Tide Has Tough Road To Tourney

How often have you heard a coach say after a win and preceding a big game, "We're going to enjoy this one for now." Alabama needs to enjoy its two-of-three series win over 14th ranked Ole Miss this weekend. The Crimson Tide is trying to play its way into the Southeastern Conference Tournament, but the odds do not appear to be high.

Alabama is 12-15 in SEC play with three games to play. The Crimson Tide is tied with Tennessee, Kentucky, and LSU for the seventh spot in SEC standings going into the final weekend.

Two of those four teams are going to make the eight-team field in the SEC Tournament at Hoover. The Bama team of Coach Mitch Gaspard has the toughest road.

LSU is playing Mississippi State and Kentucky is playing Georgia this weekend. Mississippi State and Georgia are the two worst teams in the SEC. Additionally, both Kentucky and LSU have the tie-breaker advantage on Bama based on previous series this season.

Alabama is on the road against the other contender, Tennessee. The teams meet in the first of three games beginning Thursday night.

So Alabama can enjoy its series win over 14th ranked Ole Miss in the next-to-series of regular season play.

Most valuable player of the series could be said to be Jimmy Nelson, the junior who pitched his first career complete game in a Saturday game to even the series against the Rebels. Not only did Nelson get the win after Mississippi had won on Friday, but by going the distance Nelson enabled Alabama to save junior right-hander Nathan Kilcrease to start on Sunday.

Kilcrease is normally the closer for Bama. Although Coach Gaspard has described Kilcrease as having a "rubber arm," able to pitch almost every day, it would have been almost impossible for Kilcrease to have pitched Saturday and then come back with his first career complete game on Sunday.

Kilcrease held the Rebels to three runs (two earned) and five hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.

This weekend marked the first time since April 9, 2006, Crimson Tide pitchers had tossed back-to-back complete game wins. In 2006, Bernard Robert and Tommy Hunter threw seven-inning complete games in a double header sweep of No. 1 ranked South Carolina.

The pitching staff was the story of the weekend for the Crimson Tide. Over its final 25 innings of work, Alabama pitchers allowed five runs (four earned) and 13 hits with 25 strikeouts and eight walks against the Rebels. Nelson and Kilcrease closed the series with back-to-back complete game victories. On Friday night, junior RHP Jason Townsend allowed one run and five hits in five innings of relief of sophomore LHP Adam Morgan. Junior RHP Brett Whitaker and Kilcrease added one scoreless inning each in the series opener.

Here are some other notes on Bama baseball:

Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge (2-for-4, R, RBI) extended his SEC hitting streak to 18 games with a first-inning single. The Cullman, Ala., native has hit safely in 26 of the Tide's 27 SEC games this season. In addition, Rutledge has a 10-game hitting streak, dating back to back to April 30.

Rutledge has 20 RBI in his last 13 SEC games. He hit a game-tying three-run home run in the ninth inning at South Carolina on April 30 and a added a go-ahead two-run single in UA's 6-4 win at South Carolina on May 1. He knocked in six runs in UA's 10-8 win over Florida on May 14 and added three RBI in the final two games of the series with Mississippi.

Junior second baseman Ross Wilson (2-for-4, R, RBI) has hit safely in 18 of 22 SEC games this season.

Senior first baseman Clay Jones (2-for-4, R, 2B, RBI) and Rutledge are now tied for the team lead with 52 RBI this season.

Alabama scored 11 of its 14 runs in the series after the seventh inning. The Tide had a four-run seventh inning on Sunday and has now scored 64 runs in the seventh inning, the most of any inning.

Alabama won four of its five home SEC series this season, beating Vanderbilt, Auburn, Mississippi State and Mississippi. The Tide posted a 23-7 home record, including a 10-5 mark in SEC home games.

The start of the game was delayed three hours and 50 minutes by rain. The game was originally scheduled for a 2:05 p.m. start, but did not begin until 5:55 p.m. Per SEC policy, the game had to begin prior to 6 p.m. to avoid a rainout.

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