Tide Baseball Opens NCAA With Big Win
The Alabama baseball team matched its season high with five home runs in the win over East Carolina. The Crimson Tide's 21 hits and five home runs tied for the second most ever by the school in an NCAA Regional game. The 16 runs scored equaled the second most in an Alabama NCAA Tournament game.
"This was a great game for us," said Alabama Coach Jim Wells. "It was a good clean game. We had good offense, good pitching and good defense. I think it was the first time all year we've played well in all areas.
"Our offense is really good and it's been good for a long time. I'm used to seeing it. What I'm not used to seeing is all the other facets click the way we did with it. Always trust your offense, trust your swings and take good swings, even if you make an out. We are going to score runs."
With the win, Alabama (35-26) advances to play No. 1 seed Coastal Carolina on Saturday at 7 p.m. (EDT). East Carolina (40-20) falls into the loser's bracket and will face Columbia in an elimination game at 1 p.m. (EDT).
Sophomore third baseman Jake Smith and senior first baseman Matt Bentley each hit three run home runs, while freshman second baseman Ross Wilson and junior pinch-hitter Wes Henderson added two-run homer for the Tide. Junior right fielder Kent Matthes hit a solo home run as UA advanced in the NCAA Regional.
Bentley led the UA barrage with three hits and four RBI, while Smith added two hits and four RBI. Freshman shortstop Josh Rutledge and Wilson had three hits each. Rutledge now has 99 hits this season, 10th on the school's single-season charts.
"We are a confident team" Bentley said. "We played well the second half of the season. We are playing with confidence now and are ready to hit."
After East Carolina had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Jamie Ray's fifth home run of the season, Alabama answered back in the next two innings with eight runs and never looked back.
Smith's three-run blast to left field gave the Tide a 3-1 lead in the second inning. It was his eighth home run of the season.
The Crimson Tide added five runs in the third inning to take an 8-1 lead to chase ECU starter Seth Maness, who turned in his shortest outing of the season. The Tide roughed up Maness (9-2), seeking to become the only 10-game winner in Conference USA this season, for seven runs and nine hits in 2 2/3 innings. The seven runs are the most allowed by Maness this season.
Alabama batted around in the third inning to take a seven-run lead. Freshman second baseman Ross Wilson drew a lead off walk and scored all the way from first on single to center by Alex Avila and subsequent error by center fielder Harrison Eldridge. Sophomore DH Brandon May followed with a base hit before Bentley slammed a three-run home run to right field to give the Tide a 7-1 lead. Freshman Josh Rutledge capped the inning with an RBI single to make it 8-1.
The five-run outburst was more than enough support for junior right-hander Austin Hyatt, who won his second straight post-season game for the Tide. Hyatt held ECU's high-powered offense to three runs and five hits in X innings for his fifth win of the season. He added nine strikeouts and walked
East Carolina's Brandon Henderson launched his 10th home run of the season in the bottom of the inning to cut the lead to 8-2.
Alabama came back with three more runs in the fourth to take an 11-2 lead. Bentley drove in the first run with an RBI single, while Matthes plated a run with an infield ground out and Smith's sac fly scored the final run of the inning.
ECU added another run in the sixth inning on Kyle Roller's RBI double to cut the lead to 11-3.
Matthes' 11th home run of the season in the top of the eighth inning extended the Tide's lead to 12-3.
Alabama hit two more home runs in the ninth inning to cap the 16-3 win. Wilson smacked a two-run home run to dead center to give UA a 14-3 lead and Henderson followed with a two-run, pinch-hit home run to dead center to cap the onslaught.
Coastal Carolina 10, Columbia 2
Coastal Carolina (48-12) blew open a tight game with a six-run eighth inning to post a 10-2 win over Columbia (22-29) in game one of the 2008 Conway Regional. The Chanticleers lead 4-1 through seven innings after scoring three times in the fifth inning to snap a 1-1 tie.
Coastal Carolina catcher Dock Doyle and first baseman David Anderson had two hits and three RBI each in the win. Anderson tied the game with his 18th home run of the season in the third inning. Mike Malfettone gave Columbia a 1-0 lead with his first home run of the year.
Coastal centerfielder David Sappelt had three hits and scored two runs in the win.
Nick McCully (10-2) held the Lions to one run and two hits through eight innings for his 10th win. At one point in the game he retired 17 straight batters. Columbia starter Bill Purdy (4-5) was charged with four runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings in the loss.
NCAA REGIONAL GAME NOTES:
*Alabama's starting lineup consisted of seven players who were making their NCAA Tournament debut. The list included shortstop Josh Rutledge, second baseman Ross Wilson, DH Brandon May, left fielder Tyler Odle, third baseman Jake Smith, center fielder Alex Kubal and pitcher Austin Hyatt. Sophomore Del Howell also made his NCAA Regional debut as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning.
*Alabama's 16-3 win over East Carolina was the largest margin of victory in an NCAA Regional game since drubbing Navy 16-3 in the 1999 Tuscaloosa Regional.
*Alabama's 16 runs equaled the third most in school history in an NCAA post-season game. The Tide also scored 16 runs in a 16-3 win over Navy in the 1999 Tuscaloosa Regional.
*The Crimson Tide's 21 hits tied for the second most by the team in an NCAA Regional game. UA also had 21 hits in a 13-5 win over LSU in the 1999 Super Regionals. The 21 hits tied for the second-most in a game this season. The Tide had 21 hits in its 17-7 win over Auburn on April 27.
*Alabama's five home runs equaled the most in a game this season. The Tide also hit five home runs in an 11-6 win at Arkansas on May 3. The five home runs tied for the second-most by UA in an NCAA Tournament game. Alabama also hit five home runs against Southern California in 1997 and Southern Miss in 1999.
*Sophomore third baseman Jake Smith (Shannon) hit a three-run home run in his first career NCAA Tournament at bat.
*Junior catcher Alex Avila (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) went 2 for 3 with two runs scored against East Carolina. Avila's fourth inning single was his 200th career hit for the Tide.
*All nine Alabama starters had at least one hit in the win over East Carolina.
*The SEC, which leads the nation conferences with nine teams in the NCAA tournament, posted a 3-5 opening day record at the 2008 NCAA Tournament with one game not completed.
In addition to Alabama defeating East Carolina, South Carolina was a 15-8 winner over Charlotte; Missouri defeated Ole Miss, 7-0; Tulane beat Florida, 7-4; LSU was a 12-1 winner over Texas Southern; Lipscomb downed Georgia, 10-7; Pepperdine defeated Arkansas, 3-2; Oklahoma downed Vanderbilt, 8-5; and Michigan was leading Kentucky, 5-1, when that game was suspended in the fifth inning.
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