Stayin' Alive

Alabama pitcher Brent Carter kept Arkansas in check and a tired Crimson Tide baseball squad got some clutch individual performances to stay alive, beating the Hogs 5-4 in the second elimination game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover Thursday afternoon.

"It was just a game in which the effort - not that it was lacking - but the emotion wasn't there," Alabama Head Coach Jim Wells said. "It was like pulling teeth."

Alabama, who improved to 38-20 with the win, played well past midnight in its opening round loss to Mississippi Wednesday night.

Bama shortstop Cale Iorg delivered the game-winning hit in the top of the ninth inning with a single up the middle. Iorg was three-for-four from the plate against Arkansas and had two RBI.

"I'm seeing it right at the right time," Iorg said. " I was just looking for something I could handle and not be over aggressive. I got one I could handle and got good aluminum on it."

Iorg had two of Alabama's six hits in the game Wednesday night.

"He think he's good and he is good," Wells said. "He's not intimidated by anything. He always think he can do it and that's half the battle."

"He has a chance to move up in the lineup," Wells added.

Brent Carter entered the game in the third inning and pitched six and a third masterful innings, allowing just three hits. Alabama's strikeout king had seven 'Ks Thursday, bringing his career mark to 305. He is the only Alabama player to eclipse the 300-strikeout mark.

"Carter is becoming a bulldog the past two weeks," Wells said. "It was a great job by Carter. He kept us in the game."

Carter tried to finish the game but allowed a walk and a single in the ninth inning after striking out the first batter.

Freshman David Robertson was brought in with runners on the corner to relieve Carter. It was a remarkably similar situation to the one Robertson faced two weeks ago against the Hogs.

In that Friday night game, he was a strike away from preserving a one-run victory but Clint Arnold fisted a triple into right field, scoring the go-ahead run from first for the game-winner.

"I was just thinking 'Don't let them score,'" Robertson said. "I have gotten past that earlier game now."

Robertson struck out Craig Gentry for the first out and made a tremendous stab at a sharp grounder by Ben Tschepikow to end the game.

"I lucked out and caught it. That's all I can say," he said.

Wells made a change behind the plate after just one half inning of play, when starter Kody Valverde made a wild throw into center field on Brock Bond's steal attempt, and then failed to catch a high fastball, allowing Bond to score on the wild pitch.

Wells inserted Chris Kirkland to pinch hit for Valverde in the bottom of the first. It was Kirkland's first playing time since May 4 against UAB. Kirkland had played in just 13 games on the year and started seven prior to Thursday.

Kirkland was one-for-three in the game with a key sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning that set up Iorg's game winning hit.

"I thought Kirkland stepped his game up," Carter said of the catcher, "with the sacrifice bunt, throwing a guy out on a delay steal, and he blocked the curveball well."

Wells said Kirkland earned the opportunity to remain in the lineup.

"I don't think we'll wait another 25 games to get Kirkland back into the lineup," Wells said. "He deadened the ball (on the sac bunt), which you don't see done much any more. If he had bunted it hard they would have had a chance to get the lead runner because they were really closing in on him hard.

T.J. Large started the game for Alabama and pitched just two innings. Large was ineffectively wild for Alabama again on Thursday.

He allowed four hits and all four Arkansas runs, although one run was unearned. Large also walked one batter and hit one ,his 21st hit batsman of the year.

Alabama will play the loser of the later Thursday game between Florida and Ole Miss at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.


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