Season Ends

NEW ORLEANS, La. -- The No. 16 University of Alabama baseball team's season ended with another hard fought loss to the No. 1 ranked Tulane Green Wave at Turchin Stadium on a rainy Monday night in New Orleans. Mark Hamilton, who was named the New Orleans Regional MVP, and Greg Dini went 4-for-8 with three doubles, one home run and six RBI to lead the Green Wave to a 7-4 win over the Crimson Tide in the championship game.

Dini's two-run home run in the seventh inning off sophomore lefty Wade LeBlanc, who made his first relief appearance of the season, extended Tulane's lead to 7-4 and all but put the Green Wave into next week's Super Regional matchup against Rice, who won the Baton Rouge Regional with a 5-4 win over LSU on Monday.

The Crimson Tide played two tight games against the nation's top ranked team in the New Orleans Regional and had several chances, particularly on Monday, to take the lead and win the game in the late innings.

"I'm really proud of this team," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said.  "Tulane is real good and I thought we played right with them in both games.  We played hard and great effort just like we have done all year."

The game was delayed four times by rain and finally ended just after 11 p.m. local time.  The the two teams were originally scheduled to play Sunday night but after a heavy thunderstorm made the field unplayable, the game was postponed until Monday afternoon.  After two more delays, the teams finally took the field shortly after 7 p.m. for the championship game.  There was a one-hour rain delay in the bottom of the seventh inning. 

Once the game began it did not take long for either to team to score.

Alabama (40-23) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on back-to-back, two-out doubles by senior left fielder Gabe Scott and senior first baseman Zac Welch.  Welch went 4-for-4 and had four RBI in the loss.  His four hits tied the Alabama record for most hits in an NCAA Regional game.

Tulane (53-9) answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning when Brian Bogusevic lifted a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to score Nathan Southard Hamilton doubled home Tommy Manzella from second base to give the Green Wave a 2-1 lead.

Alabama regained the lead in the top of the third inning on a two-run single by Welch.  The Tide loaded the bases with no outs when Emeel Salem led off with a single and took second on a ground ball by Allen Rice that resulted in an error by second baseman Joe Holland.  Cale Iorg walked to load the bases.  Scott struck out looking and then Welch bounced a single up the middle to score Salem and Rice.  Bush rapped into a double play to end the inning.

The Green Wave answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 5-3 lead. Hamilton plated one run with a bases loaded ground out and Mark Dini added a two-run double to push Tulane back in the lead at 5-3 and in the process knock UA starter Trey Shields out of the game.

Shields allowed five runs and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings in just his third start of the season for the Tide. 

LeBlanc gave Alabama four innings in relief and allowed two runs and three hits.  The Tide also called on David Robertson and Jordan Davis out of the pen.

Davis retired four of the five batters he faced in the championship game and added one strikeout. The junior pitched in all four games in the regional and did not allow a run.

Alabama cut the lead to 5-4 in the top of the fifth inning when Rice singled and scored on Welch's two-out double to left.

The Crimson Tide had numerous chances on offense as they left runners in scoring position in first, third, fifth, sixth and seventh innings. The best chance came in the sixth as the Tide wasted a one-out triple by Rocky Scelfo.  Bama had another chance in the seventh inning but left the tying run at third.

Scott drew a two-out walk and Welch collected his fourth hit of the game with a single to right to send Scott to third.  Bush then struck out to end the inning.

Bush was 0-for-4 in the game with two strikeouts and left five men on base, including four in scoring position.  Bush's strikeout in the seventh inning was his 61st of the season to tie the single-season record also held by Mick Kerns in 1991.

Dini slammed a two-run home run to left field in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Tulane and 7-4 lead and energize the home crowd.  Minutes later the game was stopped for one hour because of rain and lightning.

After the delay, Tulane starter Micah Owings (10-4) did not return to the mound.  He allowed four runs and nine hits in seven innings, with three walks and six strikeouts.

Junior Daniel Latham retired all six batters he faced for his 12th save of the season and third of the regional.  In two appearances against Alabama, Latham retired all 11 batters he faced and earned two saves.

GAME NOTES:

*The New Orleans Regional certainly had its share of weather related problems this weekend.  The Alabama-UL Lafayette game on Sunday was delayed twice for a total of one hour and 58 minutes.  The start of the game was delayed 22 minutes and there was a one hour and 23-minute delay in the bottom of the fifth inning.  Then the fun really started for the weather watchers.  The Alabama-Tulane game was scheduled to begin Sunday night at 7:50 p.m. and was quickly delayed until 8:30 p.m. before being postponed altogether a few minutes later.  The championship was then rescheduled for 1:07 p.m. on Monday.  As the heavy rains fell on the Turchin Stadium stadium grass the game was pushed back to 3:30 p.m. and then was postponed indefinitely around 2:30 p.m.  Finally, the skies cleared and the game began at 7:05 p.m., just over 23 hours after the scheduled start time on Sunday.  The championship game was halted in the bottom of the seventh inning due to lightning and then rain.  The rain delay lasted one hour. In three days, Alabama endured three in-game rain delays that totaled two hours and 58 minutes.

*Senior first baseman Zac Welch, freshman shortstop Cale Iorg and sophomore pitcher Wade LeBlanc were all named to the New Orleans Regional All-Tournament team. 

*Welch batted .438 (7-for-16) in four games with two runs scored, two doubles, one home run and seven RBI.  He had four hits and four RBI in the championship game.  He had two hits and three RBI in the first-round win over UL Lafayette.

*Welch tied the Alabama NCAA regional record with four hits in the game against Tulane.  Welch had three singles, one double and four RBI in the loss.  He is the ninth player to have a four-hit game in an NCAA Regional.

*Iorg batted .294 (5-for-17) with one double, one triple, one home run and two RBI in his first regional appearance for the Tide.

*LeBlanc pitched in two games and earned one win on the mound and recorded 12 strikeouts in nine innings.

*Junior RHP Jordan Davis was left off the All-Tournament team, but received a hug from coach Jim Wells for his performance this weekend after he recorded the final out in the eighth inning. Davis appeared in all four games and worked 5 1/3 innings and allowed one run and four hits, with five strikeouts.  He earned the save in the Tide's first round win over UL Lafayette.

*Alabama has played in eight NCAA Regional championship games in nine post-season appearances under head coach Jim Wells.  The Crimson Tide's championship appearances have come in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2005.  Alabama won NCAA Regional championships in 1996, 1997 and 1999.

*Alabama has not won an NCAA Regional championship on the road since beating Florida State in the title game of the South Regional in 1983 at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee.

*Alabama is now 5-8 (.386) all-time in its 13 NCAA Regional championship game appearances.

*Junior RHP Trey Shields made just his third start of the season in the NCAA Regional championship against No. 1 Tulane.  Shields has pitched in seven games this season and compiled a 1-1 record and 5.50 ERA. His other starts came against Mississippi Valley State (April 20) and South Alabama (April 27).

*Sophomore left-hander Wade LeBlanc made his first relief appearance of the 2005 season and second of his career in the game against Tulane. In his only other relief appearance, LeBlanc allowed a base hit and two-run, walk-off home run in a 4-3 loss at Jacksonville State on Feb. 18, 2004.

*LeBlanc retired the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the third inning, including a strikeout of Joe Holland to end the inning.  The strikeout of Holland was the 106th of the season for LeBlanc setting the UA single-season record for a sophomore pitcher.  The previous record for a sophomore was 105 strikeouts by Brent Carter in 2003.

*LeBlanc's had three strikeouts in the game and finished the year with 108 strikeouts in 88 innings.  The 106 strikeouts are the second most in Alabama history behind Bobby Sprowl's school record 118 strikeouts in 1977.

*Junior 3B Evan Bush tied the Alabama single-season record with his 61st strikeout in the seventh inning.  Mick Kerns (1991) also holds the record with 61 strikeouts.

*Alabama has now lost nine straight games to Tulane following Monday's 0-0 loss in the NCAA Regional championship game.

*The Crimson Tide is now 9-11 (.450) all-time against the nation's No. 1 ranked team.  Alabama lost both games to Tulane here at the 2005 New Orleans Regional.

POST-GAME QUOTES:

UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA COACH JIM WELLS

"I'm really proud of our guys. They battled Tulane, which is a very good team. We had opportunities to hit [Tulane starting pitcher Micah] Owings. We were just a hit or two away. And their lineup is dynamite; they have nine hitters. We tried to take Owings out of the equation [two intentional walks], but they have a very solid lineup. [Tulane catcher Greg] Dini hits the home run and a couple of pitchers here and there. That is a very good team; they should get to Omaha and have a chance to win. The main thing is that these guys [Alabama] played their hearts out; effort was never a question all year. They gave us everything."

  (on pitcher Wade LeBlanc)

"I expected him to do well, but you never know [on short rest]. He said he felt pretty good and he did pitch well. He got behind Dini 1-0, and it wasn't a bad pitch; but it was a fastball count and their hitters did a good job of not missing when it counted."

  (on Tulane's team)

"Certainly they are going to score a lot of runs and they have two number-one type starters. I didn't get to see a lot of their pen, but [closer Daniel] Latham looks pretty good. They don't have any glaring weakness; I think they have a real good shot. Coming out of the SEC and seeing teams that have done real well in our league, they are as good a team as we have seen all year. They have no outs in their lineup."

TULANE COACH RICK JONES:

  "It was a night that we had to battle more than one opponent, an outstanding Alabama club and the weather. My concern was when we had them yesterday in the situation you want in a double-elimination tournament when we were fresh. But they had a day's rest and gave them the chance to do what they did tonight and that was bring LeBlanc back. He cut us up for a while; he is really good. I was concerned because of that. We were sloppy early and that hurt us. I thought Micah Owings did such a great job; he really stepped up. When we had the delay, he was probably going to come out anyway; he was up around 122 [pitch count]. Daniel Latham, boy was he good, three saves in three days and his stuff was outstanding."

  (on Dini's home run)

"Dini's home run was a big blow; it stretched the lead, put us in a position where we got into their bullpen a little bit more."

  (on the rain/weather)

"At the end there, my concern was not just Alabama, but the ball was going to be so wet. I thought Manzella did a great job on the last out in the eighth, getting a good handle on the ball. That ball was very wet. You just worry about those kind of things, but it worked out for us."

  (on Owings)

"Micah's a guy that if you're going to get him, you'll get him in one inning; and that was the third when we bobbled a ball. After that, he got stronger; if you watched him in the seventh, he ran that fast ball and it had life on it."

  (on Tulane's ability to respond to opponent scoring)

"We have done that most of the year and it's because we have a veteran club that's talented. We don't press too much. Next week, we'll see how it goes. We get down a run or two and we seem to respond in a positive way. You have to have the ability to do that, but you also need guys who have experience. Our guys have always enjoyed nine innings."


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