Smith's Grand Slam Leads Tide Win

Junior third baseman Jake Smith's grand slam highlighted a seven-run eighth inning as No. 21 Alabama rallied for an 11-6 win over Kentucky on Friday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

Smith's second grand slam of the season came on the first pitch he saw from UK reliever Clint Tilford in the bottom of the eighth inning that gave Alabama an 8-4 lead. It was Smith's 15th home run of the season and his fourth go-ahead home run of the season.

"First off, I was thinking just try to relax and let my ability take over in a big situation," Smith said after the game. "I thought it hit the wall, I'm running as hard as I can, then I see the umpire's signal home run. I slowed up and could hardly breathe, really. It was a huge win for our team and something to build on for tomorrow."

Sophomore second baseman Ross Wilson started the rally with a one-out single to left field. Senior right fielder Kent Matthes, who hit his NCAA-leading 23rd home run in the sixth inning, drew a four-pitch walk and junior DH Brandon May reached when his ground ball was deflected by Tilford and rolled past shortstop Chris Wade for an infield hit.

Smith then crushed the next pitch over the left-center field wall to give the Tide an 8-6 lead.

"We had (Smith) up there and felt pretty good about it, "Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "He is as good as anybody and has home run power. It was a huge hit and he was ready to come in the game in relief, but we did not need him tonight."

Alabama added three more runs in the inning to post its 20th inning this season of five or more runs. Senior catcher Vin DiFazio walked and moved to third on senior center fielder Alex Kubal's base hit to left. Freshman left fielder Taylor Dugas struck out but reached when the ball got past catcher Marcus Niddifer and rolled into the UK dugout. DiFazio scored on the play and Kubal advanced to second.

After another wild pitch by Tilford, sophomore shortstop Josh Rutledge knocked in two more runs with a base hit over the head of Wade at short to put the Tide in front 11-6.

Tilford (1-4) allowed seven runs and five hits in one inning and was charged with the loss.

UA sophomore right-hander Nathan Kilcrease (2-2) earned his first career SEC win with 2 2/3 innings of relief.

"It was a good outing for him," Wells added. "A lot of these guys go out and give you one inning, but he needed eight outs and did a good job. He had not really done that in this situation and he helped us out tremendously."

He replaced UA starter Austin Hyatt in the seventh inning and stranded two inherited runners before allowing a run on Keenan Wiley's RBI double in the eighth that gave the Wildcats a 6-4 lead. Kilcrease has stranded 14 of 18 inherited runners this season.

"This was a huge win for me, personally," Kilcrease said after the game. "It was good to be able to come in out of the pen and hold them down. This was a huge win for our team and a big boost for me."

Alabama (28-14, 11-8 SEC) trailed 6-4 entering the bottom of the eighth inning as UK starter James Paxton held the Tide to four runs and six hits, but struck out 11 UA hitters.

Kentucky (19-22, 6-13 SEC) scored two runs on two UA errors in the top of the seventh inning to take a 5-4 lead.

Chris McClendon stroked a one-out single up the middle and then moved to second when Hyatt threw the ball away on a pickoff attempt at first base. Marcus Niddifer ripped a double off the wall in left to score McClendon with the tying run and Niddifer later scored on a throwing error by second baseman Ross Wilson to give UK the lead.

Alabama had grabbed a 4-3 lead in the sixth when Matthes launched his NCAA-leading 23rd home run. Rutledge walked to open the inning and scored when Matthes slammed a 1-2 pitch into the trees beyond the left field wall. It was his eighth go-ahead homer this season.

UK took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on Chris Wade's sixth home run of the season.

Alabama answered right back with two runs on three hits in the bottom of the inning to take a 2-1 lead. Matthes led off the inning with a double to left-center field and scored on Smith's one-out single to left to tie the game at 1-1. DiFazio capped the inning with a two-out double off the left-center field wall to score Smith with the go-ahead run.

The Wildcats answered with two runs in the top of the third inning on Chad Wright's two-run home run to right field. It was his third homer of the season. Bryan Rose, who was hit by an 0-2 pitch, scored ahead of Wright.

The teams will meet again on Saturday, April 25, at 4:05 p.m. (CDT). Tickets are available at Sewell-Thomas Stadium beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Alabama is expected to send junior left hander Del Howell (5-1, 3.79 ERA) to the mound, while UK will counter with senior lefty Chris Rusin (4-3, 4.28 ERA).


*Alabama (28-14, 11-8 SEC) has won four straight SEC games after its 11-6 win over Kentucky in Friday's series opener. The Tide is 8-2 in its last 10 SEC games after starting the season with a 3-6 league record.

*The Crimson Tide posted its eighth comeback win of the season against Kentucky.

*Alabama has 88 home runs this season and has homered in 38 of 42 games, including 18 of 19 SEC games. The 88 home runs surpasses the number of home runs UA hit in 63 games last year.

*Senior right fielder Kent Matthes hit his NCAA-leading 23rd home run in the sixth inning to give the Tide a 4-3 lead. Matthes has homered in 19 of 39 games this season for the Tide and has hit at least one home run in all seven SEC series'. He has hit eight home runs that have given UA the lead.

*Junior third baseman Jake Smith hit his 15th home run of the season in the Tide's seven-run eighth inning. It was the sixth grand slam by Alabama and the second by Smith.

*Senior right-hander Austin Hyatt did not issue a walk to extend his streak of innings without a walk to 24 1/3, dating back to the eighth inning of the Tennessee game on April 3. Hyatt has 62 strikeouts and five walks 73 innings this season.

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