Defense, Pitching Get Tide Past Kentucky
Alabama has the top-rated offense in the Southeastern Conference. On Sunday, Kentucky held Bama to three runs on four hits and the Tide was held without an extra base hit for the first time this season. That put the pressure on Alabama pitching and Alabama defense.
They both responded as the Tide won its second one-run SEC game of the season.
Juniors Adam Scott and Jake Smith limited the Wildcats to two runs on eight hits and the Tide defense was masterful behind the two right handers. Alabama turned in no fewer than three spectacular plays on defense, recorded two outfield assists, and turned two double plays to clinch the Tide's fourth SEC series of the season.
"It was a real treat," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said following his team's third one-run win of the season. "It took us three months to have one, but what a great job by Scott and Smith today. (Kentucky's) pitching was excellent. Those were the best three starters as far as command and velocity; they were really good. It was good for us to win a game like that, because we have had to totally depend on our offense, and to win another way is great."
Scott survived a 34-pitch first inning by getting Keenen Wiley to fly out to right field as UK left the bases loaded in the top of the first inning. Alabama turned double plays in the third and fourth innings as the game remained scoreless.
"I did not have my off-speed pitch in the first inning, but as the game went along, I finally got it," Scott said. "We played real good defense. We usually win games playing offense, now we won a game playing defense. It was good to win a game like that."
The Crimson Tide (29-15, 12-9 SEC) finally broke through with the game's first run off UK right-hander Alex Meyer in the fifth inning.
Freshman left fielder Taylor Dugas struck out but reached when UK catcher Michael Williams could not hang to the ball and then misfired to first base, which allowed Dugas to take second on the two-base throwing error. Dugas later stole third base and scored on sophomore second baseman Ross Wilson's two-out single to left field.
Kentucky stranded a lead-off single in the sixth inning before posting its next best scoring threat in the seventh inning. Wiley led off the seventh with a double to right-center field. After two outs and Wiley still at second base, right fielder Bryan Rose singled to left field. Wiley, who ran through the stop sign at third base, was thrown out at home by Dugas to end the inning and preserve UA's 1-0 lead.
"It was a huge play and they had their hottest hitter coming up," Scott added. "Dugas made a really good throw."
Alabama scored two runs in the eighth inning to take a 3-0 lead. Dugas and sophomore shortstop Ross Wilson stroked back-to-back singles to chase Meyer, who fanned 11 Alabama hitters in seven-plus innings.
Wilson greeted reliever Brandon Kapteyn with a sacrifice bunt that moved both runners in scoring position. Senior right fielder Kent Matthes was intentionally walked to load the bases before Kapetyn hit junior first baseman Brandon May in the middle of the back with a curve ball to force home Dugas from third base. Junior third baseman Jake Smith then lifted a sacrifice fly to left to score Rutledge to give the Tide a 3-0 lead.
The two runs loomed large as UK scored two runs in the ninth off Scott to pull to within 3-2. UK first baseman Gunner Glad slapped a two-strike single to center field before Kapetyn, who entered the game in the eighth as the pitcher, hit a two-run home run down the left field line to bring the Wildcats to within a run.
Smith moved over from third base and retired the next three UK hitters, including strikeouts of Wiley and pinch-hitter Marcus Niddifer, to notch his second save of the season.
Scott (2-1) gave the Tide eight strong innings and allowed two runs on eight hits, with three walks and three strikeouts for the win.
Meyer (1-3) was the loser for UK as he allowed three runs and four hits in seven-plus innings with 11 strikeouts and one walk. He also hit four batters.
Andy Burns had three hits to pace UK's eight-hit attack.
Rutledge had two of the Tide's four hits on Sunday, while Dugas and Wilson added the other two hits.
Alabama wraps up its brief home stand against South Alabama on Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. CDT. The Crimson Tide is on the road next weekend in SEC play traveling to Mississippi State for a three-game series, beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Polk-Dement Stadium in Starkville.
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