After Win Over AU, Tide Ready For SEC

AUBURN, Ala. – Alabama broke out of two-game hitting slump in a big way Saturday afternoon, pounding out 16 hits, including three home runs, en route to an easy 13-3 win over Auburn in the regular season finale.

"It was important to win," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said. "I've never seen an offensive team be on for 15 weeks. I don't think, even in 1997, we did it every weekend. Sometimes it can last longer than two games, but thankfully we bounced back in the last game and played well."

Alabama will play South Carolina in the first-round of the 2009 SEC Tournament, beginning Wednesday. The Tide and Gamecocks will meet in the final game of the first day, scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m. CDT. Alabama is the No. 4 seed in the tournament and will be the home team in the opener. Alabama and South Carolina did not play this season and have not met since the Tide won two of three from the Gamecocks in Tuscaloosa in 2007.

Alabama outscored Auburn 19-6 in the three-game series, matching the fewest runs the Tide pitching staff allowed in an SEC series this year. The Tide also held Tennessee to six runs in a series sweep in Tuscaloosa in April.

Junior third baseman Jake Smith led the list of sluggers with by going 4-for-4, two runs scored and five RBI. He hit a two-run home run in the third inning and added a two-run single in the third inning as the Tide built an early eight-run lead. Senior catcher Vin DiFazio was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and one RBI.

Senior right fielder Kent Matthes went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and two RBI. He tied the Alabama single-season home run record with his 27th home run to lead off the second inning and jump-start the Tide offense, which had managed only three runs and 14 hits in the first two games of the series. Junior second baseman Brandon May also went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and one RBI.

"It is a great honor to tie the single-season home run record at the University of Alabama," Matthes said. "There have been a lot of great players play baseball here and to share the single season home run record means a lot."

Alabama (37-17, 18-11 SEC) jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the fourth inning and that was more than enough offense for freshman left-hander Adam Morgan, who retired the first 11 Auburn hitters. Morgan tossed his first complete game of the season and fourth of the year by the Tide, with seven solid innings. He allowed three runs on five hits with a career-high 10 strikeouts and one walk.

"Morgan and (Jimmy) Nelson (who threw five scoreless innings with seven strikeouts in the first game on Saturday) were very good," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "Now you think in terms of putting yourself in terms of trying to win a (NCAA) Regional. You hate to lose, but we are in better shape than if we had won 16-15."

After two homerless game from the league's two most prolific home run hitting teams, Alabama swatted two home runs in the second inning of the series finale to take a 3-0 lead. Matthes put the Tide on the board with a solo home run to right-center field. May followed with a base hit up the middle and scored on Smith's two-run home run that cleared the 35-foot wall in left field. It was Smith's 18th home run of the year.

The Tide added three more runs in the third to stretch the lead to 6-0. Alex Kubal led off the inning with an infield and moved to second on Taylor Dugas' sacrifice bunt. Josh Rutledge followed with a single to left to put runners on the corners with one out. Matthes followed with an RBI single to left and May walked to load the bases. Smith picked up two more RBI with a single to left that scored Rutledge and Matthes to give UA a 6-0 lead.

Dexter Price (4-3), the first of seven Auburn pitchers, took the loss after he allowed five runs and five hits in 2 1/3 innings.

The Tide made it 8-0 in the fourth inning on Rutledge's two-run home run to left center field. It was his fifth home run of the year.

Auburn (31-25, 11-19 SEC) got on the board on Brian Fletcher's two-out home run in the fourth inning that broke up Morgan's perfect game after he had retired the first 11 AU hitters. It was Fletcher's 17th home run.

The Tigers hit two more solo home runs in the fifth inning to cut the lead to 8-3. Tony Caldwell hit his ninth home run of the season and Joseph Sanders added his 19th homer.

Alabama piled on five more runs in the seventh inning to post the double-digit win. May, Smith, DiFazio and Dugas all had RBI hits in the inning.

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