Tide Bashes Wildcats To Stay Alive At SEC
Sophomore left-hander Del Howell, making only his second career start, held the Wildcats to three runs and seven hits in a career high 6 2/3 innings.
The Crimson Tide advanced to the SEC Tournament semifinals to face LSU at 1:30 p.m. (CDT) Saturday afternoon. Alabama must beat LSU twice to advance to Sunday's SEC Championship Game. The Tigers enter the game with an NCAA-leading 18-game winning streak.
Alabama improves to 34-25 overall and snapped a four-game losing streak to Kentucky. UK swept the regular season series in March and won the SEC Tournament opener on Wednesday. Kentucky drops to 42-17.
"(Howell) threw against Kentucky a few months ago," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said. "He is going to be a high-pitch count guy. He took something off his fastball. You could see that tonight. He's learning that you don't have to throw as hard every pitch. When he figures that out, he'll be good. He showed signs of that tonight."
Junior center fielder Alex Kubal went 2 for 4 with two runs scored and four RBI; including a grand slam home run in the second inning that gave the Tide a 5-0 lead. It was his fourth home run of the season and first grand slam. Sophomore DH Brandon May added four hits, two runs and two RBI in the win for the Tide.
Howell (1-0) picked up his first career decision with a stellar performance on the mound, adding six strikeouts in the 121-pitch gem.
"I didn't know until I got here that I was starting," Howell said. "We matched up well with their lineup with all the lefties they have. I was excited. I just wanted the ball. So, when I got here, I was ready to go."
The Crimson Tide jumped on UK starter Greg Dombrowski for five runs in the top of the second inning, highlighted by Kubal's grand slam.
May started the inning with an infield single and moved to third on senior first base Matt Bentley's ground out and junior right fielder Kent Matthes' single to left field. Junior left fielder Tyler Odle laced a double to left-center to score May with the first run and advance Matthes to third base with one out. Sophomore third baseman Jake Smith was hit by a pitch to load the bases before Kubal lined a 3-2 fastball down the left field line and over the fence.
Kentucky put a run on the board in the fourth inning when first baseman Brian Spear drew a lead off walk and later scored on Troy Frazier's sacrifice fly to cut the UA lead to 5-1.
Alabama answered with run in the top of the fifth inning to take a 6-1 lead. Junior catcher Alex Avila led off the inning with double off the wall in left center field and moved to third on an errant pick off attempt by Dombrowski. Avila scored on Bentley's sacrifice fly to left center field.
Dombrowski (5-1) was charged with six runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings in suffering his first loss of the season. It was his first loss since the 2007 season.
The Crimson Tide scored two more runs on back-to-back RBI singles by Avila and May to take an 8-1 lead in the sixth inning.
Kentucky scored three runs on four hits in the seventh inning to close the gap to 8-4 and chase Howell, who pitched a gem in his first career SEC start. Howell gave up a one-out single to Ryan Wilkes and a double to Sawyer Carroll before exiting the game to a standing ovation from the partisan UA crowd.
Junior right-hander Casey Kebodeaux came on in relief and walked Collin Cowgill to load the bases before allowing a two-run single to Chris McClendon and an RBI single to Chris Wade as UK had cut the lead in half to 8-4.
Senior right hander Josh Copeland, who made his 76th career appearance on the mound, got Alabama out of further trouble as pinch-hitter Brian Rose grounded out to Ross Wilson at second base to end the inning.
Alabama scored five runs over the final two innings in the win over UK. In the eighth, Matthes and Smith had RBI singles to give the Tide a 10-4 lead. In the ninth, Avila and May added RBI singles and Matthes' sacrifice fly made the final 13-4.
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