Home Runs Propel Bama To Win

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Alabama hit three solo home runs en route to an 10-2 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Thursday night in the first round of the 2009 Whataburger Classic at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Junior third baseman Jake Smith, freshman left fielder Taylor Dugas and sophomore second baseman Ross Wilson all homered for Alabama, which has homered in all nine games this season. Dugas and Wilson each hit solo home runs in the decisive fifth inning.

A trio of Alabama relief pitchers – Austin Evans, Casey Kebodeaux and Austin Graham - also did their part in the win over the Islanders, with 6 2/3 shutouts innings of relief and seven strikeouts in the win.

Evans (1-0) pitched his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning to record his first collegiate win for the Tide. Kebodeaux added three scoreless innings and Graham worked a three-up, three-down ninth for the Tide.

"They did a good job," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said after the game. "Evans came in and we were behind and pitched well. Kebodeaux had a good outing and we needed Graham to get some work tonight and did well. To me that was the story of the game."

Things did not start well for Alabama, which found itself down 2-0 in the fourth inning. Trey Hernandez's fourth home run of the season gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead in the top of second inning. Hernandez has three home runs in his last the games. The Islanders made it 2-0 in the third inning when catcher Stephen Flora beat out an infield hit and scored on Jacob Perales double off the center field wall.

UA starter Miers Quigley gave up a single to Martin Parra and was replaced by sophomore Evans, who wriggled out of a bases-loaded jam to keep the deficit at two runs. Evans worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings with a career-high four strikeouts.

Alabama (6-3) cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the third inning on Smith's solo home run down the left field line. It was Smith's first home run of the season.

UA tied the game with a run in the bottom of the fourth inning, but left the bases loaded when relief pitcher Philip Garcia struck out Josh Rutledge to end the inning. The Tide tallied a run off three hits to chase starter Brett Carnline in the inning. Senior catcher Vin DiFazio's two-out single to left field scored Tyler Odle with the tying run in the frame.

Taylor Dugas and Ross Wilson each hit solo home runs in the fifth inning to give the Tide a 4-2 lead.

Philip Garcia (0-1) took the loss for TAMUCC. He allowed two runs and two hits in 1 1/3 innings.

Alabama broke the game open with a four-run sixth inning to take an 8-2 lead. Rutledge started the scoring with an RBI single to left to score Wes Henderson and put the Tide up 5-2. Jake Smith scored on a balk to make it 6-2 and Wilson capped the inning with a two-run single as UA upped its lead to 8-2.

"We were able to add to the lead, which is something that we have not done this year," Wells added. "We have power, but the solo home runs aren't usually enough, but tonight it got us started."

The Tide tacked on two more runs in the eighth on RBI singles by Odle and pinch-hitter Cody Trotter.

Alabama will meet Texas Pan American in the second day of the Whataburger Classic on Friday, March 6, at 6 p.m. (CST).


*Alabama is playing in the 2009 Whataburger Classic at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi, Texas. Whataburger Field is the home of the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros.

*Alabama assistant coach Dax Norris played for the Hooks during the 2005 while playing in the Astros organization. Norris, who is one of the most popular players in Hooks history, holds the distinction of hitting the first home run and the first grand slam (two separate home runs) in the history of Whataburger Field.

*Sophomore second baseman Ross Wilson batted clean-up in Thursday's Whataburger Classic opener for the first time in his career. "I've never batted clean-up in my life," Wilson said during pregame warm-ups. "Not even when I was a little kid."

*Senior Kent Matthes extended his hitting streak to nine games with an eighth-inning single. His streak of six straight games with at least one home run was snapped in the win over TAMUCC.

*Alabama has homered in all nine games this season, marking the first time since 1997 the Tide has opened the year with a home run in as many games. In 1997, Alabama homered in its first 11 games of the season.

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