Tide tops Rhode Island, 9-2

TUSCALOOSA -- Sophomore first baseman Zac Welch (Alexandria HS) collected a career high four hits and matched his career high with three RBI leading the University of Alabama baseball team to a 9-2 victory over the University of Rhode Island here at Sewell-Thomas Stadium Friday night.

Welch began his career high night with a first-inning double and capped the scoring with a two-run home run to right center field, his first home run of the 2003 season. The two-run homer was the second of his Alabama career and first in 103 at-bats, dating back to March 3, 2002 against Florida Atlantic at the Hormel Foods Classic in Minneapolis, Minn.

Welch's RBI double in the first inning scored Brad Van Winkle from second base to give Alabama a 2-0 lead. Travis Garner led off the game with a triple and scored on Adam Pavkovich's sacrifice fly to left field.

Bobby Burns doubled and scored in the second inning to extend the lead to 3-0. Beau Hearod walked and scored on Al Hecklinski's double into the left field corner to give Alabama a 4-0 lead in the third inning.

Rhode Island (0-5) trimmed the lead to 4-2 in the fourth inning when third baseman Dan Batz tripled to center field and scored on Tom Vendeman's one out single. Matt Sullivan walked and later scored on a balk by starter pitcher Taylor Tankersley, who earned his second win of the season with seven strong innings on the mound.

Tankersley (2-0) struck out a career high 11 batters and allowed only two earned runs and four hits in seven innings of work. He struck out every URI hitter at least once with the exception of leadoff hitter D.J. Burns and the three-hole hitter Batz. Tankerlsey's previous best was 10 strikeouts on Feb. 20, 2002 against Georgia State.

Junior right-hander Jared Woodward pitched the final two innings, allowing one base hit and striking out three batters for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama has allowed only two runs and seven hits in its last two games and no URI player had more than one hit on Friday.

Rhode Island starter Reid Willett (0-2) suffered the loss, working 5 2/3 innings and allowing five runs and nine hits. He added three walks, five strikeouts and hit two batters.

Alabama (7-2) got one of the runs back in the sixth inning when Pavkovich doubled and later scored on Hearod's sacrifice fly to deep center field. The Crimson Tide scored a pair of unearned runs in the seventh as Garner and Pavkovich crossed the plate when shortstop Justin Lamboy dropped a pop up with two outs.

Welch capped the scoring in the eighth with a two-run shot to right-center field. Grant Redding was hit by a pitch to open the inning and scored ahead of Welch's home run.

In addition to Welch's four-hit game, Alabama got two hits each from Hecklinski and Burns. Hecklinski tallied an RBI double in the third and added a single in the sixth. Burns doubled and scored in the second and delivered a one-out triple in the seventh inning.

Alabama and Rhode Island will meet in the second game of this three-game series Saturday at 4 p.m. at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Sophomore left hander Brent Carter (1-1, 2.51 ERA) will make his third start of the season for Alabama. URI is expected to counter with sophomore lefty Mike Harris (0-1, 14.40 ERA).

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