Tide Baseball Wins Gaspard Debut

It's something of a tradition that a team's schedule is set up to make sure that a new coach gets a victory in his debut game. No one can accuse Alabama of opening the 2010 season with a cupcake, though. The Crimson Tide defeated South Alabama, 12-4, at Sewell-Thomas Stadium to open the season and begin the Mitch Gaspard era.

Mitch Gaspard was elevated to head baseball coach at Alabama late last summer following the surprise retirement of Jim Wells. The schedule was already set, and Gaspard's Crimson Tide had to face the Jaguars of South Alabama in the opener.

Bama came through and both Alabama and Gaspard are 1-0.

In something of a schedule oddity, both teams loaded up after the game to head to Mobile. Alabama and South Alabama will play against one another again Sunday, this time at the Jaguars' Stanky Field. First pitch is at 1:30 p.m. CST.

For Alabama Saturday, Adam Morgan pitched six strong innings and had a career high 11 strikeouts and Jake Smith tied his career high with four hits and an RBI

Alabama jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the third inning on Clay Jones' eighth career home run. South Alabama tied it up with a three-run fourth inning, but Alabama took the lead for good in the bottom half of the inning. The Tide scored four runs on four hits to take a 7-3 lead and never looked back in route to the 12-4 victory.

Gaspard is in his 10th season on the UA coaching staff, with nine seasons coming as an assistant coach under Jim Wells.

Gaspard said, "For me personally, I want to put a stamp on this team. I realize this is a good team. This is a talented team, particularly in the field.

"So we want to take advantage of what we've got. As I've said all along we've been really pleased with the development of the pitchers. It's just one game, but I think we're going to see that as we move along. I would have liked to make more impact personally in the game, but a lot of credit goes to our assistant coaches. They've been busting their cans along with the players every day."

Morgan fanned 11 batters through six innings, striking out the side in the first and sixth innings. He had seven strikeouts in the first three innings, including five of the first six hitters. He held the Jags to three runs and three hits and did not walk a batter en route to the win. He threw 66 total pitches, with 54 strikes.

Smith went 4-for-5 with two RBI to lead the Tide's 16-hit attack. He put Alabama on the board with a first-inning single and added another RBI single in UA's three-run eighth inning.

"It was good for me to get off to a good start and help the team win," Smith said. "We're just taking it one game at a time now. That's what Coach Gaspard preaches. It's an honor to play for him and I'm happy for him to get his first win."

In addition to Smith, junior second baseman Ross Wilson added three hits, while sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas, senior first baseman Clay Jones, junior DH Jon Kelton and freshman Brett Booth added two hits each. Jones hit the Tide's only home run, while Dugas scored three times.

Alabama scored in five of the eight innings on Saturday, including a run in the first inning when Smith stroked a two-out single to score Dugas with the first run of the Gaspard era.

The Crimson Tide added two more runs in the third to take a 3-0 lead. Dugas led off with a triple to center and scored on Josh Rutledge's ground out to second base. Jones made it 3-0 with a two-out solo home run to right.

South Alabama (1-2) scored three runs in the fourth to tie the game at 3-3. Tyler Vick's two-out, two-run home was the big blow in the inning.

Alabama answered back with four runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 7-3 lead. Freshman right fielder Andrew Miller lined a two-run single to center to give the Tide the lead for good at 5-3. Dugas then drove in junior left fielder John David Smelser with a safety squeeze bunt and Miller later scored the fourth run on a wild pitch, one of four in the game by USA right-hander Lance Brown.

Sean Laird's solo home run with two outs in the seventh off UA junior right-hander Jason Townsend cut the lead to 7-4, but the Tide quickly answered with two runs in the bottom of the seventh and tacked on three more in the eighth.

Wilson led off the seventh inning with a double and later scored on a wild pitch. Freshman Brett Booth collected his first career hit with a pinch-hit single that scored Smith.

Wilson, Jones and Smith collected three straight RBI singles in the eighth inning off Jake LeBlanc to put the game out of reach at 12-4.

South Alabama starter Jarrett Bailey (0-1) allowed five runs and six hits in three-plus innings and was charged with the loss.

Game Notes from UofA Media Relations:

*Alabama's opening day starting lineup featured three newcomers including junior catcher Chris Smelley, freshman left fielder John David Smelser, and freshman right fielder Andrew Miller. In all, Alabama played 13 position players and used three pitchers in the win over South Alabama.

*The Crimson Tide used seven first-time players in the 2010 season opener, including freshmen Brett Booth and Matt Taylor and junior college transfer pitchers Jason Townsend and Brett Whitaker.

*Alabama improves to 76-39-1 all-time in season openers and has won 15 of its last 17 openers. The Tide is now 82-33-1 all-time in home openers and has won 28 of its last 33, dating back to 1979.

*Mitch Gaspard picked up the win in his Alabama coaching debut. Alabama head coaches are now 19-11 in their first games with the Tide, winning four of the last five. Joe Sewell (1968), Barry Shollenberger (1980) and Jim Wells (1995) also won their first game at Alabama.

*Sophomore Adam Morgan struck out a career-high 11 batters in his first career opening day start. Morgan's previous best was 10 strikeouts last season at Auburn. In the win over South Alabama, Morgan threw 66 pitches in six innings, including 54 (82 percent) strikes.

*Senior Jake Smith went 4-for-5 with two RBI in his 2010 debut. In four career opening day games, Smith is 8-for-15 (.533) with five RBI and has hit safely in all four games.

*Freshman right fielder Andrew Miller stroked a two-run single in the Tide's four-run fourth inning to put the Tide ahead to stay at 5-3. Miller was 1-for-3 with two RBI in his debut.

*Freshman Brett Booth was 2-for-2 with one RBI in his Crimson Tide debut, including a pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh inning.

*Alabama has a 46-6 scoring advantage in its last five opening day games, including wins over Georgia State (12-3, 7-0 in 2007), Cal Poly (10-1 in 2008), Southeast Missouri State (5-1 in 2009) and South Alabama (12-4 in 2010).

BamaMag Top Stories