Alabama Rallies To Defeat Florida
Alabama improves to 30-22 overall and 14-13 in SEC. Florida drops to 30-20 overall and 14-13 in league play. Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and Ole Miss are all tied for fourth place in the latest SEC standings.
The ninth inning was the last inning to be played as the game had a Southeastern Conference-mandated 4:15 p.m. curfew due to Florida's travel plans. No new inning could start after the 4:15 p.m. deadline and the game ended at 4:20 p.m. as Texada slid across the plate with the winning run.
Alabama trailed 7-2 with two outs in the eighth inning, but scored five runs to tie the game to set up the eventful ninth inning.
Florida reliever Clint Franklin hit junior Alex Avila with one out to put the potential winning run at first base. Alabama head coach Jim Wells inserted Texada as a pinch-runner and sophomore Brandon May followed with a base hit to center field, his fourth hit of the game.
Bentley strolled to plate and cranked a 0-2 pitch to deep right field for what appeared to be a game-winning three run home, but UF right fielder Riley Cooper, who stands 6-5 and plays wide receiver on the Gators football team, made a leaping catch over the wall to rob Bentley of the potential game-winning hit.
Texada tagged up at second base and was waived home by third base coach Dax Norris. The throw into the infield missed the cut-off man and Texada slid into home just ahead of the throw from first baseman Jon Townsend to score the winning run.
"I was waving him the whole time," said third-base coach Dax Norris. "I read the ball and saw it get away. That was our only chance. They missed the cut-off man. I was waving Texada the whole way. He thought I was going to stop him. Like I learned from coach Wells, be aggressive, make them throw you out. Especially in that situation with a curfew and two outs, make them throw you out. But I read the throw, which was a bad throw."
"That was a great call by Dax," Wells said. "He needs to be sent (home), curfew or no curfew. But with the curfew, definitely."
"I was just going to tag and advance to the next bag, that's all I thought," Texada said. "I didn't see anything (in the field). I saw Dax waving me and I was questioning why. I thought he had hit the cut man, but I went with (the decision by) Dax and tried to get home as fast as I could."
Austin Graham (5-1), the fourth Alabama pitcher in the game, earned the win with 3 2/3 innings of relief. He allowed one run and three hits and struck out three batters.
Clint Franklin (3-3), the fifth Florida pitcher used by Coach Kevin O'Sullivan, was tagged with the loss. He allowed one run and one hit in two-thirds of an inning.
It was Alabama's second walk-off win of the weekend. On Friday, sophomore Del Howell stroked a two-run double over Riley's head in right field to score freshman Josh Rutledge and Avila for the win.
Alabama trailed by five runs with two outs in the eighth inning before staging the improbable comeback. Avila started the eighth inning rally with a one-out walk, but was erased when May reached on a fielder's choice for the second out of the inning.
Florida then brought in right-hander Tommy Toledo, who promptly gave up a three-run home run to junior Kent Matthes as the Tide closed the gap to 7-5. It was Matthes' 10th home run of the season.
Sophomore Del Howell, the hero in the series opener, and sophomore Jake Smith, followed with back-to-back singles to bring junior Tyler Odle to plate with two outs. Odle the stroked a 2-1 pitch over the head of center fielder Matt den Dekker for a two-run triple that scored Howell and Smith to tie the game at 7-7. Freshman Josh Rutledge, who went 0 for 4 to snap his 28-game hitting streak, grounded out to end the inning, leaving Odle at third.
Florida scored single runs in each of the first three innings to take a 3-0 lead over Alabama.
In the first, left fielder Avery Barnes ripped the first pitch of the game to left field for a leadoff double and scored three pitches later on den Dekker's single up the middle to put the Gators in front 1-0.
In the second inning, third baseman Josh Adams reached on a lead off single, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Cooper's one-out double down the left field line.
The Gators added another run in the third inning when shortstop Cole Figueroa tripled to right center with one out and scored on Brandon McArthur's ground out to second base to give UF a 3-0 lead.
Alabama got back in the game by scoring two runs on four in the bottom of the fourth inning to cut the lead to 3-2. Freshman Ross Wilson started the inning with a base hit to right field to break up the no-hitter. After Avila flied out to center, May and Bentley followed with base hits to load the bases with one out.
Matthes then lined a single to center to score Wilson and cut the lead to 3-1. After Howell struck out with the bases loaded, UF catcher Buddy Munroe was charged with a passed ball as May scored from third base to cut the deficit to 3-2. Smith flied out to center to end the inning, stranding the tying and go-ahead runs on base.
Florida quickly answered with a pair of home runs in the fifth inning to stretch its lead to 6-2. McArthur launched a two-run home run off lefty Will Stroup and Bryson Barber added a solo blast off Josh Copeland as the Gators took a four-run lead. McArthur's home run was his first of the season, while Barber hit his fourth home run.
Cole Figueroa led off the seventh inning with his seventh home run of the year as Florida stretched its lead to 7-2 before the Tide put together an impressive come-from-behind win.
Alabama returns to action next weekend when the Crimson Tide travels to Athens, Ga., to take on the Georgia Bulldogs in the final regular-season series of the 2008 season. Alabama and Georgia open their three-game set on Thursday, May 15 at 6:30 p.m. (EDT). The two teams will also play Friday, May 16 at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) and Saturday, May 17 at 2 p.m. (EDT).
*Alabama has won all five home SEC series this season, beating No. 4 Vanderbilt, No. 15 Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn and No. 22 Florida. Dating back to last season, Alabama has won eight straight home SEC series. Since 2005, Alabama has won 18 of its last 20 home SEC series.
*The Crimson Tide erased a five-run deficit with two outs in the eighth inning to post its second ninth-inning comeback of the weekend. The last time Alabama came back from such a deficit was April 29, 2007 when the Tide erased a 10-4 deficit to beat No. 4 South Carolina, 11-10, at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Alex Avila's three-run home run in the eighth inning capped that win.
*Alabama is 6-6 against ranked teams this season, with series wins over No. 4 Vanderbilt, No. 15 Ole Miss and No. 22 Florida. The Crimson Tide dropped a series at No. 4 Kentucky to open SEC play.
*Alabama has two walk-off wins this season and both came in the Florida series. Jeff Texada (New Iberia, La.) scored from second on Matt Bentley's sacrifice fly in the ninth inning to cap Sunday's comeback and Del Howell (Tuscaloosa) won Friday's game with a two-run double in the ninth inning.
*After Sunday's dramatic win, the Crimson Tide is 1-21 this season when trailing after eight innings.
*Alabama is now 7-7 in one-run games this season, including a 7-4 mark in SEC play.
*Freshman shortstop Josh Rutledge (Cullman, Ala.) went 0 for 4 to snap his 28-game hitting streak. The streak was the third-longest in school history.
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