Shut Out

At this level, every team and all athletes have rituals and routines that are as precise as the clock on the wall when it comes to being mentally and physically prepared for a game. The Alabama baseball team's routine was disturbed, and one player's life disrupted Tuesday afternoon.

Centerville senior Matt Downs received tragic news just after Alabama completed batting practice. That's when Downs learned his grandmother, Elizabeth King, 78, was killed in a car accident. Downs left Sewell-Thomas Stadium with his father and brother to be with his family just a few minutes before first pitch Tuesday night, replaced at third base by freshman Alex Avila. A moment of silence was observed for Ms. King and the Downs family prior to the game.

"You feel bad for Matt and his family," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said. "When you think about his family that's a little more important than our game."

Alabama lost 2-0 and managed just four hits against Memphis (1-0). It was the first time Alabama (5-2) had been shutout at home in 10 years and 10 months, since UAB won 6-0 over Alabama on April 21, 1995 -- 379 games.

"You've got to be able to score three runs over nine innings," Wells said. "[Marcus Davis] threw the ball away and we don't handle the ball away the way we need to. We're in a funk. I'm amazed we've won some games."

Alabama had won four straight.

Davis, the Memphis starter, pitched four and two thirds innings and gave up all four Alabama hits. Two of those were by Kody Valverde, who continues to be the best Alabama hitter. He had two hits, including one double, raising his average to .357 and posting a .964 slugging percentage.

Leadoff man Emeel Salem and nine-hole hitter Greg Paiml got back-to-back two-out hits off of Marcus Davis in the fifth inning, but Dusty Davis entered and induced an inning-ending fly ball from Kyle Moore. Dusty Davis (1-0) retired the first 10 batters he faced in the winning effort before issuing a two-out walk to Moore in the eighth. Phillip Utley retired the Crimson Tide in order in the ninth for his first save of the season.

Miers Quigley started for Alabama and settled down after allowing a two-run first inning.

He allowed the three of the first four batters on base, giving up two hits and a walk around a fly out by the two-hole hitter. Quigley struck out fifth-place hitter Adam Amar, but Robbie Goss' two-out single provided all the scoring on the night.

Quigley threw all fastballs a week ago in his first outing of the year last Tuesday against Samford. 4.2 last Tuesday, but mixed in off-speed pitches against Memphis. He threw 35 pitches in the first inning. Quigley worked 3 2/3 innings and allowed two runs and four hits, with three walks and two strikeouts in his second start of the year.

Jordan Davis, Jake McCarter and Josh Copeland all pitched in relief and did not allow a run. The UA bullpen has not allowed an earned run in its last 31 1/3 innings this season.

"I felt like we were going to be able to keep them from scoring, the only question was were we going to be able to score," Wells said.

And they couldn't.

Alabama had base runners in the first, fourth, fifth and eighth innings, but the only time a runner reached second base was during that two-out threat in the fifth.

Greg Paiml's efforts in the field held Memphis to just the two runs. Memphis had a runner on third with one out in their half of the eighth when Copeland extracted a grounder to shortstop, which Paiml deftly turned into a double play.

Again in the ninth Paiml started an inning-ending double play. He also went up the middle for two ground balls, almost reminiscent of Cale Iorg, Alabama's shortstop from a year ago who is now on a Mormon mission.

"He did a great job and made some nice plays that made the game stay where it was. He's a guy that does his part in the field," Wells said of Paiml's effort.

GAME NOTES:
*Redshirt freshman Kyle Moore (Wetumpka) made his first career start in left field against Memphis. He had started the last four games for the Tide as the DH. Freshman Alex Avila (Hialeah, Fla.) started at third base tonight in Downs' absence. Avila started the first five games of the season at third base, but did not see action against Kent State on Saturday or Sunday.

*Salem's fifth inning double to left-center field extended his hitting streak to eight games for the 2006 season. Dating back to the 2005 season, Salem has now hit safely in his last 12 games for the Tide.

*Paiml recorded eight assists for Alabama and started two key double plays in the eighth and ninth innings.

*The Alabama bullpen has stranded its last 11 inherited runners.


BamaMag Top Stories