Alabama Loses In 11 To Gamecocks

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina catcher Brady Thomas hit a two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift the third-ranked Gamecocks to 9-7 win over Alabama in the opening game of a three-game Southeastern Conference series at Carolina Stadium on Friday night.

Thomas smacked a 3-2 pitch from Alabama junior right-hander Nathan Kilcrease into the South Carolina bullpen beyond the right-center field fence to give the Gamecocks their fifth straight win. Thomas entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning and drew a leadoff walk against Kilcrease but was stranded at second base.

Kilcrease (3-2) suffered the loss as he allowed two runs and two hits in 2 2/3 innings. Both of his losses this season have come in extra inning road games to No. 6 LSU and No. 3 South Carolina.

South Carolina right-hander Jose Mata (4-0) earned the win after he struck out Alabama senior first baseman Clay Jones to end the top of the 11th inning with two runners on base.

Alabama sent the game into extra innings when junior shortstop Josh Rutledge hit a dramatic home run of his own off USC closer Matt Price to tie the game at 7-7.

In the top of the ninth, freshman right fielder Andrew Miller drew a one-out walk, and freshman Brett Booth picked up a pinch-hit single to put runners at first and second and chase South Carolina right-hander Ethan Carter, who wriggled out of trouble in the seventh inning.

South Carolina brought in left-hander Michael Roth to face sophomore centerfielder Taylor Dugas and he retired the UA leadoff man with ground out back to the mound on a 3-2 pitch.

Price then entered the game out of the USC bullpen and quickly got ahead of Rutledge with a 1-2 count. Down to his final strike, Rutledge lined a three-run home run over the right field wall to score Miller and Booth and tie the game at 7-7.

"Both teams, I thought competed really hard," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "We get the big three-run homer in the ninth from Rutledge to extend the game. I thought our bullpen was much better tonight. (junior RHP Brett) Whitaker came in and did a good job along with (Senior LHP David) Head. Kilcrease did a nice job. He just left one up there in that inning and their guy hit it out.

"I was proud of our team. I thought we competed extremely hard against the number three team in country. If we play those kinds of games and play with that kind of effort, we're going to be fine."

Alabama pounded out 16 hits against a South Carolina pitching staff that owned the SEC's second-best earned run average (3.11) this season. USC starter Blake Cooper, who entered the game with a 2.67 ERA in 10 starts, was touched for four runs and 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings. The four runs and 11 hits were both season highs allowed by the right-hander.

"I thought we were in a good offensive rhythm tonight and have been the last couple of weeks," Gaspard added. "We are starting to get some of those timely hits. We left a couple out there on the table, but overall I was pretty pleased with our offensive production and due to injuries our lineup got a little bit thin in back end of the game. It was a tough one to lose, because I thought our guys really left it on the field. It was well-played game on both sides."

Alabama (27-16, 8-12 SEC) got off to a fast start with two runs in the first inning off Cooper to a take a 2-0 lead. Dugas opened the game with a single up the middle and Rutledge followed with a double down the left field line to put runners and second and third with no outs. Junior second baseman Ross Wilson and Jones followed with back-to-back infield ground outs to score both runners and put the Tide in front 2-0.

South Carolina (33-8, 15-4 SEC) scored four unearned runs in the bottom of the second inning to take a 4-2 lead. Catcher Kyle Enders reached on a throwing error by shortstop Josh Rutledge to start the two-out rally. Following the error, Bobby Haney walked and Scott Wingo blooped a double down the left field line to score Enders with the first run. Whit Merrifield walked to load the bases and Jackie Bradley, Jr., laced a bases-clearing triple into the right-center field gap to put the Gamecocks in front 4-2.

The Crimson Tide got one run back in the third inning when Rutledge reached on a fielder's choice and scored on Jones' two-out double into the left field corner to make it 4-3.

The Gamecocks stretched the lead to 6-3 in the bottom of the fourth inning when Bradley and Jeffrey Jones hit back-to-back home runs. It was Bradley's fifth home run of the season, while Jones hit his sixth homer of the season.

Alabama answered with a run in the top of the fifth inning to close the gap to 6-4. Dugas drew a one-out walk and Rutledge followed with a base hit to center to put runners at first and second. Wilson then lined a single to center to score Dugas and pull the Tide to within 6-4.

After Jones popped up to right field for the second out, junior DH David Kindred reached on an infield hit near the second base bag and the ball skipped into the outfield. Rutledge tried to score from second on the play but Wingo recovered the ball and fired a strike to home as Enders applied the tag for the final out of the inning.

Wingo added his team-leading ninth home run of the season to give the Gamecocks a 7-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning.

The Crimson Tide had scoring opportunities in the seventh and eighth innings and eventually tied the game in the ninth on Rutledge's home run.

Wilson left the game in the middle of the ninth inning after being hit on the right wrist with a pitch in the top of the ninth inning. His status for Saturday is uncertain at this time.

"He is going to be x-rayed after the ball game," Gaspard said. "We don't feel like anything is broken. He was moving it, but we will see what the x-rays say tonight and he will be a game time decision tomorrow."

Alabama and South Carolina will play game two of this series on Saturday, May 1, at 12:06 p.m. (CDT). The game will be televised regionally by Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS) and UA will send sophomore left-hander Adam Morgan (11 GS, 4-1, 5.91 ERA) to the mound, while USC will counter with junior right-hander Sam Dyson (10 GS, 4-2, 4.35 ERA).


*Alabama had its five-winning streak snapped with Friday's extra inning loss. The Crimson Tide is now 2-2 in extra inning games this season.

*Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge hit a game-tying three-run home run in the ninth inning. It was his fifth home run of the season and 10th career home run. Rutledge had three hits, scored three runs and knocked in three for the Crimson Tide. He has hit safely in 18 of 19 SEC games this season. He also has a 17-game road hitting streak.

*Junior second baseman Ross Wilson went 1-for-4 with two RBI to extend his hitting streak to eight games. He is also riding a seven-game SEC hitting streak.

*Senior third baseman Jake Smith went 1-for-5 on Friday to extend his career-high hitting streak to 13 games.

*Freshman Brett Booth had a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning and is now 3-for-3 as a pinch-hitter this season.

*Junior right-hander Jimmy Nelson had his streak of 21 1/3 consecutive innings without a walk snapped when he walked South Carolina third baseman Adrian Morales to lead off the second inning. The streak covered four starts against Kentucky (4 2/3 IP on April 10), LSU (8 1/3 IP on April 18), Mississippi State (7 1/3 IP on April 23) and South Carolina (1 IP on April 30)

*The attendance for Friday's game was 8,145, which is the second largest crowd of the season and fifth largest crowd in Carolina Stadium history.

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