Tide Takes Two

The tenth-ranked Alabama baseball team continued its magic against the nation's top-ranked team by pulling off a double header sweep of number one South Carolina on Sunday on the road at Sarge Frye Field in Columbia. Bama, which lost in 11 innings on Friday night then sat out a rainy Saturday, won Sunday's opener, 8-6, and then breezed through the nightcap, 6-1.

Alabama (25-10 overall, 9-3 in Southeastern Conference play) had let South Carolina off the hook on Friday night as Bama had the lead late, but lost 7-6 in the 11th inning. South Carolina, the leader of the SEC Eastern Division, fell to 27-6 and 9-3 in the league.

The series win over South Carolina is the second series win in a row by Alabama over the number one ranked team. Alabama dethroned top-ranked Mississippi State the previous weekend in Tuscaloosa, winning two of three games. The Crimson Tide has won all six regular-season series with the number one ranked team, including series wins over Miami (1985), Mississippi State (1989), Auburn (1995), LSU (1997), Mississippi State (2006) and South Carolina (2006).

Alabama also notched its first-ever series win over South Carolina here at Sarge Frye Field. The Crimson Tide was 4-12 against the Gamecocks in Columbia before the double header sweep.

This week the Tide has a mid-week non-conference game at Southwestern Louisiana on Wednesday, then plays at LSU Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Junior right-hander Bernard Robert and freshman right-hander Tommy Hunter threw back-to-back complete games for the Tide in the double header Sunday. Robert held the Gamecocks to six runs and six hits in seven innings in the opener. Hunter allowed just one run and three hits in the nightcap and faced just five batters over the minimum

Senior third baseman Matt Downs went 3-for-7 with a home run and three RBI in the double-header sweep. Senior second baseman Evan Bush was 3-for-7 in the double header with a double and three RBI. Senior catcher Kody Valverde was 2-for-7 with a home run, two RBI and three runs scored in the two wins.

After taking an 8-6 win in game one, Hunter limited the Gamecocks to one run on three hits in the nightcap to complete the sweep. He added five strikeouts and walked two batters, with both coming in the fifth inning.

"This was fun," Hunter said. "It's always fun when you got and do what you want to on the mound. I command of the zone, both inside and outside, and I threw my curve ball for a strike. This showed today that we are a team. We had a lot of emotion today."

Hunter (5-2) threw 85 pitches in the seven-inning complete game, including 61 strikes for his second complete game of the season. He had a nine-inning victory over Ole Miss on March 25.

Alabama wasted no time in game two of the double header as the first three batters had base hits against starter Andy Lambert.

Junior center fielder Emeel Salem, who saw his 16-game hitting streak end in game one, led off game two with single to center field. Junior left fielder Brandon Belcher followed with a base hit down the field line and Bush drove in the first run of the game with a base hit to center to score Salem with the first run of the inning.

Downs tagged and went to third base on senior catcher Valverde's deep fly ball to center field. After freshman DH Alex Avila struck out, Bush was thrown out in an attempt to steal second base, but stayed in the run down long enough to allow Belcher to score from third base with the 2-0 lead.

The Crimson Tide added two more runs in the top of the third inning to knock Lambert out of the game. Senior first baseman Spencer Pennington drew a lead off walk and moved to second on Downs' bloop single to right. After a double steal, freshman right fielder Kyle Moore, who made his first career SEC start in the opener, laced a single to left to give the Crimson Tide a 4-0 lead.

Lambert allowed four runs and five hits in 1 2/3 innings. He added one walk and one strikeout. USC reliever Jeff Jeffords struck out Bush to end the inning to avoid further damage.

Bush picked up his second hit of the game and third RBI when he doubled into the left field corner with two outs in the fourth inning to give the Tide a 6-0 lead. Junior shortstop Greg Paiml drew a one-out walk and moved to second on Salem's second hit of the game. After Belcher popped up to short,  Bush smashed a 1-2 pitch down the left field for a two-run double as UA built a six-run advantage.

Justin Smoak's sixth home run of the season with two outs in the fifth inning put Carolina on the board and cut the UA lead to 6-1.

No. 10 Alabama 8, No. 1 South Carolina 6 (Game One)

In game one, Valverde went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI and Downs went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI in the Crimson Tide's 8-6 win. Avila also had two hits, scored two runs and had one RBI.

Valverde's two-run home run in the fourth inning gave the Tide the lead for good. It was Valverde's eighth home run of the season and six of the eight home runs have either tied the game or given Alabama the lead. In the fifth inning, Downs added a two-run single that gave the Crimson Tide an 8-4 lead.

Junior right-hander Bernard Robert (5-1) logged his first complete-game of the season as he held the Gamecocks to just six hits. Robert allowed six runs and six hits, but was charged with only four earned runs en route to his fourth consecutive SEC win. He added three walks and three strikeouts.

The Crimson Tide grabbed a 4-3 lead in the top of the third inning when Bush drew a one-out walk and Valverde slammed his eighth home run of the season to left-center field to give the Tide the one-run lead.

Downs led off the fourth inning with a solo home run to left center field to give Alabama a 5-3 lead. It was his second home run of the season and first in SEC play.

Robbie Grinestaff hit his 12th home run of the season in the bottom of the inning to cut the UA lead to 5-4.

Alabama tacked on three more runs in the top of the fifth inning to extend its lead to 8-4. Pennington drew a bases loaded walk to force home the first run and Downs added a two-run single to put the Crimson Tide up by four runs.

Pennington's walk marked the end of the day for Beverly, who was replaced by right hander Connor Lalor. Downs greeted the reliever with a two-run single up the middle as the Tide took an 8-4 lead.

Beverly (5-2) gave up eight runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, with three walks and five strikeouts.

Robert pitched around two errors in the fifth inning when Neil Giesler hit into the inning-ending double play. Alabama made three errors in the game, but also turned two double plays.

South Carolina cut the lead to 8-6 in the sixth inning on Drew Martin's two-run home run to right center field. It was Martin's third home run of the season.

The Gamecocks took advantage of a hit batter and an error by first baseman Spencer Pennington to take a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.

USC center fielder Cheyne Hurst led off the game with a wind-blown pop that sailed over the center field wall for his third home run of the season. Hurst's home run came on a 0-2 pitch. UA starter Bernard Robert then hit Chris Brown with an 0-2 pitch. Brown took second on a wild pitch and then moved to third when Michael Campbell reached when Pennington missed a ground ball at first base to put runners on the corners with no outs.

Campbell stole second base and with two outs Reese Havens plated two unearned runs with a check-swing single up the middle to score Brown and Campbell with the early 3-0 lead.

Alabama quickly answered with two runs on four hits in the top of the second inning, but left two runners in scoring position with less than two outs as the Gamecocks maintained a 3-2 lead.

Kody Valverde led off the inning with a double to left center and scored on Alex Avila's single to left field to cut the lead to 3-1. Pennington followed with a base hit and both runners moved up on a Forest Beverly wild pitch. Kyle Moore, making his first career SEC start, singled to left to score Avila and send Pennington to third. After the second wild pitch of the inning sent Moore to second base, Greg Paiml struck out and Emeel Salem popped out to short to end the inning.

Alabama stays on the road with four games this week in the state of Louisiana. Alabama will play at Southeastern Louisiana at Alumni Field in Hammond on Wednesday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. The Crimson Tide plays its second straight SEC road series next weekend when they face LSU at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge.

GAME NOTES:

*Alabama sophomore relief pitcher David Robertson (Tuscaloosa) celebrated his 21st birthday today. Also, Annie Allen, the youngest daughter of Barry (Assistant Media Relations Director) and Carla Allen, celebrated her third birthday on Sunday.

*Redshirt freshman Kyle Moore (Wetumpka) made his first career SEC start in game one of Sunday's double header. Moore had only two at-bats since Feb. 28th entering Sunday's game at South Carolina. Moore had an RBI single in his first career SEC at-bat in the Tide's two-run second inning.

*Valverde hit his team-leading eighth home run in the third inning to give Alabama a 4-3 lead. Six of his eight home runs this season have either tied the game or given UA the lead.

*Downs his his second home run of the season in game one of the double header, a solo blast to lead off the fourth inning. It was his second career home run and first in SEC play.

*Alabama held Neil Gielser, who entered the weekend as the SEC's leading hitter with a .454 batting average, hitless in 13 at-bats in the three-game series.


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