Arkansas starter Nick Schmidt (10-3) buzzed through the Crimson Tide lineup, throwing a two-hitter in the Hogs' 6-0 win over Alabama in the first game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament. Alabama (31-25) will play the loser of game two's match between Florida and Arkansas Thursday morning at 10 a.m. Before Wednesday, Schmidt was 0-1 with two no decisions in his career against Alabama.
"He was tough to match today," Tide pitcher Tommy Hunter said. "With a guy pitching like that, momentum doesn't change very often."
Alabama beat Schmidt in Tuscaloosa two weeks ago, roughing him up for five runs in three and two third innings in the first game of the series win for Alabama. On Wednesday, Schmidt went the distance, throwing just 103 pitches and walking four Bama hitters.
"I couldn't spot my fastball or get my curve over to strikes," Schmidt said of his regular season outing against Alabama, "and today I was able to get my fastball over on both sides of the plate and I had a pretty good curveball, too."
Schmidt took his no-hit bid into the eighth, when Brandon May's single off diving shortstop Tim Smalling's glove broke it up. A chopper over Schmidt's head in the ninth by Brandon Belcher provided the sum of Alabama offense. Alex Avila hit a long fly ball out to center field in the fourth inning, which was Alabama's only threat for an extra base hit.
Schmidt's two-hit performance was the best in Southeastern Conference tourney history, eclipsing seven three-hit performances in previous tournament years.
"With the way he was pitching, you're probably going to have a hard time winning that game no matter how you play," Alabama Head Coach Jim Wells said. "A couple of weeks ago he wasn't very good, but today he was sharp."
Alabama is squarely on the bubble for NCAA tournament play, with most conventional thinking being that the Tide needs two wins in the conference tournament to feel good about its NCAA hopes.
"Our backs were against the wall today, but it's obvious tomorrow," Wells said. "How many do we need? I don't know. Certainly I feel like we need to win tomorrow."
Arkansas' 7-8-9 hitters put together a two-out rally against Hunter in the third inning to take a 1-0 lead. First baseman Danny Hamblin drew a two-out walk and scored on back-to-back singles from Wayne Hrozek and Tim Smalling.
Hamblin hit a three-run home run over the left field wall in the third to give Arkansas a 5-0 lead, and tie Hamblin for the career home run record at Arkansas (56).
Alabama plans to start Will Stroup on the mound for Thursday morning's game.
"It puts you in a huge bind to win the tournament," Wells said of going into the loser's bracket. "Right now we feel like we have to win. There's no long term pitching plan you do what you have to do what you have to do to win day to day."