the eighth inning as he rolled into a 4-6-3 double play against reliever Jordan Davis. Davis replaced Belcher with the bases loaded and no outs in a 9-3 game. Hastings swung at the first pitch and rolled into the double play.

*In the ninth inning, JP Lowen led off with a single to right field and was promptly doubled up at first base when Antone DeJesus popped out to right field and Thomley's throw nailed Lowen for the second out of the inning.

*Alabama has turned 17 double plays this season and seven of them came in the Kentucky series.

*Kentucky made five errors in the 10-4 loss on Sunday and committed 12 errors in the three-game series. The five errors on Sunday led to seven unearned runs. In the series, UK's 12 errors led to 13 unearned runs.

*The five errors by Kentucky are the most by an Alabama opponent this season. The previous high was four errors set by UNC Asheville (Feb 19), Duquesne (Feb 25) and Kentucky (Mar 19).

*Junior Evan Bush slammed a two-run home run in the first inning. Bush has seven home runs and 28 RBI this season for the Crimson Tide. Bush has seven home runs and 22 RBI in his last 14 games for Alabama.

*Bush was 1-for-2 on Sunday and walked three times to raise his season average to .324 (24-for-74)

in 22 games. Bush has walked six times in the last two games and has reached base eight of 10 times.

*Bush's two-run home run was his 100th career hit at Alabama.

*Junior Matt Downs made his first career SEC start and lasted into the third inning as he allowed three runs and four hits, with two walks and two strikeouts. He left the game after a couple of hits and errors in the third inning with the bases loaded and a 3-2 lead.

*The Kentucky game marked the second straight Sunday the Alabama starter failed to get out of the third inning. Senior Brent Carter gave up five runs and eight hits in 2 1/3 innings last week against Miami (Ohio).

*Sophomore left-hander Brandon Belcher worked five innings in relief on Sunday for his second win of the season and first SEC win since beating No. 25 Vanderbilt on April 10, 2004. He allowed one run and three hits, with one walk and four strikeouts in his relief stint against UK.

*Senior Gabe Scott went 1-for-4 in the series finale to extend his career best hitting streak to 10 games. Scott is 12-for-34 (.353) during his 10-game hitting streak.

*Alabama swept its third home series of the 2005 season with three straight wins over Kentucky. The Crimson Tide also swept UNC Asheville and Duquesne.

*The Crimson Tide has swept two opponents this season without the services of Wade LeBlanc, 2004 National Freshman of the Year, on the mound. LeBlanc missed the UNC Asheville series and did not pitch this weekend against UK, while nursing a bruised left shoulder sustained after last week's 8-7 comeback win over Miami (Ohio) in the post-game celebration. He is expected to be back in the rotation next weekend at Vanderbilt.

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