Tide Fortunes Turning

Alabama overcame an eight-run deficit to take the rubber game of the series from Southeastern Conference third place team South Carolina on Sunday, and new life was born in the Crimson Tide clubhouse.

"I think confidence is spreading through this team like wildfire," first baseman Matt Bentley said. "A sickness can come from one person and go through everyone. Hitting can do the same thing."

The series win over South Carolina moved the Crimson Tide (26-20, 10-11 SEC) into sixth place in the overall SEC standings, a half a game ahead of LSU and Kentucky for a spot in the eight-team SEC tournament.

"Confidence was at a low and that's the main thing we needed to get going," Alabama Head Coach Jim Wells said. "At the end of the year, thinking you can do it is the most important thing. It can be more important that what your swing looks like."

Sophomore Alex Avila has led the recent charge. He hit two home runs and had six runs batting in on Sunday, and continued the hot streak with his team-leading 11th home run Tuesday night against Mississippi Valley State. Avila has four home runs in his last four games, and is 5-for-9 with three home runs and nine RBI in his last two. He leads Alabama with 47 RBIs in 46 games.

"Something's turned on," Alabama reliever Josh Copeland said. "I think it's amazing the way we've changed. Some of the younger guys are growing up and they are coming on. Avila's on a tear and everybody's following him."

Alabama's pitching staff has also picked up confidence, even with regular Saturday starter Bernard Robert kicked off the team last week. Austin Hyatt got roughed up in his Sunday start against South Carolina, but lefty Will Stroup saved the day, pitching seven and two third innings and keeping the Gamecoks to just three runs.

Reliever Patrick Kelly has returned to the mound after a broken hand sidelined him for the first part of the SEC season. Kelly threw six quality innings for the win against Mississippi Valley State.

Alabama travels to Florida (23-23, 10-11 SEC) for three games in Gainesville this weekend, looking to pounce on a Gator team that has struggled on the mound lately. Florida gave up 40 in three games getting swept by Vanderbilt.

"For the first time maybe all season it's been some good things happening to where you feel you have a shot if you continue to do well," Wells said.

Alabama will start three sophomores this weekend: Tommy Hunter (5-3, 3.67 ERA) on Friday night, Miers Quigley (4-4, 3.72 ERA) on Saturday and Austin Hyatt (4-1, 3.53 ERA) on Sunday.

Florida will counter with freshman Kyle Mullaney (2-1, 5.93 ERA), junior Bryan Augenstein (4-5, 6.35 ERA) and freshman Billy Bullock (2-5, 5.09 ERA)

"How we can get it done on the mound is my concern," Florida coach Pat McMahon said. "Our bullpen earlier in the year was one of our areas that performed very well. We've scuffled out of the bullpen as of late. We've got to pitch and continue to find things out on the mound a little bit better."


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