Two Tide Baseball Players Are Cited

The University of Alabama was in final examinations last week, so there was no mid-week game for the Crimson Tide. That meant only three games, and they were to be played against third-ranked Florida when the Gators were playing perhaps their best baseball of the season. There was some concern that Bama would not have 'Player of the Week' nominees.

As fate would have it, Alabama didn't catch a break when Florida came to town. Quite the opposite, actually, with star second baseman Ross Wilson out for the entire series with a hairline fracture in his hand and third baseman/relief pitcher Jake Smith--who was in the midst of a 15-game hitting streak--sidelined for the first game with illness.

The Gators were not sympathetic. Florida won games one and two on Friday and Saturday quite handily.

But on Sunday, Alabama got up from the deck and won the final game of the three-game series. That win also produced worthy nominees for the Crimson Tide coaching staff to select players of the week.

On Monday, Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard announced that the staff had selected junior shortstop Josh Rutledge and junior right-handed pitcher Nathan Kilcrease as the Bama players of the week.

Rutledge batted a team-best .467 (7-for-15) with one home run and six runs batted in. He compiled a .667 slugging percentage and a .467 on-base mark.

Kilcrease was the winning pitcher in his first career SEC start in the series finale as the Tide snapped the Gators season-best seven-game winning streak with a 10-8 win.

"I thought Rutledge and Kilcrease were both keys to our win on Sunday," Gaspard said. "Josh had a big day at the plate with the home run and six RBI. He gave us some real momentum on offense early in the game.

"I though Peanut (Kilcrease) did a nice job against a really good offensive club. He gave six strong innings and allowed us to pick up a crucial win."

Rutledge went 3-for-5 with a home run and career-high six RBI in the Tide's 10-8 win on Sunday. He slammed a three-run home run in the second inning to give Alabama its first lead of the series at 4-3. His previous high was five RBI, most recently against Illinois-Chicago on February 27.

The Cullman native has hit safely in 23 of the Tide's 24 SEC games this season, including a 15-game hitting streak in SEC play. He leads the Tide with 26 multi-hit games this season and has 76 in his three-year career.

Rutledge recorded his 250th career hit on Sunday with a two-run single in the fourth inning. He is the eighth player in Tide history with 250 career hits, joining Andy Phillips (322, 1996-99), Brent Boyd (313, 1999-2002), Joe Caruso (309, 1994-97), Jeremy Brown (307, 1999-2002), G.W. Keller (292, 1997-99), David Magadan (268, 1981-83) and Emeel Salem (259, 2004-07).

Kilcrease, considered the best closer in the SEC, made his fifth career start and first career SEC start on the mound against the Gators. He worked 6 1/3 innings and allowed seven runs (6 earned) and nine hits with four strikeouts and one walk. He threw a career-high 107 pitches.

The Phenix City native leads the SEC with 27 appearances on the mound this season. He has also allowed the fewest hits (39), fewest runs (16) and fewest earned runs (15) of any pitcher in the league with the NCAA-minimum of one inning per team game. He is second in opponents' batting average (.205), third in ERA (2.56) and fourth in saves (4).

Alabama plays its final non-conference game of the 2010 season Wednesday when the Crimson Tide travels to Birmingham to face the Samford Bulldogs at 6:30 p.m. CDT at Joe Lee Griffin Field. Alabama will host Ole Miss in the final SEC home series of the year this weekend at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The series opener is Friday at 6:35 p.m. The teams will also meet Saturday at 3:05 p.m. and Sunday at 2:05 p.m. The Saturday game will be televised by EPSN2.

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