Nelson Pitches Tide Past Vanderbilt
Alabama has now won eight consecutive games and improved its record to 16-1 overall and 2-0 in Southeastern Confernce games. Bama is ranked 21st in the nation and has dropped No. 16 Vanderbilt to 15-4, including the 0-2 start in SEC games.
The Crimson Tide got another strong outing from right-handed pitcher Jimmy Nelson. Juniors Ross Wilson and Josh Rutledge combined to drive in seven runs, Wilson getting three on a home-run and Rutledge icing the game with a three-run double. And Alabama had just one error and turned three double plays.
Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said, "We got a good start out of Jimmy Nelson. He really set the tone for us on the mound. Jimmy did a nice job with his location and his composure all game. We wanted to go right at 100 pitches and he threw 99. David Head came in and did a nice job. In the ninth inning he had a little this and that going on, but overall, it was a good game.
"Wilson hit the three run homer and that really ignited the offense. After that we put good offensive pressure on them and started to put better at bats together at that point. Defensively we did some real good things. Brock Bennett, what can't you say about that guy? He just continues to deliver and that's contagious."
Bennett had a four-for-four day at the plate, scored three runs, and continued his good work at catcher as he picked off a Vanderbilt base-runner for the second straight day. Nelson, who improved to 4-0 with the win, said, "I didn't really have my command like I like to, but I got great run support. Eight runs. That helps a lot."
Nelson said the biggest change in his pitching is that "I'm a lot tougher than I used to be I think. When guys get on, I buckle down and make the pitches I need to. I just have more confidence in myself, and I have the confidence of my coaches and teammates. It all works well"
Nelson limited the Commodores to two runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings for his fourth straight win. He struck out five and walked three before leaving the game after throwing 99 pitches.
Wilson is not surprised at Nelson's effectiveness this season. "I've always been a big fan of Jimmy," said the Tide's second baseman. "In live batting practice I think I've only hit one ball hard off of him in my whole career. He's always had the stuff, and I'm glad things are working out well for him out there."
Wilson and Rutledge accounted for seven of the eight runs, going a combined 3-for-9 with two runs scored and seven RBI. Wilson put the Crimson Tide on the board with a three-run home run in the third inning and Rutledge broke open close game with a three-run double in the sixth inning to push the Tide's lead to 7-2.
Wilson ripped a three-run home run over the left field wall to put the Tide in front 3-0 in the bottom of the third inning. Bennett led off the inning with a single to right and moved to second on sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas' sacrifice bunt. Rutledge followed with a single to left before Wilson's three-run homer off VU starter Taylor Hill.
Vanderbilt (15-4, 0-2 SEC) came back with two runs in the top of the fourth to cut the lead to 3-2. Curt Casali drew a leadoff walk and moved to third on Jason Esposito's double down the left field line. Connor Harrell followed with a two-run single up the middle to drive in two runs. The two-run single snapped Nelson's consecutive scoreless innings streak at 16 1/3 innings over his last four starts.
Alabama (16-1, 2-0 SEC) got one run back in the bottom of the fourth inning to extend its lead to 4-2. Junior left fielder John David Smelser stroked a leadoff double to right center and sophomore DH Jon Kelton followed with a bunt single down the first base line. Smelser took third on Kelton's bunt single and scored on first baseman Riley Reynolds throwing error to give Alabama a 4-2 lead.
Hill (3-1) left the game in fourth inning after he allowed four runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings. He added two strikeouts and two walks. Drew Hayes came on with two on and two out and got Rutledge to ground out to end the inning.
Rutledge iced the game with a bases-clearing double in the sixth inning that put the Tide up 7-2. Kelton drew a one out walk and Bennett lined a single to right field to put runners at first and second. Dugas walked to load the bases before Rutledge doubled to right-center on the ninth pitch of the at-bat against Hayes.
Nelson left the game after allowing a two-out single to Anthony Gomez and a walk to Brian Harris in the seventh inning.
Junior left-hander David Head came on and struck out pinch-hitter Anthony Harris to end the threat. Head worked 2 1/3 innings and allowed two hits with two strikeouts and one walk.
Alabama added an insurance run in the eighth inning to make the final 8-2. Bennett led off the inning with a single to center, his fourth hit of the game, and later scored on Wilson's ground out.
Alabama and Vanderbilt will wrap up the series with a 2:05 p.m. (CDT Sunday, and the game will be televised regionally by Comcast Sports Southeast.
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