Tide Takes Series

The Alabama baseball team (31-24, 15-15 SEC) won its seventh consecutive series finale, holding on for a 9-7 win over No. 20 Mississippi State (33-18, 15-13 SEC), after leading 6-0, to conclude its regular season in Starkville, Mississippi on Saturday.

"We are a really good team when we get the lead," said Alabama junior Matt Bentley, who hit his 12 home run on Saturday. "This was a big win for us today. This gives us three good weekends the past month against three really good teams."

Alabama won three SEC series against Top 20 teams in the last four weeks, including against No. 4 South Carolina, No. 6 Arkansas and No. 20 Mississippi State. The win in Starkville was Alabama's first SEC road series win of the season.

Alabama will be the seventh seed at this week's 2007 SEC Tournament, which begins Wednesday, May 23 at Regions Park in Hoover. Alabama will open the eight-team tournament against No. 2 seed Arkansas at 10 a.m.

Will Stroup (3-0) started and gave Alabama another outstanding outing, pitching eight innings in the winning effort.

"The score does not show how the game went," Stroup said after the 126-pitch outing. "I had a balk and we lost a few fly balls in the sun. We basically gave them five runs, but that is part of the game. Things like that happen in baseball. We settled down and got the job done."

Stroup thought he had stranded runners on first and third to hold the Bulldogs scoreless in the third inning, but a balk was called on the pop-up inducing pitch to allow the first Mississippi State run of the day. A couple of two-out singles followed, including a pop-up that Bama's Kent Matthes lost in the sun, allowing State to score three in the third and cut Bama's lead in half.

Alabama got a run back in the fifth inning before MSU took advantage of another misplayed fly ball in right field by Matthes as the Bulldogs cut the lead to 7-5. McCaskill stroked a two-out double to right center and scored when Easley's pop up was ruled an RBI double after another misplay by Matthes. Mitch Moreland then slapped a single to left to score Easley as the Bulldogs narrowed the lead to two runs.

Alabama (31-24, 15-15 SEC) regained its composure as the game settled down in the middle innings with Stroup working into the ninth with another solid start.

Alabama rapped out 12 hits in the win over MSU, including two hits each by Emeel Salem, Brandon Belcher, Matt Bentley and Brandon May.

Alabama took an early lead with two runs on three hits in the top of the first inning off MSU starter Josh Johnson. Salem started the inning with a single to center and stole second base before moving to third base on Belcher's ground out. Avila and Matthes then followed with back-to-back RBI doubles as the Tide took a 2-0 lead.

The Crimson Tide put four runs on the board to knock out Johnson (2-3) in the third inning. Alex Avila drew a lead off walk and scored on Bentley's two-run home run to right-center field. It was the junior's 12th home run of the season.

Ryan Rhoden followed with a base hit to left and May scorched a double into right-center to put runners on the corners with no outs and chase Johnson, who gave up six hits and seven runs in 2 1/3 innings.

Kyle Moore greeted Jesse Carver with a sac fly to right that scored Rhoden to make it 5-0. May came home when Paiml reached on an error by second baseman Jeffrey Rea as the Tide had built a 6-0 lead.

Alabama added an unearned run in the fifth to extend its lead to 7-3. Bentley led off with a single to right field and moved to third on a ground out by Rhoden and fly out by May. Moore then reached on an error by third baseman Connor Powers that allowed Bentley to score from third and add to the lead.

Alabama took advantage of two MSU errors in the sixth to take a 9-5 lead. Paiml led off with a base hit up the middle and Salem was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second with no outs. Belcher then reached on a bunt single and MSU third baseman Connor Powers throw was wild at first base, allowing Paiml to score from second base and Salem to reach third. Avila then lifted a sacrifice fly to center to score Salem and extend UA's lead to four runs.

MSU cut the lead to 9-6 in the eighth inning when McCaskill was hit by a pitch and later scored on LaNinfa's ground out.

The Bulldogs opened the ninth inning with two straight hits to chase Stroup from the game. Powers doubled over the head of Matthes in right field and Jet Butler singled to put runners on the corners with no outs.

Sophomore right-hander Austin Hyatt replaced Stroup and struck pinch-hitter Cade Hoggard and Goforth before Rea singled up the middle to score Powers and put runners at first and second. McCaskill, representing the winning run, grounded out to May at second to end the game.

Hyatt worked the ninth inning for his second save of the year and collected two strikeouts.

GAME NOTES:

*Alabama posted its first series win in Starkville since the 2001 season. Alabama beat MSU 4-3 in the series opener on Thursday and clinched the series win with a 9-7 victory on Saturday. The Crimson Tide has now won two straight series against MSU.

*Alabama has won its final regular season game for the third straight year.

*Alabama senior shortstop Greg Paiml (Hoover) became the sixth player in Alabama history to log 100 career SEC starts. Paiml started his 100th game in Saturday's season finale. Paiml joins Brett Taft (1993-96), Joe Caruso (1994-97), Jeremy Brown (1999-2002), Brent Boyd (1999-2002) and Allen Rice (2002-05) as the only UA players to start 100 SEC games. Brown and Boyd holds the UA record for most SEC starts with 116 each.

*Senior center fielder Emeel Salem (Mountain Brook) had two hits on Saturday to extend his hitting streak to a season-high 13 games. Salem also has a 14-game SEC hitting streak.

*Junior first baseman Matt Bentley (Hazel Green) slammed his 12th home run of the season in the Tide's four-run, third inning. Bentley has homered in seven of the 10 SEC series this year.

*Alabama and Mississippi State combined for seven runs and eight hits in the third inning.

*Alabama put the lead off man on base in each of the first six innings and four of the six leadoff men scored runs.

*Sophomore right-hander Austin Hyatt (Marietta, Ga.) earned his second save of the season by pitching the ninth inning. He allowed one of two inherited runners to scored and has stranded 12 of 13 inherited runners this year.

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT FIRST AND SECOND ROUND SCHEDULE

Wednesday, May 23
Game 1 10:00 a.m. #7 Alabama vs. #2 Arkansas [CSS] [CSS HD]
Game 2 1:00 p.m. #6 Florida vs. #3 South Carolina [CSS] [CSS HD]
Game 3 5:00 p.m. #8 Tennessee vs. #1 Vanderbilt [CSS] [CSS HD]
Game 4 8:00 p.m. #5 Ole Miss vs. #4 Mississippi State [CSS] [CSS HD]


Thursday, May 24
Game 5 10:00 a.m. Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 [CSS] [CSS HD]
Game 6 1:00 p.m. Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4 [CSS] [CSS HD]
Game 7 5:00 p.m. Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 [CSS] [CSS HD]
Game 8 8:00 p.m. Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4 [CSS] [CSS HD]


All Times are Central
All games broadcast on XM Satellite Radio Channel 119


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