Tide rallies to down Cats, 11-9

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The number seven may be the winning ticket for some horse racing fan at the annual Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday afternoon. It certainly was the lucky number for the University of Alabama baseball team Friday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

The Crimson Tide used a seventh-inning rally to post its seventh straight win to post an 11-9 come-from-behind win over the Bats Cats. The win was Alabama's 25th in a row when scoring 10 or more runs and gives the Crimson Tide its 30th win of the 2002 season.

Alabama (30-5, 10-3 SEC) also extended its lead over Ole Miss and Georgia to two games with the win. Ole Miss lost a 10-3 decision at home to Auburn, while Georgia took an 8-2 loss at LSU.

The winning rally started with a pair of infield singles by Allen Rice and Travis Garner. Chad White followed with his second base hit of the game, scoring Rice from third and sending Garner to third. Grant Redding pinch-ran for White at first base and Kentucky changed pitchers.

Left-hander Craig Snipp relieved starter Joseph Blanton, who allowed seven runs on 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings. Blanton added seven walks and struck out five and threw 141 pitches.

Snipp (3-2), who was charged with the loss, hit left-hander batter Zac Welch to load the bases with his first pitch. McClanahan drew a bases loaded walk to force home Garner as UA cut the lead to 9-8. Home plate umpire Jack Cox ejected UK pitching coach Greg Goff following the walk for disputing balls and strikes.

Adam Pavkovich reached on a fielder's choice as Welch was retired at third base, but Redding came home with the tying run. Peter Stonard walked to load the bases and then reliever Mark Galvan came on to walk Brown with the bases loaded, scoring McClanahan with the go-ahead run as UA took a 10-9 lead.

Alabama added an insurance run in the ninth inning when Stonard lined a two-out double off the wall in left and scored on Brown's base hit to give UA an 11-9 lead. Stonard had four hits and reached base five times in the win for Alabama.

"We responded like champions tonight," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "This team has a lot of character and fights hard to the end. That is the mark of a good team. Kentucky gave us some opportunities with a lot of walks and then we mixed in some big hits at the right time. This was a big win for us."

The three UK pitchers combined to walk 10 UA batters and hit one batter. Three of the 10 walks came with the bases loaded.

Freshman left-hander Taylor Tankersley (6-2) retired 13 of the 14 batters he faced for his sixth win of the season. The only UK base runner against Tankersley was Gordon Tyler's leadoff single in the eighth inning. Tyler, representing the tying run, was stranded on base to end the inning. Tankersley also added six strikeouts.

Kentucky (14-18, 3-10) chased Alabama starter Lance Cormier with an eight-run fifth inning. The Wildcats scored seven unearned runs with two outs aided by an Alabama error and seven UK hits.

Cormier, who seemed to be cruising after four innings, seemed to be rattled by an unexpected rain and lightning delay at the end of the fourth inning. The delay last 23 minutes and seemed to take the sharpnees away from the UA senior.

Jesse Barner opened the scoring with an RBI single as UK sent 11 batters to the plate in chasing Cormier, who turned in his shortest outing of the season. The inning began when Spencer Preston reached on a throwing error by Pavkovich at shortstop.

After Brad Pickrell hit into what should have been the inning-ending double play, the Wildcats two-out rally started with a Robert Newton's two-run single as UK cut the lead to 6-4. Seth Morris tied the game with an RBI double and Gordon Tyler's two-run double gave the Cats a 7-6 lead. Hahn followed with a two-run home run, his second hit and second run scored of the inning, to cap the eight-run inning to give the Cats a 9-6 lead.

"We talked about this and what we would do when your ace gets knocked around," Wells said. "It happens to everybody, even the other night to Roger Clemens (NY Yankees ace). The question was how we would respond?'

Cormier allowed nine runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. He was charged with only one earned run and added two strikeouts and one walk. Cormier threw 43 of his 87 pitches in the fifth inning. UK scored seven of the eight runs with two outs.

"I think the rain delay had some affect," Wells added. "He never really got the ball down. All the pitches were belt high our upper thigh high. Their hitters did not have to make any adjustments."

The Crimson Tide took a 6-2 lead into the fifth inning but watched the Bats Cats make some noise and take a three-run lead.

Alabama took advantage of some wildness by Blanton in the second inning to take a 2-0 lead. Blanton walked three UA batters in the inning as the Crimson Tide put two runs on the board.

Rice drew a one out walk and Garner followed with a ground ball single to left field. White and Welch drew back-to-back walks, scoring Rice from third base.

Senior centerfielder Scott McClanahan reached on a fielder's choice, scoring Garner from third base. Welch apparently reached second base safely, but was called out by umpire John Whitaker despite UK second baseman Jesse Barker dropping the throw from third baseman Cory Hahn. The inning ended when Alabama tried a double steal and White was putout out at home.

Stonard gave Alabama a 3-0 lead with a solo home run to left field in the third inning. It was Stonard's fourth home run of the season after hitting no home runs as a rookie last year.

Stonard was starting his first career game at second base in the absence of Brent Boyd, who was suffering from an oblique abdominal strain suffered prior to the UAB game on Wednesday night.

Alabama has now homered in 12 straight games, hitting 19 home runs in that stretch. Of the 19 home runs, 15 have been solo shots including Stonard's blast in the third inning. He was hitless in 15 consecutive at-bats prior to the home run.

UA tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning to take a 6-0 lead. Pavkovich had an RBI single and Stonard followed with an RBI double. The other run scored on an error by UK left fielder Caleb Stewart.

UK got an unearned run back in the bottom of the inning when Spencer Graeter doubled and scored on a throwing error by Stonard at second base.

The three-game series will resume at 6 p.m. (ET) on Saturday at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Alabama will pitch sophomore left-hander Jeffrey Norris (2-1, .2.77 ERA), while UK will send junior right-hander Scott Wade. The series concludes Sunday at 1:30 p.m. (ET).

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