Bush Keys Win, Hunter Goes the Distance

Evan Bush's first hit of the day, and his first bases-loaded hit of the season could not have come at a better time for the Alabama baseball team Sunday.

Box Score

The senior hammered a one-out, 1-0 changeup to the left field wall off Mississippi reliever Craig Rodriguez in the bottom of the seventh inning, driving in two runs to erase a one-run Tide deficit en route to a 9-2 Alabama (19-8, 5-1 SEC) win and a series sweep of Ole Miss (13-11, 1-5 SEC) at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

It was Bush's delivery of a timely hit in the bottom of the ninth Saturday night, his only hit of the night, that drove in the tying run making Alabama's 10th inning comeback possible.

"I've never seen a team as loose as we are now," Bush said. "We don't care who's coming up to bat when. Everyone has a lot of confidence."

Sunday starter Tommy Hunter kept Mississippi close enough for the late-inning rally, pitching a six-hit gem and picking up his first career complete game on 130 pitches. Two of the six Mississippi hits allowed by the freshman came in the ninth inning, after the Tide had opened up a seven-run lead in the game.

"He was a little nervous last week being his first start in the SEC and I had forgotten that," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said. "He doesn't act like a freshman."

Hunter, from Indianapolis, Indiana, also picked up his first Southeastern Conference win, improving his record to 4-2 overall. He was starting opposite his high school summer league teammate and fellow Indianapolis product Lance Lynne.

Hunter got doused with a towel-full of shaving cream by Matt Downs and a group of laughing teammates after the game.

"It's exciting when you get your first complete game, and this is my first win in the SEC," Hunter said. "They have been on me all week about pitching against a guy from my hometown, too."

The Ole Miss bullpen imploded after Bush's hit to give Alabama the lead. In its final two innings of work, Ole Miss pitchers charted a combined eight runs, seven hits and five walks.

Alex Avila followed Bush's double with a sacrifice fly in the seventh and Bush came around to score on a Zack Cozart throwing error at shortstop on the next at-bat to give Alabama a 5-2 lead. Kody Valverde, who had been intentionally walked, also tried to score on the error but was gunned at the plate to end the threat.

Bama tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the eighth.

Spencer Pennington singled to lead off the eighth and, after a sacrifice bunt by Brandon Belcher, Greg Paiml drove in Jeff Texada (pinch-running for Pennington) with another single. Emeel Salem and Matt Downs also got hits in the eighth, and Bush, Valverde and Avila all walked in the eighth. Ryan Rhoden grounded into one of three Alabama double plays on the day to end the inning.

"Every time they need a big pitch, they got it; every time they needed a big hit, they got it," Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco said. "Guys that don't have very high batting averages are getting hits for them."

Hunter issued just one walk Sunday, to Mark Wright immediately before the Justin Brashear third-inning home run that produced Ole Miss's only runs of the day. The two-run third was the only inning where Ole Miss sent more than four batters to the plate in an inning. Hunter struck out seven.

Hunter threw a six-pitch first inning and an 11-pitch second inning, taking advantage of Mississippi hitters' aggressiveness. Hunter retired the side one-two-three in five of the first six innings, and faced just 33 batters, six over the minimum, for the game.

"We were mainly attacking them with fastballs," Wells said. "I was surprised we were able to do that against them. Mainly, he's throwing one pitch and spinning a breaking ball up there to keep them honest."

Alabama was 6 of 10 in the first and second spots in the batting order on Sunday, and first- and second place hitters Salem and Downs scored two runs apiece in the game.

After his 10th-inning heroics Saturday night, Paiml had a perfect day at the plate Sunday, going two for two with two walks, a run batted in and one run scored.

Valverde was hitless on the day, but was walked four times, once intentionally, by Mississippi pitching.

Alabama hosts Lipscomb Wednesday night before welcoming the nation's number one ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs next weekend. Tickets for the Lipscomb game and the Mississippi State series – expected to be a sellout – go on sale at the Alabama ticket office, (205) 348-BAMA, on Monday morning.

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