Rutledge Slugs Tide Past Gators

Alabama junior shortstop Josh Rutledge had three hits and drove in a career-high six runs, leading the Crimson Tide to a 10-8 win over No. 3 Florida in the series finale at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Sunday afternoon.



Rutledge knocked in five of Alabama's first six runs, including a three-run home run in the second inning that gave Alabama its first lead of the series, and then added a key insurance run in the seventh inning that extended the Tide's lead to three runs.

"When the guys got on base for me today I was able to come through with some hits, thankfully," Rutledge said following his career-high six RBI performance.

His previous high for RBI in a game was five, most recently against Illinois-Chicago on February 27. The six RBI equal the most in a game by an Alabama player this season. Senior first baseman Clay Jones had six RBI in the Tide's 13-3 win over Georgia on March 3 and junior second baseman Ross Wilson had six RBI in win over Stony Brook on March 13.

Rutledge finished the game with three hits and reached base twice on errors by UF third baseman Austin Maddox.

Rutledge committed three errors at shortstop for the Tide, which led to a pair of unearned runs. Maddox had three errors for the Gators, which led to two unearned runs.

Rutledge's big day provided enough run support for Alabama junior right-hander Nathan Kilcrease and senior right-hander Jake Smith, who combined for eight strikeouts on the mound.

Kilcrease (4-2), who made his fifth career start and first career SEC start, pitched into the seventh inning and allowed seven runs and nine hits with four strikeouts and one walk. Smith worked the final 2 1/3 innings for his third save of the season. He stranded the tying runs on base in the seventh and eighth innings and struck out Daniel Pigott, who represented the tying run, to end the game in the ninth.

"We just really had to compete," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "They're a really good team playing at a high level. I thought Nathan Kilcrease really did a nice job, especially considering that was his first start all year. We were able to stretch him out a little bit, he got through six innings and then Jake Smith came in and did a really nice job.

"I thought the key was today we were able to get a lead and they weren't really able to get the lead back. They tied us and we held it there and then were able to extend it from there. Through the first two games we couldn't get off the deck, they got started so quick and were chasing all day."

Florida (33-12, 17-7 SEC) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning on Austin Maddox's team-leading 15th home run of the season. It marked the third straight game in the series the Gators scored first.

Alabama (29-19, 10-14 SEC) took its first lead in the series with a four-run second inning to take a 4-1 lead. Senior catcher Cody Trotter led off the inning with a single to left and moved to second on sophomore left fielder Jon Kelton's sacrifice bunt. Freshman right fielder Andrew Miller was then hit by a pitch and senior second baseman Cal Tinsley reached on a bunt single to load the bases with one out.

Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas plated the first run with a sacrifice fly to center that easily scored Trotter to tie the game at 1-1. Rutledge followed with a three-run home run to left to give Alabama its first lead of the series at 4-1. It was Rutledge's career-high seventh home run of the season.

The Gators tallied single runs in the third and fourth inning to close the gap to 4-3. In the third, Tyler Thompson reached on an error by Rutledge and scored on den Dekker's infield ground out. In the fourth, Maddox ripped a leadoff double to right-center and scored on Pigott's sacrifice fly to cut the UA lead to 4-3.

Alabama got two runs back in the bottom of the fourth inning on Rutledge's two-run single that increased the Tide's lead to 6-3.

Kilcrease navigated the first four innings on just 50 pitches, but ran into some trouble in the fifth as the Gators scored three runs to tie the game. Thompson led off with a single before Mike Zunino flied out to right field. Thompson was erased a second base for the second out when Nolan Fontana reached on a fielder's choice.

With two outs, den Dekker hit a two-run home run to right to make it 6-5. After Preston Tucker drew a walk, Maddox ripped a double down the left field to score Tucker with the tying run. Kilcrease then struck out Brian Johnson to end the 32-pitch inning.

Again Alabama answered, scoring three times in the bottom of the fifth to take a 9-6 lead. Junior DH David Kindred led off the inning with a double to right-center field off reliever Anthony Descalfani. It was Tide's lone hit of the inning.

Trotter struck out for the first out of the inning and Florida turned to left-hander Nick Maronde out of the pen. Maronde hit Kelton and Miller load the bases before striking out Tinsley for the second out. Dugas drew a bases-loaded walk to chase home Kindred with the go-ahead run and Kelton scored when Rutledge reached on an error by Maddox.

Jones was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded as Miller scored to give the Tide a 9-6 lead. Florida got back-to-back one-out hits from den Dekker and Tucker before Smith replaced Kilcrease on the mound. Smith got two fly outs to end the inning, including a warning track fly ball off the bat of Johnson that Kelton caught in front of the left field wall for the third out.

Descalfani (2-3) was charged with the loss after he allowed one run and two hits in one inning of relief. He was one of five relief pitchers used by the Gators on Sunday.

Zunion hit his eighth home run of the season to lead off the seventh inning as UF cut the lead to 9-7.

Alabama got the run back immediately when Miller singled, moved to second on Tinsley's sacrifice bunt and scored on Rutledge's infield single that got past Maddox at third base to give Alabama an 10-7 lead.

Florida got an unearned run in the eighth inning to cut the lead to 10-8, but stranded the tying runs on base.

The Gators loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth inning as Pigott led off with a single to right center field. Josh Adams reached on Rutledge's third error of the game and Thompson walked to load the bases. Smith struck out Zunion, who had five hits and six RBI in the series, for the first out, before Fontana's sacrifice fly scored Pigott from third to make the score 10-8. Smith then struck out den Dekker to end the inning.

Smith retired the first two batters he faced in the ninth before Johnson singled on 1-2 pitch down the left field line. Smith followed with a strike out of Pigott to end the game.

Alabama will play its final non-conference game of the season on Wednesday when the Crimson Tide travels to Joe Lee Griffin Field in Birmingham to meet the Samford Bulldogs in a 6:30 p.m. CDT game. The Tide back home next weekend with a three-game series against Ole Miss.

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