Bama bounces back versus Florida Atlantic

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- After a one day absence, the hot-hitting of the University of Alabama baseball returned with a season-high 15 hits en route to an 8-3 win over the Florida Atlantic Owls at the HHH Metrodome Sunday afternoon.

The Crimson Tide (11-1) finished with a 2-1 record at the 2002 Hormel Foods Classic and can finish no worse than a tie for first in the three-day event. Alabama can win the tournament outright if Tennessee beats Minnesota in the 3 p.m. game. If Minnesota wins, the Gophers win the head-to-head tie-breaker with Alabama by virtue of its 5-2 win on Saturday.

Alabama roughed up five different FAU pitchers for eight runs and 15 hits Sunday. UA had nine runs and 15 hits in the tourney opener against Tennessee on Friday.

Five UA players recorded multiple hit games on Sunday, including freshman third baseman Allen Rice, senior second baseman Brent Boyd, senior catcher Jeremy Brown, junior DH Beau Hearod and redshirt freshman left fielder Gabe Scott. Rice and Scott posted a career high two hits each for Alabama.

Alabama scored quickly against Florida Atlantic, something it did not do in its loss to Minnesota on Saturday. The Crimson Tide put three of its first four runners on base in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead.

Junior left fielder Travis Garner struck out on three pitches, but reached first base on a wild pitch by starting pitcher Matt O'Brein, who was a replacement for the original starter Tom MacLane. Rice, starting in place of Carlos Sosa, moved Garner into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Boyd followed with an RBI double to left-center, extending his hitting streak to a season-high nine games. Brown followed with an RBI single, scoring Boyd to give UA a 2-0 lead. It was Brown's fourth hit in his last five at-bats.

Jeremy Brown had two hits for Bama.

The Crimson Tide doubled its lead in the second inning on freshman Zac Welch's first career home run, a 370-foot shot into the seats in right field. Senior centerfielder Scott McClanaahan led off the inning with a triple into the right-center field gap and scored on Welch's home run to right field.

Scott, making his first career start, followed Welch's long ball with a single to left. After moving to second on a wild pitch, Scott scored on Rice's two-out base hit to left center field as UA built a 5-0 lead.

UA mounted another rally in the third as junior designated hitter Beau Hearod singled and McClanahan drew a walk with one out. MacLane was brought into the game out of the pen to relieve O'Brien. The lefty got an inning-ending double play off the bat of Welch to keep the Tide off the board for the first time in the game.

O'Brien gave up five runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings. He added one walk and four strikeouts.

FAU got one run back in the fourth inning as catcher Mike Cox led off with a solo home run to left center field, his fourth dinger of the year.

The Blue Wave cut the lead to 5-3 in the seventh inning when LJ Biernbaum ripped a two-out double into left center, driving in two runs.

UA starter Shane Sanders worked a career high 6 1/3 innings before running into trouble in the seventh. After retiring the first hitter, Sanders walked Bobby Spano, the No. 9 hitter, on four pitches and then allowed a two-strike base hit to right to leadoff man Gabe Somarriba.

Freshman right-hander Josh Baker came on for his first relief appearance of the season and struck out Mike Valdes, but allowed the two-out double to Biernbaum. Baker got out of further trouble when McClanahan made a diving catch of pop up off the bat of Mike Cox to end the threat.

Sanders worked 6 1/3 innings and allowed three runs on seven hits. He added two walks and struck out three batters.

Alabama answered with three runs on three consecutive hits in the bottom of the seventh inning to extend its lead to 8-3. Rice doubled down the left field line and scored on Boyd's single to center. Brown greeted reliever Greg Eubanks with an RBI triple to right-center, his third career triple. McClanahan's sacrifice fly to center scored Brown to give UA the five-run lead.

FAU loaded the bases in the eighth against Baker, but closer Brain Reed came on to strand the runners as he got a ground out from Somarriba to end the rally. Reed also pitched a scoreless ninth inning,. adding two strikeouts, to record his SEC-leading fourth save.

Alabama will return to action on Wednesday, March 6 when they travel to Mobile to meet the South Alabama Jaguars at Hank Aaron Stadium. The game begins at 6:05 p.m. Tickets are still available for the game and may be purchased through the South Alabama or Mobile BayBears ticket outlets.

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