Tide ekes out win over Centenary

TUSCALOOSA -- The University of Alabama scratched out its second consecutive one-run victory by posting a 4-3 win over the Centenary College Gents in the 2003 home opener Wednesday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

Alabama (3-1) did not have a hit until the sixth inning and collected only three hits against four different Centenary starters.

The Crimson Tide made the most of its only opportunity against the Gents, scoring three runs on two hits in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 4-2 lead.

David Ruffing (0-1) started the game and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Alabama junior designated hitter Brad Van Winkle broke up the no-hitter with a triple past the diving Bobby Gilliam in centerfield. Travis Garner, who was hit by a pitch to open the inning and moved to second on Allen Rice's sacrifice bunt, scored the tying run from second base.

After the third walk of the game to Beau Hearod and a line-out by Al Hecklinksi, sophomore first baseman Zac Welch gave the Crimson Tide the lead for good with a two-0-run double down the right field line.

"We got two hits in the inning and it looked like we were only going to get three hits," Alabama coach Jim Wells said. "We had to maximize those hits and get the game into the ninth inning for (closer Brian) Reed. Somehow, we pulled the game out against a team that out-hit (10-3) us and pitched well and really played well."

The two-out double chased Ruffing, who allowed four runs and two hits in 5.2 innings for the Gents. He also added four walks, three strikeouts and hit two batters.

Centenary (4-6) made it a one run game in the seventh inning as J.W. Pate was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning against Eric Mennen. Pate eventually scored on a ground out by Justin Darr.

Mennen (1-0) earned the winning with two innings of work, allowing one run and one hit for the Crimson Tide.

The Gents threatened again in the eighth inning, putting runners at second and third with one out, before sophomore left-hander Brent Carter stranded the two runners by striking out Blake Adkinson and getting a come-backer to Tony Cardone.

Senior right-hander Brian Reed worked a scoreless ninth for his third save of the season, tying Auburn's Steven Register for the early season SEC lead.

Centenary had taken the lead in the fourth inning when Adkinson slammed a 1-0 pitch off the left field scoreboard against UA starter Ryan Beagle to give the Gents a 2-1 lead.

Alabama scored a run in the top of the first inning without a base hit to take a 1-0 lead. Travis Garner was hit by a pitch to open the inning and later scored on Brad Van Winkle's ground out to first base.

Centenary finished the game with 10 hits and was paced by Gilliam's three-hit attack. Cardone added two hits for the Gents.

Alabama benefited from seven walks and two hit batters in the game. Alabama did not issue a walk, but hit two batters. All four batters who were hit by a pitch eventually scored.

The Crimson Tide returns to action this weekend hosting the 2002 Ohio Valley Conference Champion and NCAA Tournament participant Southeast Missouri State in a three-game series. The series opener is Friday, Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m. (CT).

SEMO beat Alabama last year in the 2002 NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional, dropping the Crimson Tide into the loser's bracket after the first-round game. The Crimson Tide the won the rematch the next day by the identical 7-4 score to advance to the championship game against Florida Atlantic.

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