Bama Overpowers Jax State, 13-1

With one swing of the bat Alabama catcher Kody Valverde's sixth-inning grand slam equaled his RBI total for the entire month of May, and put an exclamation point on Alabama's 13-1 win over Jacksonville State in the second game of the Tuscaloosa Regional at Sewell-Thomas Stadium Friday night (and Saturday morning).

The start of the game, which ended just before 1 a.m. in the early Saturday morning hours, was delayed three hours and five minutes because of rain delays in the day's first game of the regional.

Valverde's one-out line drive over the left field wall cleared the bases after two walks and a hit allowed by JSU reliever Lee Drinkard loaded them for Alabama's best slugger. The slam put the game out of reach at 8-1.

"That broke the game open and we needed it," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said. "It allowed us not to have to use our two guys out of the bullpen so that was the big hit of the game."

The Crimson Tide added five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning against JSU's fourth and fifth pitchers of the night to provide the final margin of victory. Alabama pounded out 15 hits and took advantage of four Jacksonville State errors for five unearned runs.

Bama starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc wasn't at his best – he walked four batters and allowed five hits in seven and two third innings – but he consistently overwhelmed Jax State hitters. And LeBlanc gained strength as the game went along.

"He was better the last two games but he pitched well enough to win tonight," Wells said.

LeBlanc did not allow a hit after Richard Turner lifted a two out fastball over the left field wall in the fourth inning to break a scoreless tie. The fourth inning homer was the last hit of the game for the Gamecocks.

"After he hit the home run I knew I had to keep it there and give our guys a chance to come back," he said.

"Wade made some nice pitches with change-ups, especially after Turner hit that home run," Wells said. "He just has a knack of making a pitch when he has to, and that's a good quality for a pitcher to have."

LeBlanc (11-0) remained undefeated and closed to within a game of the Alabama record for wins in a season, which dates back to 1956. LeBlanc, who was already Alabama's career strikeout king entering the game with 322 Ks, set the single season record in the second inning with his third strikeout of the game, his 119th of the year. LeBlanc had eight Ks on the night, giving him 124 for the season. He eclipsed the previous record set by Bobby Sprowl in 1977.

"I'm a records guy when we win," he said. "If we're not winning it doesn't matter."

Alabama shortstop Greg Paiml, who had just 7 hits in his last 44 at bats entering the game, broke out of a slump with four hits in four plate appearances on Friday. Paiml drove in Bama's first run of the day with a two-out single that scored Ryan Rhoden.

Emeel Salem, who had three hits in five at bats, followed Paiml's two-out hit with a triple that drove in two more runs and gave Alabama a 3-1 lead in the fourth.

Alabama plays in the winner's bracket game set for Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m. Tommy Hunter is expected to take the mound against Troy.

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