Smith Pitches, Hits Tide Into Tourney

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Alabama rode the bat and right arm of senior third baseman/pitcher Jake Smith to a berth in the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament with a 4-2 series-clinching win over Tennessee on Friday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Alabama won the game in 11 innings.



Alabama (33-21, 14-15 SEC) clinched its SEC Tournament berth with its third extra-inning win of the season and Georgia's resounding 20-0 win over Kentucky in Athens, Ga. Alabama will either be the No. 7 or No. 8 seed in next week's tournament at Regions Park in Hoover.

"This was one those team wins," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said following the Tide's win. "We just found a way to get the job done. I thought (junior shortstop Josh) Rutledge made some great defensive plays. We got good pitching. Jake's home run was the key. It was just a good team win all the way around.

"The last two nights you could sense that in the dugout. The guys are energized and confident and playing well. I am happy for our team. They have been through a lot this year. We stayed the course and let the game come back our way when we could have shut it down, but we didn't. Now, we are getting some good fortune and some good play coming along with that."

Smith hit a two-run, game-winning home run in the 11th inning off losing pitcher Matt Ramsey to give the Tide a 4-2 lead. Senior first baseman Clay Jones drew a leadoff walk before Smith launched a fly ball to left field that just cleared the left field wall to give the Tide the lead.

"I thought it was a home run and then I saw the left fielder and the wall, so had to talk to it a little bit to get it over the wall," Smith said as his home run just cleared the wall in left. "The main thing is we came away with the win and it was a great team win."

The right-hander pitched a scoreless 10th and 11th inning for his first win of the season. The Shannon native entered the game in the 10th inning in relief of junior right-hander Nathan Kilcrease.

He struck out Josh Liles for the first out before issuing the first of three walks in the inning to Zach Osborne. After Osborne stole second, pinch-hitter Cody Stubbs grounded out to chase the winning run to third. Smith then walked P.J. Polk and Charley Thurber to load the bases before Cody Hawn fouled out to third baseman Cal Tinsley to end the threat.

Smith pitched around a one-out walk in the 11th inning for the win. Blake Forsythe lined out to Tinsley at third to open the inning and Liles lined out to sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas, who made a diving catch in center to end the game.

"Pitching was a different story," Smith added. "Fortunately they hit some balls hard right at our guys we made some great defensive plays, especially Cal, Rutledge and Dugas."

Smith (1-1) worked two innings and did not allowed a run or hit in his relief outing. He walked four and struck out one.

"It was a big night for Jake to hit the home run and get the win on the mound," Gaspard added. "Hopefully that may trigger him for the next two or three weeks as we hit post season."

Ramsey (6-2) was the tough-luck loser for the Volunteers. He allowed three runs on five hits in six innings of relief with eight strikeouts and one walk.

Both starters were superb on Friday night.

Kilcrease went nine innings and allowed two runs on six hits with four strikeouts and no walks. He threw 122 pitches in the no decision. UT starter Steven Gruver pitched five innings and allowed one run on four hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

Kilcrease came within three outs of his second straight complete-game victory before Hawn lined a leadoff home run over the left-center field wall to tie the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth.

Alabama had taken a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning on Rutledge's single up the middle that scored freshman right fielder Andrew Miller with the go-ahead run.

Miller was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and moved to third base on Dugas' hit-and-run single up the middle. Rutledge then delivered the key run-scoring single to give Alabama its first lead at 2-1.

The Crimson Tide could not extend the lead as it left two runners on base in the eighth and wasted a leadoff double by junior DH David Kindred in the ninth as UT rallied to force extra innings.

Tennessee (30-25, 12-17 SEC) had taken a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Liles reached on a leadoff double down the left field line and moved around to scored on consecutive infield ground outs by Osborne and Cody Grisham to take the Vols first lead of the series.

Alabama tied the game at 1-1 on back-to-back doubles by junior left fielder Jon Kelton and Miller in the top of the fifth inning.

Alabama and Tennessee wrap up the series and the regular season with 12 p.m. (CDT) at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

The game will be televised by Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS) with Matt Stewart and Rusty Ensor calling the action. The game will also be available on the internet at www.ESPN3.com . Alabama is expected to send sophomore left-hander Adam Morgan (13 GS, 5-4, 6.38 ERA) to the mound against Tennessee lefty Bryan Morgado (14 G, 2-7, 7.32 ERA).

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