Bama Takes It's Time, but Salvages Game

There's nothing like waiting until the last minute. That's what Jim Wells and the Alabama baseball team found Sunday as they waited until the final inning of the final game to take a lead in the series against Florida, scoring six runs in the 9th to pull out a 9-6 win and salvage one of three games in the series against the fifth-ranked Gators.

"It always feels better when you win on Sunday. That's a very unusual way of winning and I"m having to look at the scoresheet to see what took place," Alabama Head Coach Jim Wells said. "We waited late, but we did it. The players did it so everything goes to them."

Alabama (26-12, 9-6 SEC) sent 10 men to the plate in the ninth inning and scored six runs on seven hits against three UF pitchers. Florida right-hander Darren O'Day (5-3), who earned saves in the first two games of the series, allowed four runs and five hits in the loss.

Junior first baseman Evan Bush started the 9th-inning rally with a single through the left side of the infield, then Coach Jim Wells turned the game over to his bench and used four straight pinch-hitters to keep it going.

Senior Matt Grooms followed with a base hit to right field and redshirt freshman Matt Bentley was hit by a pitch to load the bases. After Zac Welch struck out, junior Spencer Pennington followed with a two-run double into the left-center field gap to score Bush and Grooms and cut the deficit to 6-5.

"that was a huge hit," Wells said. "It was a big-time play only because he doesn't get to play a lot. The lefties came up and it was his turn. Spencer will get some more opportunities coming off that at-bat."

Freshman shortstop Cale Iorg followed with a game-tying base hit to left filed to score pinch-runner Michael McCallister to tie the game at 6-6.

O'Day was replaced by Mike Pete, who gave up a bunt single to sophomore center fielder Emeel Salem. Salem's bunt scored pinch-runner Jordan Davis from third base to give Alabama a 7-6 lead. Salem added a career-high four hits in the win for Alabama and scored one run.

After senior DH Allen Rice popped up on a bunt attempt, senior left fielder Gabe Scott came to the plate with his hitting streak on the line. Scott extended his hitting streak to 25 consecutive games with a ground rule double to right field to score Iorg and send Salem to third base.

Bush, who tied an Alabama single-game record with two hits in the ninth inning, slapped his second hit of the inning to left field to score Scott with the 9-6 lead and cap the wild comeback.

The Crimson Tide was handcuffed through eight innings and managed only seven hits against the Gators. In fact, Alabama had only one hit and two base runners after the fourth inning. The ninth inning was a different story.

Alabama has 15 come-from-behind wins this season, including five in SEC play. The Crimson Tide has scored six or more runs in an inning seven times this season, including two games this week. The Florida game marked the second time this year Alabama has scored six runs in the ninth inning on the road for a win. UA scored six runs in a 9-5 win at Hawai'i on Feb. 12 in Honolulu.

UA freshman right-hander David Robertson (6-2) gave the Crimson Tide six solid innings out of the bullpen for his sixth win of the season. The Tuscaloosa native allowed one run and three hits, with one walk and seven strikeouts for his third win in SEC play.

The comeback was even more important for Alabama as it keeps the Crimson Tide in sole possession of first place in the SEC Western Division standings.

After splitting six road games at No. 9 Ole Miss and No. 5 Florida the last two weekends, Alabama owns a 9-6 league record at the midway point of the season.

Arkansas and Auburn are one game back of the Crimson Tide with 8-7 league marks.

Florida freshman third baseman Brandon McArthur, who entered the weekend as the lending hitter in SEC games only, had two hits and three RBI to lead the Gators in the series finale.

McArthur's two-run single in the bottom of the third inning put Florida ahead at 4-2 after Alabama had tied the game in the top of the inning. He added an RBI single for what looked like a key insurance run in the seventh inning.

Florida scored first for the third straight game when left fielder Gavin Dickey hit a two-run home run to right field in the bottom of the first inning to put the Gators up 2-0.

Alabama answered in the top of the second inning as Valverde and Thomley reached on back-to-back singles. Valverde scored from third on base on senior third baseman Rocky Scelfo's ground out to cut the UF lead to 2-1.

Florida scored three runs on four hits in the bottom of the third inning to take a 5-2 lead. Dickey, Adam Davis and Brian LeClerc loaded the bases on three singles off UA starter Brandon Belcher.

McArthur followed with a two-run single to through the left side of the infield to make it a 4-2 game. LeCelrec later scored from second base on a throwing error by UA second baseman Greg Paiml. LeClerc's unearned run gave UF a 5-2 lead.

Valverde's fourth home of the season -- a solo shot to left center field -- cut the Florida lead to 5-3.

Belcher left after allowing a pair of singles o lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. He worked three-plus innings and allowed five runs (four earned) and seven hits, with three walks and three strikeouts.

Florida starter left-hander Stephen Locke worked five innings before turning the game over to the much-used Gator bullpen. Locke allowed three runs and seven hits, with no walks and four strikeouts in just his second SEC start of the season.

Alabama returns home on Wednesday, April 20 to face the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils in a 6:30 p.m. (CT) at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The MVSU game kicks off a nine-game home stand for the Crimson Tide. Alabama is home the next two weekends in SEC play against South Carolina (April (22-24) and Georgia (April 29-May 1).

GAME NOTES:

*Three former University of Alabama players made their way to McKethan Stadium to see the Crimson Tide take on the Florida Gators. Andy Bernard (RHP, 1996-97), Dan Chavers (INF, 1997-2000) and Juan DeBrand (SS,1991-92) attended part of the series this weekend. Bernard pitched on two College World Series teams at Alabama in 1996 and 1997. He was the winning pitcher against Stetson in the 1996 NCAA South I Regional and took a perfect game into the seventh inning in the winner's bracket final Chavers played four years at Alabama and also played in two College World Series in 1997 and 1999. DeBrand was the starting shortstop at Alabama in 1991 and 1992 and helped the Crimson Tide tot the 1991 NCAA Atlantic Regional in Tallahassee, Fla., before falling to the Seminoles in the title game.

*The Florida series marked the midpoint in the SEC baseball schedule for Alabama. The Crimson Tide finished the first half with a 8-6 league record and is tied with Arkansas for first place in the Western Division. Last year after 15 games, Alabama was 5-10 in SEC play.

*Sophomore left-hander Brandon Belcher has given up four runs and four hits in the first inning of his last two starts. He allowed a two-run home run to UF left fielder Gavin Dickey in the first inning of today's game. Ole Miss scored two first inning runs last weekend on a pair of sacrifice flies.

*Florida third baseman Brandon McArthur extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a two-run single through the left side of the infield in the bottom of the third inning.

*Freshman RHP David Robertson entered the with two runners on base and no outs in the bottom of the fourth inning. After a sacrifice bunt by Dickey, Robertson struck out Adam Davis and Matt LaPorta -- UFs three and four hole hitters -- two strand two runners in scoring position. For the season, Robertson has stranded 12 of 18 inherited runners.

*Alabama has trailed in 27 of its 38 games this season, including all three here in Gainesville this weekend. Alabama did not lead in any of the three games against Florida this weekend.


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