Hunter Bags Gators

There's a week to go in the regular season, and for the first time in a couple of weeks Alabama Coach Jim Wells can breathe a small sigh of relief.

His squad used 10 hits and another superb outing from freshman pitcher Tommy Hunter for an 8-4 win over Florida on Sunday, winning its seventh SEC series and clinching a spot in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Alex Avila started the Tide offense with a two-run homer in the first as a part of a four-RBI day. Avila deposited the 1-0 fastball from Steven Porter over the right field wall to bring in Emeel Salem, who led the game off with a hit.

"I was looking for it," Avila said. "He had thrown inside to Emeel (Salem) and Downs, so I kind of guessed, and I guessed right."

In the third inning Alabama took advantage of an error, a wild pitch and a balk for a four-run inning to stake Hunter to a 6-1 lead.

After sailing through the first seven frames allowing only three hits and a single run, Hunter gave up a three-run homer to Matt LaPorta in the eighth inning that pulled Florida to within three runs. Hunter threw a total of 83 pitches.

"You can't out-pitch LaPorta," Hunter said. "You've got to hope he gets himself out. On one, he didn't, but the rest of the time it looked like they were guessing."

Hunter (8-3) equaled an Alabama freshman record with his eighth win of the year, and the Tide extended its home record in conference play to 12-3.

"Surprisingly I had a change-up today," he said. "I threw 15 change-ups today and I don't think I have thrown 15 change-ups all year combined."

David Robertson pitched the final two innings of relief for the Tide, allowing a hit and issuing two walks.

Alabama added an insurance run in the bottom of the eight when Matt Downs' bunt single scored Brandon Belcher from third.

Coupled with Arkansas' loss to Ole Miss Sunday, Alabama (36-17 overall, 17-10 SEC) extended its SEC Western Division lead to two games over Arkansas and Ole Miss, and the Tide now trails Kentucky by two games in the overall league race. Kentucky clinched at least a share of the Eastern Division title with a series sweep of Mississippi State over the weekend.

In addition to Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Ole Miss and Arkansas had clinched spots in the eight-team SEC tournament with a week to play in the regular season. Florida and Auburn were mathematically eliminated from the tourney on Sunday.

SEC West SEC Record GB Remaining Schedule
*Alabama 17-10 - @UT
*Ole Miss 15-12 2 @ MSU
*Arkansas 15-12 2 @AU
LSU 12-15 5 @FLA
Mississippi State 11-15 5.5 @OM
x-Auburn 9-18 8 @ARK

* clinched SEC Tournament berth
x- eliminated from SEC Tournament play
SEC East SEC Record GB Remaining Schedule
*Kentucky 19-8 - @UGA
*Georgia 16-11 3 UK
South Carolina 14-13 5 @VU
Vanderbilt 14-13 5 USC
Tennessee 11-15 6.5 ALA
x-Florida 8-19 11 LSU

* clinched SEC Tournament berth
x- eliminated from SEC Tournament play

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