Iorg's Gems Aide Tide Win

If a baseball was hit on the ground Friday night, Cale Iorg made the play.

The freshman shortstop was flawless, coming up with nine assists - three absolute gems – keeping South Carolina runners off base and aiding No. 15 Alabama to a 6-4 win over the No. 8 Gamecocks before 4,181 fans at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The rest of the Alabama squad combined for eight assists on the evening.

"He made every play imaginable," Alabama Head Coach Jim Wells said. "He had a lot of balls hit his way and he made a lot of plays after having a tough weekend last week (against Florida.)"

Iorg's best play came in the eighth inning, when he charged on a chopper just over pitcher T.J. Large's head and made a seamless barehanded scoop and throw to first to retire Tommy King.

"That's one of the hardest plays to make," Iorg said. "I don't want to be boastful, but I consider that one of the best plays I've ever made in my life. I was just fortunate to be able to make the plays tonight. Some days you make them and some days you don't."

Iorg got a standing ovation for that pick-up, and wowed spectators going deep in the hole between second and third to retrieve a ground ball and gun it to first to get Davy Gregg in the fifth inning.

In the fourth inning Iorg hawked a Chris Brown grounder to begin a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play.

"You can throw strikes all day long and let them hit it with him playing like that," Large said.

Just one game past the halfway point in the Southeastern Conference season, Alabama equaled it's Southeastern Conference win total from 2004.

The Tide improved to 28-12 overall and 10-6 in the league, maintaining its grip on first place in the SEC West while South Carolina dropped to 29-10 overall, 9-7 in the league.

Iorg's flashy leather stood out just above several other outstanding Alabama performances – Large's eight-inning three-hit outing and multi-RBI nights at the plate for both Gabe Scott and Evan Bush.

Large walked three of the first four batters of the game, and later in the inning allowed a Jon Willard two-run double with two outs to give the Gamecocks the early 2-0 lead.

But it was the first of many stellar Bama defensive plays that limited the first inning damage, when Iorg relayed right-fielder Morrow Thomley's throw to third base to retire Mark Stanley. Stanley, Carolina's lead-off man, was trying to advance on a Steve Pearce flyout, but Evan Bush applied the tag to double-up the Gamecocks.

South Carolina's early lead held up for six innings, but Alabama, powered by Scott and Bush, mustered three runs in the bottom of the sixth.

Allen Rice's one-out single to right field set up Scott's RBI double that pounded the left-center field wall. Bush followed with a shot over the left field wall to give Alabama a lead it never relinquished.

"To win in this league you have to have some sort of a one-two punch and they're our guys," Wells said of Scott and Bush.

Scott extended his hitting streak to 27 games, equaling the longest in the SEC this season. He was three-for-four from the plate with two RBI and two runs-scored. Scott upped his average to .435.

Bush's homer was his only hit on the night in four at-bats. He is now batting .298.

Large settled into a groove after the first inning double by Willard, retiring 20 of the next 21 batters. Willard was the only Gamecock to reach base during that stretch with a one-out walk in the fourth, but he was erased on the 6-4-3 double play.

"I started locating my fastball better after the first inning and I had the off-speed going stuff to keep them off balance. You could tell that their coach was telling them to dive out over the plate," Large said. "(Wells) told me after the first inning that we had to start throwing more fastballs and I was like, ‘Let's do it. Let's go right at them.'"

Alabama added three insurance runs in its half of the eighth inning, the first on Scott's line-drive solo homer that just cleared the left-center field wall.

Then, with two outs, Zac Welch walked and Thomley tripled to drive Welch across. A throwing error by Steven Tolleson trying to get Thomley at third got away from King, the third baseman, allowing Thomley to score.

That gave Alabama a 6-2 lead after eight innings, and the Tide needed the insurance.

Large went to the mound in the ninth looking for the complete game, but a Tolleson single followed by a Steve Pearce homer brought South Carolina within two runs, chasing Large from the game.

Wells went to freshman rifleman David Robertson, who came out firing. Roberston got Michael Campbell to fly out to center, and struck out the next two batters to earn the save. He three 11 pitches in the perfect inning of work.

Large's line was 8-plus innings pitched, 3 hits, 4 runs, 4 walks and 2 strikeouts and a hit batsman. He threw 111 pitches. He picked up his sixth win of the year, improving his record to 6-3.

Aaron Rawl pitched seven innings and took the loss for South Carolina. He allowed four runs on nine hits, striking out seven Tide hitters and walking none.

Alabama goes for the series win Saturday afternoon at 3:06 p.m. Fox Sports Net South will have Saturday's game, and Sunday's finale will be televised by CSS beginning at 2:06 p.m.

GAME NOTES:

*Alabama is 7-6 against Top 25 teams this season and owns a 6-4 record against teams ranked in the Top 10.

*Of Alabama's 16 SEC games, 10 have been decided by two runs or less.

*After the two-out double, Large did not allow another hit until back-to-back hits by Steven Tolleson and Steve Pearce in the ninth inning. Large had 7 1/3 consecutive no-hit innings in the game. The Seminole, Fla., native gave up two hits in the ninth inning, including a two-run home run to Steve Pearce as USC cut the lead to 6-4.

*Large threw 24 pitches in the first inning, with only 10 strikes. He threw 87 pitches the remainder of the game.

*Freshman RHP David Robertson (6-3, 1.44 ERA, 3 SV) pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn his third save of the season. He has three of the Crimson Tide's six saves this season.

*Robertson's save was the first in an SEC game this year by Alabama.

*Senior LF Gabe Scott (3-for-4, HR, 2 RBI) singled off the top of the left-center field wall in the bottom of the first inning to extend his hitting streak to 27 consecutive games. Scott's streak ties Ole Miss' Brian Pettway for the longest hitting streak in the SEC this season. The 27-game hitting streak is also the third-longest in Alabama baseball history, tying David Magadan's streak as a true freshman (the first 27 games of his career) in 1981.

*During the streak, Scott is batting .453 (43-for-95) with 24 runs scored, nine home runs and 25 RBI.

*Scott has hit nine home runs this season, all since April 1st. He has homered in back-to-back games for Alabama.

*Junior 3B Evan Bush. (1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI) hit his 12th home run of the season as he launched a two-run shot to left center field to give Alabama a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. Bush leads UA with 12 home runs. He hit only eight home runs in 55 games last season. He now has 20 career home runs.

*Bush has four home runs in his last six games and has homered in back-to-back games for the Tide.

*Alabama senior RF Morrow Thomley recorded his team-leading fifth outfield assist as he teamed with shortstop Cale Iorg to throw out Mark Stanley at third base in the top of the first inning. USC first baseman Steve Pearce lined out to Thomley in right field and Stanley was nailed at third to com-plete the double play. Alabama has nine outfield assists this season.

*Thomley (2-for-4, 3B, RBI) had two hits, including his fourth triple of the season in the eighth inning.

*Alabama leads the SEC with 14 triples in 40 games.

*Alabama is 6-2 in Friday games this season, including a 3-2 mark in SEC play.


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