Tide Off To Good Start In Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Alabama is aiming for a spot in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. The Crimson Tide took another step in that direction Friday night with a win over Arkansas. The Bama road journey continues with games Saturday and Sunday.



Alabama junior right fielder Kent Matthes drove in a career-high five runs to lead the Crimson Tide to a 11-7 series-opening win over the Arkansas Razorbacks in front of 8,041 fans at Baum Stadium Friday night.

Alabama and Arkansas will meet in game two of this series at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday, then finish Sunday.

Following this weekend, Bama hosts Florida for three games, then finishes regular season play at Georgia.

With the win, Alabama moved into a first-place tie with Ole Miss in the SEC Western Division standings with eight games to play. The Crimson Tide and Rebels are 11-11 in SEC play after Ole Miss' 5-4 loss at Georgia on Friday. Alabama also owns the tie-breaker over Ole Miss by virtue of its series win in Tuscaloosa in March.

Matthes hit a three-run home run to cap a six-run fourth inning that gave Alabama a 7-4 lead. He added an RBI single in a three-run eighth inning as the Tide took an 11-7 lead.

Freshman Jimmy Nelson (3-2) picked up his second in four days and earned his first career SEC win as he allowed one run and five hits in 4 1/3 innings.

Nelson allowed a leadoff double and a walk in the ninth and turned the game over to sophomore Austin Graham, who struck out the side for his third save.

"Nelson came in and did a good job," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said. "He gave us a chance to win the game and did not make us have use up our bullpen. That was the key."

Alabama (27-21, 11-11 SEC), winners of its last four games, scored six runs in the fourth inning to take a 7-4 lead and never relinquished the lead.

Down 4-1 in the fourth, the Crimson Tide scored six runs on five hits with two outs to take a 7-4 lead. Junior Kyle Moore led off the inning with a single and he later scored on a two-out single by shortstop Josh Rutledge, who extended his hitting streak to 24 straight games.

Freshman Ross Wilson followed with an RBI double to score Rutledge and chased Dallas Keuchel, who was charged with four runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Sophomore Brandon May reached on an error by Tschepikow at second base as Wilson scored the tying run from third base. Avila followed with a single to right center field and Matthes capped the inning with a three-run home run into the Arkansas bullpen to give the Tide a 7-4 lead. It was Matthes' eighth home run of the season.

Travis Hill (2-2), the second of four Arkansas pitchers, took the loss after he allowed four runs and three hits in one-third of an inning.

Alabama was 9 for 20 and scored eight of its 11 runs with two outs.

UA starter Miers Quilgey held the lead but could not escape the bottom of the fourth inning as the Razorbacks scored two more runs to close the gap to 7-6. Andrew Darr had a lead off walk and Ryan Cisterna followed with a double to left to put runners at second and third with no outs. Scott Lyons' ground out scored Darr and Sean Jones' sacrifice fly brought home Cisterna to make it 7-6.

Tscehpikow's single up the middle chased Quigley with two outs. Nelson came in and allowed a base hit to Forsythe and a two-out walk to Coon before striking out Smalling to end the inning as Arkansas left the bases loaded. Quigley was charged with six runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Alabama upped its lead to 8-6 in the fifth as Moore led off the inning with his first career triple and scored on sophomore Jake Smith's sacrifice fly to left.

The Razorbacks made it an 8-7 game on pinch-hitter Chase Leavitt's two-out infield single that scored pinch-hitter Jeff Nutt in the bottom of the fifth, but got no closer off Nelson.

After escaping a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the top of the second inning, Arkansas strung together three straight hits in the bottom of the second inning to grab a 2-0 lead. Casey Coon, Tim Smalling and Brett Eibner led off the inning with consecutive singles to take a 1-0 lead as Eibner drove in Coon with the first run of the game. Smalling later scored on Ryan Cisterna's sacrifice fly to center field.

The Tide answered with a run in the top of the third inning when Matthes lined a two-out single up the middle to scored sophomore Brandon May to cut the lead to 2-1. May reached on a two-out double to right center and junior Alex Avila drew a four-pitch walk to set up Matthes' two-out hit.

Arkansas (27-19, 9-12 SEC) extended the lead to 4-1 on Logan Forsythe's two-run home run in the bottom of the third inning. Ben Tschepikow, who drew a walk, scored on the play. It was Fortythe's fifth home run of the season.

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