Tide Wins Regional

Alabama senior catcher Kody Valverde had an NCAA Baseball Regional to remember on his home turf at Sewell Thomas Stadium. After going three-for-four, including a grand slam home run in the first game and knocking in the winning run in the second contest, Valverde rapped out five hits in the Crimson Tide's 14-4 victory over Troy in the championship game of the Tuscaloosa Regional.

"It was a good opportunity to hit," Alabama's Kody Valverde said. "I could see the ball pretty good and got some breaks this weekend and shorten up my swing a little bit, hit more singles, try and drive the ball up the middle more. I was seeing the ball better this weekend than I have in a few weeks so it worked out good."

While Valverde was the MVP of the tournament, his teammate, shortstop Greg Paiml, was equally impressive as the Tide moved on the Super Regionals where it will face North Carolina next weekend. In the three games, Valverde went 10-for-13, including his Alabama tournament record five base raps Sunday night.

Paiml drove in two runs with a single and scored three more times after drawing walks. He was four-for-four in Alabama's 13-1 win over Jacksonville State Friday and had a home run against Troy in the 4-3 Saturday night game.

Benefiting from the offensive surge by his hitters and some nifty defensive play as well, starting pitcher Bernard Robert improved his record to 8-6. He went eight innings, giving up four runs on seven hits.

Alabama, the No. 4 national seed, is now 44-19 on the season while Troy concluded its season with a 47-16 mark. For Alabama Coach Jim Wells it was his ninth appearance in a regional final since becoming the Tide head coach in 1995.

Alabama scored early and often, starting with a five-run explosion in the second inning.

"I'm proud of our team, the way we managed to score some runs," Alabama coach Jim Wells said. "I would like to say Troy is a very, very good team, one of the best hitting clubs I've seen all year, including our conference. We were fortunate they had to play another game. But I've never seen so many hard-hit balls. It was like live play sets with the Jugz (pitching) machine. They were really good. We're certainly going to have to put more good swings together and play a little better against the North Carolina team. But I'm just so happy that we're in the position to be able to play North Carolina and be in the Super Regional right now."

In the top of the second, the Crimson Tide batted around and scored five times off Trojan starter and loser Steven Morelock, who dropped to 3-1 on the year. Ryan Rhoden and Spencer Pennington started the attack with singles. Brandon Belcher's single plated Rhoden, and Pennington came home on an infield hit by Emeel Salem.

A bases loaded walk to Matt Downs scored Belcher, while Paiml, who had walked, and Salem scored on a single by catcher Valverde.

Alabama continued its offensive prowess in the third when Matt Downs cleaned the bases with a three-run double to left center. Kent Matthes, who had singled, and Paiml and Salem, who had both walked, scored on the line drive to the wall.

Robert worked out of a major jam in the bottom of the third when he struck out Troy power-hitting first baseman Josh Dew.

In the top of the fifth, the Crimson Tide got a single run to increase its lead to 9-0. Paiml reached on a walk, moved to second on an error that allowed Salem to take first. With Downs at bat, Paiml and Salem executed a double steal and Paiml scored his third run of the game when catcher Beau Brooks' throw to third sailed into left field.

Consecutive singles by Troy's Edgar Ramirez, Tom King, and Mike Felix got Troy on the board for the first time in the bottom half of the fifth. A ground out by Dew drove home King for the second Troy run.

Alabama got one of the runs back in the sixth when Valverde blooped a double into centerfield and later scored on Brooks' second errant throw from his catcher's slot into left field.

Troy was able to whittle away at the Crimson Tide lead when pinch-hitter Nick Smith launched a two-run homer over the right field fence in the bottom of the sixth.

Trojan relievers J.J. Whitsel and Jonathan Sabat couldn't find the strike zone in the eighth inning. After hitting Downs to open the inning and Valverde singled, Whitsel exited after walking Evan Bush. Sabat struck out Rhoden before issuing run-scoring walks to Pennington and Matthes.

Paiml continued his torrid tournament with a single that scored two more runs for the Tide, increasing the lead to 14-4.

Jake McCarter replaced Robert in the ninth and allowed the Trojans' final run on a two-out double to Tom King.

All-Tournament Team

C – Kody Valverde, Alabama

1B – Spencer Pennington, Alabama

2B – Edgar Ramriez, Troy

SS – Greg Paiml, Alabama

3B – Matt Downs, Alabama

OF – Mike Felix, Troy

OF – Todric Johnson, Southern Miss

OF – Emeel Salem, Alabama

U – Brian Dozier, Southern Miss

P – David Robertson, Alabama

P – Wade LeBlanc, Alabama

MVP – Kody Valverde, Alabama

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