Alabama Baseball Beats Gamecocks

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Alabama sophomore left-hander Adam Morgan pitched the Crimson Tide to a 6-4 win over No. 3 South Carolina to even the three-game Southeastern Conference series at Carolina Stadium on Saturday afternoon.



The Marietta, Ga., native pitched into the eighth inning and allowed four runs and eight hits with eight strikeouts and two walks for his first win since April 2. He left the game with one out in the eighth inning following Christian Walker's two-run home run that closed the Alabama lead to 5-4.

South Carolina (33-9, 15-5 SEC) took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on Parker Bangs two-run double down the left line that scored Whit Merrifield and Walker.

The lead was short-lived as Alabama scored five runs on six hits in the top of the second inning to take a 5-2 lead. The Crimson Tide had five straight one-out hits in the inning off USC starter Sam Dyson to take the lead.

Senior third baseman Jake Smith reached on a one-out single to left and freshman right fielder Andrew Miller followed with a single to right. Senior catcher Cody Trotter followed with an RBI double off the wall in right-center to score Smith and cut the lead to 2-1. Senior Cal Tinsley, who started at second base for the injured Ross Wilson, singled to center to score Miller and tie the game at 2-2. Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas lined a single to left to score Trotter and give UA its first lead at 3-2.

The Tide played hit-and-run with sophomore left fielder Jon Kelton at the plate and his ground out to the pitcher put runners at second and third with two outs. Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge followed with a clutch two-out base hit to score Tinsley and Dugas and put Alabama in front 5-2.

"We tried to be really aggressive," Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "(Dyson) really attacks the strike zone. He is throwing a two-seamer at 92 to 94 (mph) and four-seamer at 95-96 (mph) and he got the slider up to 86 (mph). Our approach was to be aggressive, keep swinging and we had some good fortune too. We had some balls drop in.

"I thought (assistant coach) Dax (Norris) did a good job with them. I thought we had a really good game plan. We did what we had to do and that's what you have to do against a good arm like Dyson."

The five-run inning not only lifted the Tide offense but it gave Morgan a boost as well and the left-hander was dominant over the next six innings. In addition to his eight strikeouts, he got a double play in the third inning and UA threw a runner out at home to preserve its three-run lead in the third inning.

After Bangs' two-run double in the first, Morgan (5-2) retired the next five hitters. He retired 12 of 13 batters he faced from the third through the seventh innings. South Carolina's six left-hand hitters were a collective 0-for-14 in the loss.

"The number one thing for him was command," Gaspard said of Morgan's performance on Saturday. "That's where in his last two of three starts, his command had been shaky. Today he really commanded the fastball, the breaking ball and the change-up as well. He really kept them off balance and really cruised from the fourth through the seventh inning."

Dyson (4-3) shook off the five-run second inning and also pitched into the eighth inning for the Gamecocks. He allowed five runs and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings with 10 strikeouts and one walk. He threw 129 pitches.

South Carolina closed to within a run in the eighth inning when Jackie Bradley, Jr., drew a one-out walk and scored on Walker's two-run home run to make the score 5-4. It was Walker's fourth home run of the season.

Smith replaced Morgan on the mound and retired all five USC batters he faced with three strikeouts for his second save of the season. He also went 1-for-4 at the plate and scored one run in the five-run second inning as he extended his career long hitting streak to 14 games.

Alabama added an insurance run in the ninth inning to make the final 6-4. The Crimson Tide loaded the bases against USC reliever Michael Roth. Tinsley reached on a bunt single and Dugas reached on an error by Walker at first base. After a sacrifice bunt by Kelton put runners at second and third with one out, Roth intentionally walked Rutledge to load the bases.

Jones greeted relief pitcher John Taylor with a deep fly ball to center field that scored Tinsley with a key insurance run as the Tide pushed its lead to 6-4.

Alabama and South Carolina will wrap up this three-game series on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. (CDT). South Carolina will send senior right-hander Jay Brown (12 G, 2-0, 4.22 ERA) to the mound, while Alabama has not yet named a started for the rubber game.

GAME NOTES:

*Alabama junior second baseman Ross Wilson has a hairline fracture in his left hand and is expected to be out anywhere from 10 days to two weeks. Wilson was hit by a pitch in the ninth inning in Friday's 9-7 extra inning loss to South Carolina.

*Alabama will be playing its first rubber game in an SEC series on Sunday at South Carolina after the teams split the first two games. Prior to this weekend, Alabama was 2-0 or 0-2 in its previous six SEC series against Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, LSU and Mississippi State.

*Sophomore left-hander Adam Morgan picked up his first win since April 2 with 7 1/3 innings and eight strikeouts today against South Carolina. Morgan retired 12 of 14 USC hitters from the third through the seventh innings. South Carolina left-handers were 0-for-14 on Saturday.

*Senior Jake Smith had a big day as a two-way player for the Tide. At the plate, he was 1-for-4 and scored one run in UA's five-run second inning. He extended his career long hitting streak to 14 games. On the mound, he retired all five batters he faced and totaled three strikeouts for his second save of the season.

*Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas went 2-for-4, reached base three times and scored one run in the win over South Carolina. He had an RBI single in the second inning and later on junior shortstop Josh Rutledge's two-out single. He added one stolen base.

*Dugas recorded his fourth outfield assist of the season to end the third inning. He leads the team and is tied for fourth in the SEC with four outfield assists this season. With a runner at first and two outs, USC DH Parker Bangs doubled off the center field wall. Dugas fielded the ball and threw to Rutledge, who fired a strike to catcher Cody Trotter, who tagged out Christian Walker to end the inning and keep USC off the board.

*Alabama and Georgia are now tied for first in the SEC this season with 13 outfield assists. The 13 assists have been recorded by seven different players. In addition, Alabama outfielders have thrown out eight runners at home plate this season.

*Sophomore left fielder Jon Kelton tied the Alabama single-game record with two sacrifice bunts on Saturday. Alabama is among the SEC leaders with 37 sacrifices this year.

*Rutledge went 1-for-4 with two RBI in Saturday. He had a two-run single with two outs in the second inning as UA took a 5-2 lead. The Cullman native has hit safely in all 20 games away from Tuscaloosa this season, including an 18-game road hitting streak.

*The attendance for Saturday's game was 8,053, which is the third largest crowd of the season and eighth largest crowd in Carolina Stadium history. The series opener drew 8,145 fans on Friday night.

Alabama Head Coach Mitch Gaspard Quotes:

On Saturday's win:

"We've so close on the road against good teams it was so nice to get over the hump. I think for our own confidence to come in here and play extremely well last night and go 11 innings. I thought we showed a lot of character today to bounce back with a really short turn-around to face (Sam) Dyson, a first rounder, and to win a game. That was really big for us and sets up an opportunity to win a series on the road."

On holding on to late-inning lead

"We try not to look at it that way but obviously over time all our team starts thinking can we close this thing out. Obviously we get the great start from Morgan, but to have Jake Smith come in and they never threatened once he got on the mound. That was big. That give us another bullet in the bullpen now and a guy that hasn't thrown a whole lot this year that seems to be throwing the ball really well right now late in the season."

On Adam Morgan's performance:

"The number one thing for him was command and that's where his last two of three starts, his command had been shaky. Today he really commanded the fastball, the breaking ball and the change-up as well. He really kept them off balance and really cruised from the fourth through the seventh inning."

On five-run second inning off Dyson:

"We tried to be really aggressive. He really attacks the strike zone. He is throwing a two-seamer at 92 to 94 (mph) and four-seamer at 95-96 (mph) and he got the slider up to 86 (mph). Our approach was to be aggressive, keep swinging and we had some good fortune too. We had some balls drop in. I thought (assistant coach) Dax (Norris) did a good job with them. I thought we had a really good game plan. We did what we had to do and that's what you have to do against a good arm like Dyson."

On the ninth-inning insurance run:

"I thought it was huge. I thought the Clay Jones at-bat against (John Taylor) and deliver and stretch that lead from one run to two runs really kind of eased our guys a little bit and gave us some confidence going into the bottom of the ninth."

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