Tide Takes Series

Alabama avoided its fourth straight Southeastern Conference series loss Sunday with a 5-3 win over Georgia, but not without some ninth-inning drama at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

Box Score:

Sophomore right-hander Austin Hyatt, making his first career Southeastern Conference start, gave up a two-run home run to Georgia's two-hole hitter Gordan Beckham in the top of the first inning and then kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard until his departure with two outs in the seventh inning.

Hyatt (4-1) allowed two runs and eight hits with two walks and four strikeouts for his second straight SEC win. His first career SEC win came last Sunday in Bama's 5-3 win at No. 1 Vanderbilt.

"He settled down, and he did that last Sunday at Vanderbilt," Alabama Head Coach Jim Wells said. "I thought he did good enough. It wasn't his best, but it was good enough, and for a guy that hasn't pitched a lot that's good. He's making key pitches at the right times probably as good as anyone, and certainly better than anyone this weekend."

Josh Copeland, Will Stroup and Tommy Hunter blanked Georgia over the final 2 1/3 innings to give the Crimson Tide its first SEC series win since its season opening series win over Tennessee (Marc 16-18).

Copeland stranded two base runners in the seventh inning when Rich Poythress grounded out to short as the Tide maintained its three-run lead. Stroup stranded a base runner in the eighth as Georgia eventually loaded the bases with one out Matt Freeman reached on a fielder's choice when Matt Cerione was cut down at the home on a bouncer back to the mound.

Alabama then went to sophomore right hander Tommy Hunter with two outs in the eighth inning. Hunter got leadoff batter Ryan Piesel to ground out to end the inning and preserve UA's lead.

"I came in for the eighth and the ball was staying down" in the strike zone Hunter said. "I came in the dugout and rested, and when I went back out the ball came back up again. Trying to correct it in the middle of an inning is tough."

Hunter allowed a run on two hits in the ninth as Georgia closed the gap to 5-3 on Matt Olson's RBI single to right. After Cerione reached on an error to load the bases with one out, Hunter struck out Luke Stewart and Joey Lewis, both on called third strikes, to earn his fifth save of the season.

"I thought we made some good pitches today," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "Hyatt did a nice job. He got out of some jams and made some real quality pitches. The bullpen did the job in the end and kept us in the game."

Georgia (13-23, 5-10 SEC) tallied 12 hits in the game, but stranded 14 base runners. The trio of Alabama relievers stranded all five inherited runners in the game to extend UA's streak to 14 consecutive inherited runners stranded over the last five games.

Alabama (22-15, 7-8 SEC) took the lead for good with two runs on three hits in the fourth inning off losing pitcher Dean Weaver.

Junior first baseman Matt Bentley started the inning with a double to right field and moved to third on freshman third baseman Jake Smith's sharp single to right.

Senior left fielder Brandon Belcher's sacrifice fly to right field scored Bentley as UA tied the game at 2-2. Senior shortstop Greg Paiml capped the inning with a two-out single up the middle to score Smith from second base and put the Tide ahead to stay.

Weaver (1-2) allowed three runs and six hits in four innings with no walks and four strikeouts. Alabama stretched its lead to 5-2 with two runs in the seventh inning, but left the bases loaded. Paiml led off the inning with a bunt single and moved to third on senior center fielder Emeel Salem's base hit up the middle. Salem took second base when center fielder Jonathan Wyatt's throw went to third base.

After freshman second baseman Brandon May walked to load the bases, sophomore DH Alex Avila singled to right to score Paiml and Salem to give UA a three-run lead.

Beckham's wind-blown, two-run home run to left field gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

Alabama cut the lead in half in the bottom of the inning when Salem led off with a double and scored on May's base hit to right field.

Paiml had three hits, one run scored and one RBI to lead the Tide offense on Sunday. Salem added two hits and scored two runs.

Alabama was on the verge of dropping the series Saturday night, before rallying for two runs in the ninth to win the game and eventually take its first SEC series since the first week of conference play.

"You can get a huge boost," Wells said. "Any time you win you dwell more on the positive things. I'm grateful we won. I'm not going to analyze it too much."

Alabama is back in action Wednesday, April 18 when the Crimson Tide hosts the South Alabama Jaguars at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The game begins at 6:36 p.m. (CDT) and will be televised locally by WVUA Sports.

GAME NOTES:

*Alabama won its second SEC series of the season by taking the final two games of the Georgia series. After dropping Friday's opener, 4-1, Alabama rebounded to win 7-6 and 5-3 in the final two games.

*Alabama has now won six straight home series against Georgia. The Bulldogs last series win in Tuscaloosa came in 1993.

*The Alabama bullpen stranded all six inherited runners Sunday to extend its streak to 14 consecutive inherited runners stranded over the last five games. Copeland stranded two runners in the seventh, Stroup stranded one runner in the seventh and Hunter left three in the seventh inning. Copeland has stranded his last seven inherited runners out of the pen.

*Senior shortstop Greg Paiml (Hoover) was 3-for-4 with one run scored and one RBI in Sunday's win. *Senior center fielder Emeel Salem (Mountain Brook) was 2-for-5 with one double and two runs scored in the series finale.


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