Tide Rallies To Beat Georgia, Take Series

ATHENS, Ga. – Alabama overcame a five-run deficit and then scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning off All-America closer Joshua Fields to post a 16-13 come-from-behind win over nationally seventh-ranked Georgia at Foley Field Saturday as Bama claimed its fifth straight Southeastern Conference series win.



Alabama surpassed its win total from a year and improves to 32-24 overall and 16-14 in Southeastern Conference play. The Crimson Tide finished second in the SEC Western Division and in a three-way tie for fourth place in the overall SEC standings with Kentucky and Florida. Alabama will be the number five seed in this week's SEC Tournament. The Crimson Tide will face number four seed Kentucky on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. (CDT). Georgia wraps up the season with 35-19-1 overall record and a school-best 20-9-1 league record.

The two teams combined for 68 runs and 20 home runs in the three-game series. The 68 combined runs are the most in school history for either team in an SEC series. The Alabama record for combined runs in a three-game series is 75 runs vs. Michigan in 1997.

Eight of the Tide's nine starters had at least two hits on Saturday, including three hits each by freshman shortstop Josh Rutledge, sophomore left fielder Brandon May and junior catcher Alex Avila.

The Crimson Tide scored three runs in the ninth inning off Fields. Rutledge led off the inning with a single and moved to second when freshman Ross Wilson drew a walk. May struck out after fouling off three straight bunt attempts for the first out and junior catcher Alex Avila flied out to left field for the second out.

Junior Kent Matthes was hit by a pitch on a two-strike count to load the bases. With senior first baseman Matt Bentley at the plate, Fields uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Rutledge to score the go-ahead run. Catcher Jake Crane's throw was wild to home plate and Wilson scored on his throwing error. Matthes advanced to third on a second throwing error by third baseman Ryan Peisel. Bentley then stroked a two-out double to right-center field to score Matthes and put the Tide in front 16-13.

Sophomore Austin Graham (6-1) was the winning pitcher, despite allowing four runs and three hits in three innings, with one walk and one strikeout.

Fields (2-3) allowed three earned runs in one inning of relief for the loss.

Alabama's ninth-inning rally came after Georgia had tied the game with four run in the eighth inning. First baseman Robbie O'Bryan line a two-out single up the middle to score right fielder Matt Olson and designated hitter Bryce Massanari slammed hanging breaking ball on a 1-2 count into the trees in left field to tie the game at 13-13.

Both teams posted six-run innings in the Saturday slugfest.

Georgia took a 9-5 lead into the sixth inning, but the Crimson Tide got back in the game with six runs in the sixth inning to take an 11-9 lead.

Junior DH Ryan Rhoden reached on a one-out single and moved to third on junior center fielder Alex Kubal's double down the left field line. Rutledge followed with a two-run double to make the score 9-7. Wilson then ripped an RBI double to left to make the score 9-8.

Georgia turned one its many bullpen stars, Dean Weaver, who gave up three more hits in the inning and the lead. May followed with an RBI single and Avila reached on a single to center. Matthes reached on an error by All-American shortstop Gordon Beckham to load the bases. Bentley followed with a two-run single to right to give UA an 11-9 lead. Matthes was later thrown out at home on Smith's base hit to right field and the Crimson Tide left the bases loaded, but the damage had been done.

The Bulldogs scored six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 9-4 lead.

Avila's solo home run off the top of the batters eye in dead center field trimmed the lead to 9-5 in the fifth inning. It was Avila's 16th home run of the season, a career high, and third in the series against the Bulldogs.

Crane was hit by a pitch with one out and Matt Cerione and David Thoms followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases. Freshman Jimmy Nelson replaced Phares and was greeted by a two-run double from Peisel to give the Bulldogs a 5-4 lead. Olson's second sacrifice fly in as many at-bats made it 6-4 and Beckham's single up the middle gave Georgia a 7-4 lead. Backup first baseman Robbie O' Bryan followed with a two-run home run as Georgia extended its lead to 9-4 and chased Nelson.

Alabama picked up where it left off on Friday with a two-run home run in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead. Ross Wilson drew a one-out walk and scored on Brandon May's two-run blast to right field. It was May's ninth home run and eighth home run on the road this season.

Georgia scored three runs, aided by an Alabama error, in the bottom of the third inning to take a 3-2 lead. Cerione led off the inning with a solo home run to left-center field to cut the UA lead to 2-1. Thoms followed with a base hit through the left side of the infield. Ryan Peisel reached on a fielder's choice as Thoms was safe at second base on a throwing error by Wilson at second base. Right fielder Matt Olson's deep fly ball to center was caught by Kubal, who slammed into the wall. Thoms scored from second base on the sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2-2. Gordon Beckham followed with an infield single and Peisel scored on Rich Poythress' ground out to make it 3-2.

Alabama came back to take the lead in the fourth inning, also aided by an error. Smith and Rhoden drew back-to-back one out walks and Kubal followed with an RBI single to right-center to score Smith with the tying run. Rhoden also scored on the play when Cerione misplayed the ball in center field to give UA a 4-3 lead.

GAME NOTES:

*Alabama closed the 2008 regular-season with five straight series wins over Mississippi State, Auburn, Arkansas, No. 22 Florida and No. 7 Georgia. In all, Alabama has won series against four ranked teams this season, including No. 4 Vanderbilt, No. 15 Ole Miss, No. 22 Florida and No. 7 Georgia.

*The Crimson Tide has surpassed its win total from the 2007 season. Alabama is 32-24 entering the SEC Tournament. Last year, the Crimson Tide posted a 31-26 record.

*Alabama has won four straight series against Georgia, including two-in-a-row in Athens.

*Alabama (10) and Georgia (10) combined for 20 home runs in the series.

*The Crimson Tide (37) and Bulldogs (31) combined for 68 runs in the three-game series, the most by either team in an SEC series. The previous high for Alabama was 66 combined runs against Vanderbilt (1999) and Mississippi State (1983). The Alabama record for most combined run in any three-game series is 78 runs with Tulane in 1897. In 1997, Alabama and Michigan combined for 75 runs in three-game UA sweep.

*Alabama scored 18 of its 37 runs in the series with two outs.

*Junior catcher/DH Alex Avila (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) went 8 for 14 (.571) in the Georgia series with six runs scored, three home runs and eight RBI. He homered in all three games.

*Freshman second baseman Ross Wilson (Hoover) went 6 for 13 (.462) with eight runs, two home runs and eight RBI in the series.

*Freshman shortstop Josh Rutledge (Cullman) was 6 for 16 (.375) in the series with five runs scored and two RBI. He had three hits, including a ninth-inning single off Joshua Fields, and scored the winning run.

*Sophomore left fielder Brandon May (Marietta, Ga.) was also 6 for 16 (.375) in the series with two runs, two doubles, one home run and two RBI. May had three hits, including a two-run home in Saturday's series-clinching win. May has nine home runs this season, with eight coming on the road.

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