Carter's pitching heroics kept Bama alive

Having to take two games in one day from Florida Atlantic to advance on to the next round of the NCAA Tournament, the Alabama Crimson Tide knew their backs were against the wall. <br><br>Head coach Jim Wells knew he would have to rely on a lot of arms, fresh and tired, to carry the Tide throughout the day. But when he elected to start freshman left-hander Brent Carter, he probably had no idea of the results he would get.

After all, Carter had thrown four innings of one-hit shutout ball in relief on Friday night against Southeast Missouri State.

"Brent Carter gave us just what we needed," Wells said. "He gave us a great effort."

A great effort might be an understatement. Carter followed up his performance Friday night with a complete game effort in the Tide's 7-2 win over Florida Atlantic in the first game.

Heading into the tournament Carter season statistics included 42 hits in 41 innings pitched. Impressively, he had 44 strikeouts against only eight bases on balls. Carter's season ERA was 3.92.

But Sunday's complete-game victory over hard-hitting Florida Atlantic was his best outing of the year. The freshman from Americus, Ga. allowed only eight hits and two solo home runs. His nine innings pitched was a career high, along with his six strikeouts.

Carter's complete-game victory in the Regional solidifies h is position as one of several young pitchers vying to start next season.

With the exception of the two solo home runs, Carter did not allow a runner to pass second base in the 13 innings he pitched during the tournament.

Eighty-eight of his 113 pitches went over the plate for strikes, and Carter only walked one batter. "I knew if I threw strikes, I would be able to keep them off balance and help us win," Carter said.

Whenever it is unclear who will start a game, fans won't find out until right before the game starts. Carter didn't even know he was starting until a couple of hours prior to the game.

"Coach (B.J.) Green came up to me two hours before game time and told me I was going to start," Carter said. "That was probably best, because if I had known going home last night that I was going to start, I wouldn't have gotten any sleep."

Carter knew going in that he was facing a potent Owl lineup that had already hit eight home runs in the tournament. But he was only intimidated "a little."

"From what I saw on TV, the balls they hit out were left out over the plate," Carter said. "I knew that if I kept it off the plate, I could keep them at bay."

"When I was told I was starting, I thought of the seniors," Carter added. "They didn't need to end their careers in a regional. They need to end it in Omaha. We worked too hard in the fall to let them go."

Carter's performance in the first game on Sunday was enough to keep the Tide alive, but a 6-5 victory by Florida Atlantic ended the Tide's season prematurely at 51-15. But for Carter, his efforts in the tournament landed himself on the All-Tournament team. He posted a 1-0 record with a 1.38 earned run average in 13 innings, allowing two earned runs on 10 hits, with two walks and seven strikeouts.

With the departure of two weekend starters in Lance Cormier and Shane Sanders, Carter will have a strong chance to claim a spot in the rotation for the 2003 season. He said that this season has prepared him for any challenge.

"You know as a freshman you probably won't start in this league," Carter said. "I got good work in the bullpen (this year) so I was ready for the challenge."

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