Seniors Lead Tide Baseball Success

Although it has been a strain a times, Alabama has put together a very solid baseball season. The Crimson Tide's 2-1 victory over Arkansas at Sewell-Thomas Stadium Friday night was Bama's fifth straight win and eighth win in its last nine SEC games.

The Alabama squad of Coach Jim Wells, which has won 12 of its last 15 SEC games, is now 33-15 overall and 15-9 in conference play. Bama is a game and a half out of first place in the SEC with two weekends remaining.

This is the second time this season Alabama has put together a five-game winning streak. With the Friday victory, the Tide is assured of a winning SEC record and clinched a spot in the SEC Tournament.

Alabama and Arkansas play again at 4 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Now Bama is playing for—dare we say it?—the SEC championship and a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Alabama closes regular season play next weekend at Auburn, then plays in the SEC Tournament at the Met in Hoover in suburban Birmingham May 20-24. NCAA Regional Tournaments are May 29-31, Super Regionals June 5-8, and the College World Series June 13-24 in Omaha, Neb.

In Alabama's last homestand of the regular season, the Tide got the job done against the Razorbacks on the strength of two all-star seniors.

Senior right-hander Austin Hyatt (Marietta, Ga.) logged his fourth career complete game and second of the 2009 season in the series opener. Hyatt improved to 8-1 on the season and he has won 10 of his last 11 decisions, dating back to last year. Hyatt is 18-6 in his 47-game UA career.

Senior Kent Matthes (Orlando, Fla.) continues his magical season by going 1-for-4 with a double and game-winning RBI in the eighth inning.

Matthes delivered the go-ahead double with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Hyatt all the run support he would need in the complete game gem against the Razorbacks. Hyatt limited the Hogs to one run on three hits over nine innings for his eighth win of the season. He added seven strikeouts and no walks.

"It's great to win a 2-1 game," Hyatt said after the game. "My changeup was good tonight and tried to keep the fastball down and away. I try to set the tone on Friday night for the rest of the staff."

Arkansas (31-15, 14-10 SEC) falls behind Alabama in the SEC Western Division standings with the loss.

The Razorbacks took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning when Collin Kuhn swatted his first home run of the season off Hyatt with two outs.

Kuhn's home run looked like it would stand the remainder of the game as Arkansas lefty Dallas Keuchel shutout the Crimson Tide on six hits through seven innings with a low pitch count.

"There was a lot of pressure (to keep Arkansas off the board)," Hyatt added. "(Keuchel) pitched a great game. He kept us off-balance and it was a good old fashioned pitcher's duel and we came out on top."

Alabama generated its only offense in the eighth inning for the win. Senior center fielder Alex Kubal reached on an infield single and moved to second when freshman Taylor Dugas drew a walk. It was the only walk of the game by either pitcher. Sophomore second baseman Ross Wilson grounded out to first to set the stage for Matthes' dramatic game-winning hit.

"It was a fastball in and I don't try and think too much at the plate and fortunately I got the hit," Matthes said. "This is why you play at Alabama and college baseball for games like this. Hyatt pitched great and we were able to go off him tonight. This was a great game for us."

With a 2-1 count, Kubal scored the tying run from third base on a passed ball by Arkansas catcher Ryan Cisterna, his second passed ball of the night. One pitch later, Matthes ripped a double down the left field line to score Dugas with the go-ahead run.

Keuchel (7-2) allowed two runs on eight hits in 7 2/3 innings with two strikeouts and one walk. He left the game after the double by Matthes.

Hyatt retired the Razorbacks in order in the ninth inning. Scott Lyons flied out to right field for the first out and Andy Wilkins grounded out to Wes Henderson at first base to cap a 10-pitch at-bat. Henderson's back hand of the Wilkins ground was his third defensive gem of the night at first base. He also took away a two-run single from Zack Coz on a ground ball to end the sixth inning. Cox ended the game with the deep fly ball to right that Matthes caught just short of the wall.

Sophomore Ross Wilson (Hoover) went 1-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to eight games, one shy of his season high.

Sophomore shortstop Josh Rutledge (Cullman) was a late scratch from the UA lineup on Friday night with soreness in his back. He was the only UA player start every game this season and had started 79 consecutive games in his career the last two seasons. He had also started all 52 SEC games in his UA career.

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