Al.abama Baseball Improves To 8-0

MT. PLEASANT, S.C. – The Alabama baseball team got a strong pitching performance from a trio of right-handers and the Tide manufactured enough offense for a 4-0 win over the College of Charleston on a sunny afternoon at Patriots Point Stadium.

Alabama junior right-hander Jimmy Nelson fired six shutout innings with a career high 11 strikeouts, while the bullpen tandem of sophomore right-hander Tyler White and junior right-hander Brett Whitaker blanked the Cougars over the final three innings, giving the Tide its first shutout since a 12-0 win over Alabama A&M on March 18, 2009.

"Jimmy was outstanding today," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "He has just kind of been building to this outing today. I thought he was really clean the first two outings but was really dominant today. He had the good two-seam fastball going and the good slider. I thought his mound presence and his demeanor was really good too. He had total control and filled up the strike zone. It was probably his best outing here at Alabama."

Nelson (2-0) held the Cougars to six hits through six innings with a career-high 11 strikeouts and no walks. The 11 strikeouts tie sophomore Adam Morgan for the most by an Alabama pitcher this season.

"I had all my pitches working for me and I executed the pitches coach (Bunn) called and he made me look good out there," Nelson said following the win. "With a defense like this, I am never scared to throw the ball and let them hit it. I know anybody here can field the ball. It's pretty much having confidence in me; and then the whole team and coaches."

College of Charleston (8-3) was shutout at home for the first time since dropping a 6-0 decision to No. 1 ranked Clemson on March 3, 2006. The Cougars were last blanked 7-0 at The Citadel on May 16, 2009.

Alabama (8-0) scored its four runs on two wild pitches and two sacrifice flies to win its eighth straight game to open the season.

The Crimson Tide scored a run without benefit of a hit to take a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Junior catcher Brock Bennett led off the inning with a four-pitch walk and promptly stole second base. Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge launched a deep fly ball to center that allowed Bennett to tag and move to third base. On the next pitch, Bennett raced home with the first run of the game when Christian Powell unleashed a wild pitch.

Alabama manufactured another run to take a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning. Junior right fielder John David Smelser collected the first hit of the game with a one-out single to center. Smelser then stole second and third base and scored on Powell's second wild pitch of the game to push the Tide to a 2-0 lead.

UA added two more runs on a pair of sacrifice flies to double its lead to 4-0 in the sixth inning. Rutledge opened the inning with a single to left and took second base when Jose Rodriguez bobbled the ball in left. Rutledge then moved to third on another Powell wild pitch and scored on Wilson's sacrifice fly to left. Senior first baseman Clay Jones drew a walk and senior third baseman Jake Smith followed with a hit-and-run single to right that chased Jones to third. Freshman Brett Booth followed with sacrifice fly to left to score Jones and put the Tide in front 4-0.

The Crimson Tide managed only three singles, but took advantage of seven walks, five stolen bases and three wild pitches to earn the series-clinching win.

"We hit 12 balls right on the screws today, but we had to find other ways to win," Gaspard said of the Tide's offense. "Today is one of those days you can walk away after a loss and say well we hit a lot of balls hard, but rather than doing that we created more offense with the running game. We found a weakness with a guy that was slow to the plate and really worked hard to steal some bases. We got him uncomfortable to uncork some wild pitches and found a way to score four runs. That's baseball. You have to win in a lot of different ways and today was one of those days where you just had to find a way to get it done.."

College of Charleston (8-3) managed only seven hits, including six singles in the loss to Alabama.

The Cougars only scoring threat came in the sixth inning when center fielder Cole Rakar stroked a leadoff double. Nelson bounced back to strikeout Thomas Brittle and Jesse Mesa, before Matt Leeds rolled an infield hit to chase Rakar to third with two outs. Nelson got out the jam when Wilson made a diving catch of Kolby Epley's line-drive into shallow right field to end the inning and preserve the shutout.

Charleston freshman right-hander Christian Powell (2-1) suffered the loss as he yielded four runs and three hits in 5 2/3 innings with five walks, four strikeouts and three wild pitches.

White pitched two scoreless innings with three strikeouts and Whitaker added a scoreless ninth inning with two strikeouts as the Tide finished with a season-high 16 strikeouts and no walks in the win.

The two teams will conclude this three-game on Sunday, March 7, at 12 p.m. (CT). Junior left-hander Jonathan Smart is expected to make his second start of the season on the mound for the Tide.

Game Notes:

*Alabama is off to its best start since the 2002 season when the Crimson Tide began the season with a 9-0 record.

*Junior right-hander Jimmy Nelson, sophomore right-hander Tyler White and junior right-hander Brett Whitaker combined for the shutout on Saturday. It was the first shutout by Alabama since a 12-0 win over Alabama A&M on March 18, 2009 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

*The win at the College of Charleston was Alabama's first road shutout since posting a 5-0 win at Jacksonville State on March 26, 2008.

*The College of Charleston was shutout at home for the first time since dropping a 6-0 decision to No. 1 ranked Clemson on March 3, 2006. The Cougars were last blanked 7-0 at The Citadel on May 16, 2009.

*Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas has reached base safely in all eight games this season.

*Alabama stole five bases in Saturday's win and has eight stolen bases in nine attempts in the series.

BamaMag Top Stories