Alabama Falls In SEC Tourney

HOOVER – No. 19 South Carolina scored four runs in the 11th inning with the decisive run crossing the plate on the wild pitch to defeat No. 12 Alabama, 9-5, in the first round of the 2009 Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament at Regions Park in Hoover.



South Carolina (38-19) extended its winning streak to a season-high eight straight games and gave the bottom four seeds a clean sweep over the top seeds on Wednesday. The bottom four seeds also won all four games in 2006. The Gamecocks have also won 11 of their last 12 games.

Alabama (37-18) could not hold a four-run lead in the fifth inning and may have lost its starting third baseman Jake Smith, who suffered an injury on the game's final play. Smith's right leg was placed in an air cast and he was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital for further examination.

"He is in a lot of pain," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "I am not sure (of the extent of the injury), but we will find out soon enough. "Well (if he is out), another man has to play third base. It hurts us all the way around. He is a good player. He was just getting back to where he could help us on the mound. What happened to Jake is way more important than the other stuff. It would be a blow to us because he is a two-way player. He is hitting .360 with 18 home runs this year."

The Gamecocks scored four runs in the 11th inning to snap a 5-5 tie. Shortstop Bobby Haney reached when his one-out double landed over the head of Kyle Moore. Scott Wingo followed with a bloop single to left and Whit Merrifield was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Sophomore right hander Jimmy Nelson replaced another sophomore righty Nathan Kilcrease on the mound and promptly threw a wild pitch to score Haney with the go-ahead run. With the count already 3-0, Nelson then intentionally walked DeAngelo Mack and then walked Nick Ebert to force home Wingo with the second run of the inning. Nelson struck out Jackie Bradley, Jr., for the second out before Justin Dalles stroked a two-out double to give the Gamecocks a 9-5 lead.

Alabama loaded the bases in the ninth as USC closer Alex Farotto walked three batters, but stranded the bases loaded for the second time in the game when Smith hit a sharp grounder back to the pitcher and was retired. As an attempt to leg out the infield hit, Smith was injured on the play and lay on the ground for some 15 minutes after the game as he was tended to my medical personnel.

The Crimson Tide stranded 13 runners in the loss, including seven in scoring position.

Farotto (4-2) earned the win in relief as trio of Gamecock relievers combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings of relief.

Kilcrease (4-4) suffered the loss for Alabama, despite five solid innings in relief of starter Del Howell. He allowed three runs on three hits with one walk and three strikeouts.

Alabama appeared to have put the leadoff man on base in the 10th inning when Brandon May was hit by pitch, but home plate umpire David Savage claimed the ball hit May's bat and ruled it foul, sparking an argument from the Alabama dugout that resulted in Wells being ejected from the game.

The Tide got off to a fast start with three runs on four hits in the first inning to grab a 3-0 lead. May had the big blow in the inning with a two-run double off the wall in right-center field to put the Tide up 2-0.

Shortstop Josh Rutledge reached on a one-out single and moved to second on second baseman Ross Wilson's single through the left side of the infield. Right fielder Kent Matthes reached on an infield single to load the bases before May cracked a two-run double to give the Tide the lead. Smith followed with a sacrifice fly to right-center field to score Smith and put the Tide up 3-0.

The Tide loaded the bases in the second inning when Taylor Dugas and Rutledge were hit by pitches and Matthes was intentionally walked with two outs. The Tide missed out on its chance to blow the game open when May struck out looking to end the inning.

Alabama added to its lead to 4-0 in the fourth inning thanks to the hustle of center fielder Alex Kubal. The senior stretched a leadoff single into a double and then took third on a fly out to left by Dugas. Kubal then scored on Rutledge's infield ground out.

South Carolina cut the lead to 4-2 on Mack's two-run single with two outs in the fifth inning. The base hit extended Mack's hitting streak to 18 games.

The Gamecocks took the lead in the sixth inning on a three-run home run by Adam Matthews. Bradley, Jr., and Crisp reached on singles before Matthews launched the go-ahead home run to left center field to put South Carolina in front 5-4.

Matthes slammed his school record 28th home run with one out in the seventh inning to tie the game at 5-5. He now owns the UA single-season home run record, surpassing Doug Duke's 27 home runs in 1986.

Alabama and LSU will square off in an elimination game later today at 1:30 p.m. at Regions Park. Austin Hyatt will pitch for Alabama against LSU's Anthony Renaudo in a rematch of the April 10, 2009 meeting in Tuscaloosa.

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