Tide Takes Series Win

Wade LeBlanc was in better form Saturday afternoon, pitching a complete game winner that clinched another series victory for Alabama, 10-4 over South Carolina at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

Alabama (29-12, 11-6 SEC, 1st SEC West) goes for the series sweep Sunday at 2 p.m. against the Gamecocks (29-11, 9-8 SEC).

LeBlanc made his SEC return a week ago against Florida, but was for 10 hits in four and one third innings in the loss.

Saturday, LeBlanc gave up four runs, allowing five hits and one walk. He recorded just three strikeouts, and recorded 19 outs on fly balls or pop-ups.

"LeBlanc pitched better, but not at full strength," Alabama Head Coach Jim Wells said. "It's good when a guy's been out five weeks, has had two so-so starts, and can come out and go nine innings."

With the one-two punch of Gabe Scott and Evan Bush struggling to a combined 1-for-8 at the plate, Alabama found its offense elsewhere, and was able to score 10 runs in the fourth through seventh innings.

It was the three batters who follow Scott and Bush in the lineup providing most of the run-support. Morrow Thomley, Zac Welch and Kody Valverde, hitting fifth, sixth and seventh respectively, each had a home run and two RBI Saturday.

Thomley was 3-for-4 on the day with two stolen bases, while Welch and Valverde were each 1-for-3.

The game was in hand for Alabama, but Scott's 27-game hitting streak was on the line when he came to the plate in the ninth inning for his fifth plate appearance, but the Lake Charles, La. senior grounded sharply into a 6-4-3 double play, ending the streak.

The end of Scott's streak was acknowledge by a standing ovation from the 4,452 in attendance.

"It's nice that people appreciate him. He literally carried us through some games and the others had to pick him up today," Wells said.

South Carolina took a first-inning 1-0 lead when Steven Pearce wanded a two-out pitch over the left field wall.

"We get down early every game," Wells said.

South Carolina ran out to a 3-0 in the fourth inning with another two-out hit. Pearce singled and DH Jon Willard walked to set up sixth-place hitter Chris Brown. Brown hit a gapper that bounced to the wall in right center field, scoring Pearce and Willard.

Alabama matched that with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Thomley's one-out blast to left field brought in Scott, who had walked to lead off the inning.

LeBlanc, after allowing the two-run double in the fourth, retired the next 14 batters, and 16 of the final 17 batters faced.

"Towards the end I started to locate everything better and just let them get themselves out," LeBlanc said. "It's obvious that I got a lot better from last week to this week and I'll pick up more as I get more innings under my belt."

Meanwhile Alabama posted one run in the fifth inning, five runs in the sixth inning and two runs in the seventh inning.

Bama manufactured a fifth-inning run when Allen Rice, with runners on first and third, hit a sacrifice fly to score Cale Iorg. Iorg had led off the inning being hit by a pitch.

Iorg advanced to second in the frame on a sacrifice bunt by Greg Paiml, but Paiml reached on the play when the pitcher elected to throw to second, too late to retire Iorg.

Runners were left on the corners after Emeel Salem hit into a fielder's choice that put Paiml out at second.

Bama sent Gamecock starter Jason Fletcher from the game in the sixth after Welch's two-run shot to center field with Morrow Thomley on second.

South Carolina went to Jeff Jeffords, who walked two batters, gave up a single and threw two wild pitches while failing to record an out.

Allen Rice faced Wynn Pelzer, the third S.C. pitcher of the sixth inning, and hit a deep ball to center field that grazed off the glove of Davy Gregg for a three-base, three-run error that extended Alabama's lead to 8-3.

Valverde's homer came in the seventh off Andy Lambert with a man on base to cap the Tide scoring.

Pearce hit a one-out solo shot in the ninth to bring the score to 10-4, but LeBlanc retired the next to batters to close out the complete game.

"I always expect to go nine (innings), so I wasn't surprise. I want to take that upon myself to save our bullpen," LeBlanc said. "It's a big help for Sunday. T.J. was able to go eight last night and I was able to go nine today."

Wells said Bama's Sunday starter has not been determined, but the Tide will likely throw some combination of Jordan Davis, Brent Carter and David Robertson.


*No. 15 Alabama defeated No. 8 South Carolina 10-4 to claim this three-game SEC series. The series finale is Sunday, April 23 at 2:06 p.m. and will be televised live by CSS Sports.

*With two wins in the first two games, Alabama has clinched its first series win over South Carolina since the 2001 season. The Gamecocks had won the last three series. Alabama swept Carolina in a three-game series here in Tuscaloosa in 2001.

*Alabama has trailed in 29 of its 41 games this season.

*The Crimson Tide has also pulled off 17 come-from-behind wins this season. Of those 17 comebacks, nine have occurred after the fifth inning.

*Sophomore left-hander Wade LeBlanc fired his first complete game of the 2005 season. The Lake Charles, La, native allowed four runs and five hits, with one walk and three strikeouts en route to his ninth career complete game for Alabama.

*After allowing a two-run double to second baseman Chris Brown with two outs in the fourth inning, LeBlanc then retired the next 14 batters in order before he allowed a one-out, solo home run to senior 1B Steve Pearce in the ninth inning.

*Senior DH Allen Rice (0-for-4, RBI) had his 10-game hitting streak snapped in Saturday's win. Rice tied the game with a sacrifice fly to score freshman SS Cale Iorg in the fifth inning and then broke the game open when he reached on a three-base error by USC center fielder Davy Gregg as three runs scored in the sixth to give Alabama an 8-3 lead.

*Iorg (1-for-3, 2 RBI) extended his hitting streak to season-high eight games with a sixth inning single.

*Alabama matched its season high with three home runs in the win over Carolina. This is the fifth time this season Alabama has hit three home runs in a game. Bama also hit three home runs against Samford (Mar. 2), Ole Miss (April 10), Memphis (April 12) and Miss. Valley State (April 20).

*All three home runs were two-run homers.

*Senior RF Morrow Thomley (3-for-4, HR, 2 RBI) hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning, his fourth home run of the season.

*Senior 1B Zac Welch (1-for-3, 2 RBI) hit his second home run of the season, a towering two-run blast to right-center field in the sixth inning. Welch's two-run home run gave Alabama the lead for good at 5-3.

*Junior catcher Kody Valverde (1-for-3, HR, 2 RBI) hit his fifth home run of the season, a two-run blast in the seventh inning. *For the season, Alabama has hit 40 home runs in 41 games. The Crimson Tide hit only 38 home runs in 55 games last season. Alabama has hit 23 home runs in 13 games in the month of April. The Crimson Tide has homered in 12 of the 13 games this month.

*Alabama saw its four-game Saturday SEC losing streak come to an end with the 10-4 win over South Carolina. The Crimson Tide had not won since beating Kentucky 5-3 on March 19. The four straight losses came against Vanderbilt, LSU, Ole Miss and Florida.

*South Carolina senior first baseman Steve Pearce hit his 11th and 12th home runs of the season in the loss to Alabama. Pearce hit a two-out, solo home run in the top of the first inning and added a one-out, solo home run in the ninth inning. Pearce has three home runs in the first two games of the series against Alabama. He has 33 career home runs, which ranks him 13th all-time at Carolina.

*Carolina second baseman Chris Brown's two-run double in the top of the fourth inning was his first RBI since April 2 against Georgia.

*South Carolina had only one man left on base in the loss to Alabama.

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