Alabama Romps Over Auburn

AUBURN, Ala. -- The University of Alabama baseball team vented seven weeks of offensive frustration with a nine-run first inning and cruised to a 12-4 win over arch-rival Auburn Sunday afternoon at Plainsman Park.

Alabama (23-18, 8-10 SEC) avoided the three-game sweep with its largest offensive outburst since a 16-0 win over UAB on Feb. 28, 2007. Alabama had not scored 10 runs in a game since that win over the Blazers. Auburn (26-16, 6-12)remains tied with Georgia for last in the SEC standings and missed its first sweep of the Tide since 2001 with the loss.

"We were playing for pride more than anything else today," Alabama junior Matt Bentley, who stroked a three-run home run in the first inning, said. "You just can't get swept, especially by Auburn. That was definitely a factor for me in the game today."

The Crimson Tide scored nine runs on seven hits in the first inning to take all of the suspense out of Sunday's series finale. Senior center fielder Emeel Salem and senior left fielder Brandon Belcher went 4-for-4 in the inning with four runs scored and three RBI. The duo also tied the UA single-game record with two hits each in the inning.

Salem had a triple and double in the inning, while Belcher added an RBI single and RBI triple.

"We know we are better than we have been playing," Salem said. "We came out and set the tone in the first inning today."

Belcher started the nine-run outburst with an RBI single and sophomore right fielder Kent Matthes followed with another RBI single to make it 2-0. Junior first baseman Matt Bentley then slammed a three-run home run into the UA bullpen in right center to give Bama a 5-0 lead.

The rally continued as freshman third baseman Jake Smith walked and moved to third on senior shortstop Greg Paiml's double. Junior catcher Kyle Moore had an RBI ground out and Salem followed with an RBI double to make it 7-0 and chase starter Justin Bristow from the game.

Bristow (1-5) gave up eight earned runs and six hits in two-thirds of an inning for the loss.

Belcher greeted relief pitcher Bryan Woodall with an RBI triple and then scored on a bad throw back to the infield by center fielder Bruce Edwards to make it 9-0.

The nine-run first inning was more than enough support for sophomore right-hander Tommy Hunter, who made just his second start of the SEC season on the mound.

Hunter (4-3) threw the Crimson Tide's second complete game of the season and held Auburn to four runs and nine hits to improve to 2-0 in his career against the Tigers.

Alabama tacked on three more runs in the third inning for a 12-0 lead. The Crimson Tide took advantage of two Auburn errors and Belcher added an RBI single in the inning

Auburn finished the game with four errors.

Auburn scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings and two runs in the seventh inning to close the gap to 12-4.

The bottom of the batting order did most the damage for the Tigers. Second baseman Robert Brooks reached base three times with two hits and a walk and scored two runs from the No. 7 spot in the order. Freshman right fielder Ross Smith had two doubles, including an RBI double in the seventh inning.

Alabama returns home Wednesday to face the Samford Bulldogs in a 6:36 p.m. (CDT) in a game televised by WVUA Sports. The Crimson Tide will host South Carolina next weekend in a three-game SEC series next weekend in Tuscaloosa.

GAME NOTES:

*Alabama's last four Sunday wins over arch-rival Auburn have been by a combined 51-14 margin. The Crimson Tide has averaged 12.8 runs per game on Sunday against the Tigers in 2004 (19-0), 2005 (11-9), 2006 (9-1) and 2007 (12-4).

*Alabama senior center fielder Emeel Salem (Mountain Brook) led off Sunday's game with his school record 13th career triple to break the previous record of 12 held by G.W. Keller (1997-99). He almost had a second triple in the inning before his second line drive down the right field line bounced over the fence for a ground rule double.

*Salem also made his 126th consecutive start Sunday afternoon at Auburn, dating back to April 29, 2005.

*Senior left fielder Brandon Belcher (Ruston, La.) had three hit, three RBI and scored two runs in Sunday's win over Auburn. He matched his career high of three runs scored and three hits in the win. His last three-hit game came against Georgia (April 13, 2007), while his last three-run game came against Auburn (April 18, 2004).

*Salem and Belcher went 4-for-4 with four runs scored and three RBI in the first inning Sunday. Both players tied the UA single-game record with two hits in the inning.

*Alabama's nine-run first inning marked the second highest run total in an inning this season. The highest run total was a 10-run, fifth inning against UAB (Feb. 28, 2007), which was also the last time Alabama scored 10 or more runs in a game. The last time Alabama had a nine-run inning came against SE Missouri State (March 12, 2004) during the 2004 season.

*Alabama had seven hits in the first inning which are the second-most hits in an inning this season. The highest hit total was eight hits in the fifth inning against UAB (Feb. 28, 2007). The last time UA had a seven-hit inning was at LSU (April 16, 2006) last year.

*Junior first baseman Matt Bentley (Hazel Green) hit his seventh home run of the season and third in SEC play in the first inning on Sunday. Bentley's three-run home was the by the Crimson Tide since Alex Avila hit a three-run home run against Georgia State on Feb. 11, 2007.

*Sophomore Tommy Hunter (Indianapolis, Ind.) threw his first complete game of the season for the Tide on Sunday. Alabama now has two complete games this season. Senior RHP Bernard Robert (Denham Springs, La.) had the first one against Tennessee (March 17, 2007).

*Alabama hit into three double plays on Sunday and has hit into six in the last two games. Matthes hit into two double plays in Sunday's win.


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