Alabama Romps In NCAA Regional
Alabama (38-22), winner of nine of its last 10 games, advances to Saturday's winner's bracket final, where it will meet the Georgia Tech-Mercer winner at 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. central time).
Against Elon, the top of the order provided most of the offensive damage against Elon, as sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas, junior shortstop Josh Rutledge, junior second baseman Ross Wilson and senior first baseman Clay Jones were a combined 12-for-15 with eight runs scored, two home runs, and 10 RBI in the victory. The quartet accounted for 10 of the 11 runs and nine of the 17 hits.
Dugas (4-for-5, 3 R, 2B, RBI) and Rutledge (4-for-5, 2 R, HR, RBI) were a combined 8-for-10 with five runs scored, one double, one home run and five RBI.
Junior right-hander Nathan Kilcrease and freshman right-hander Tucker Hawley held the Phoenix to two runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and two walks.
"I thought for us it was just a complete game," Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "I thought Nathan was outstanding from the first inning on, and we really got the offense going. We did a nice job executing early in the game, getting some bunts down and hit-and-runs and then some power showed up with Josh and Clay. I thought we played really well for nine innings today."
Alabama scored two runs in the third inning to take a 2-0 lead as the Crimson Tide put four straight runners on base with no outs. Junior catcher Brock Bennett started the inning with a two-strike single up the middle and moved to third on Dugas' single down the left field line. Rutledge followed with a line drive single to center that scored Bennett to give Alabama a 1-0 lead. Wilson then walked to load the bases before Jones plated Dugas with a sacrifice fly to left to make it 2-0.
Alabama then broke open a close game with a six-run fourth inning to take an 8-0 lead. The six-run inning was highlighted by Rutledge's ninth home run of the season and first career postseason home run.
Freshman right fielder Andrew Miller drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on freshman DH Brandt Hendricks' sacrifice bunt. Bennett drew a five-pitch walk, Dugas lined a double to left that scored Miller and chased Bennett to third as the Tide held a 3-0 lead. Rutledge then followed with a three-run home run to left to put Alabama in front 6-0.
Wilson kept the momentum going with a base hit to right field and followed the single up with a stolen base. Jones then lined a 2-0 pitch back up the middle to score Wilson and make it 7-0.
Jones' RBI single chased Elon starter Jimmy Reyes, who worked 3 1/3 innings and allowed eight runs on eight hits with one strikeout and three walks. Reyes, who had allowed only one run in his last two starts, saw his seven-game winning streak come to a close.
Left-hander J.D. Reichenbach replaced Reyes on the mound and gave up a base hit to Smith as the Tide had runners on the corners with one out. Smith's one-out single to right was the sixth straight Alabama batter to reach base in the inning. Kelton then laid down a safety squeeze bunt that scored Miller from third base as the Tide stretched its lead to 8-0.
Elon and Alabama traded solo home runs in the sixth inning. Elon first baseman Ryan Adams hit a two-out home run to center field for the Phoenix first run in the game. Jones answered for Alabama in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Tide a 9-1 lead. It was Jones' team-leading 16th home run of the season.
Kilcrease (7-2) held Elon in check through seven innings as he allowed one run on three hits with five strikeouts and two walks. He left the game after an 81-minute rain delay after throwing 99 pitches.
Following the delay, Alabama added two more runs for an 11-1 lead. Dugas and Rutledge led off the inning with back-to-back singles off Elon's third pitcher of the day, Dylan Clark. Clark unleashed a wild pitch that moved both runners into scoring position and Wilson posted his first RBI of the game with a ground out that scored Dugas. Jones followed with a line-drive double into the right field corner that scored Rutledge.
Elon scored an unearned run in the ninth against Hawley to make the final 11-2. Chris Bresnahan had a one-out, pinch-hit single and Grant McCoury followed with a pinch-hit double to send Bresnahan to third. An error in left field by freshman Brett Booth allowed Bresnahan to score.
*Alabama recorded 22 wins and played 38 games against the 2010 NCAA Tournament field. The 37 games are the most among the 64-team field while the 21 wins rank second to No. 1 seed Arizona State. The Sun Devils went 25-7 against the 64-team field this season.
*Alabama has won nine of its last 10 games dating back to May 15.
*Alabama improved to 47-37 all-time in NCAA Regional play with its win over Elon. The win was also the first NCAA Tournament win at Alabama for head coach Mitch Gaspard. Overall, Gaspard is 2-2 in NCAA Tournament play after a he compiled a 1-2 record at Northwestern State in the 2005 Baton Rouge Regional. Alabama's win over Elon snapped a four-game NCAA Tournament losing streak for the Tide.
*The top four hitters in the UA lineup - sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas, junior shortstop Josh Rutledge, junior second baseman Ross Wilson and senior first baseman Clay Jones were a combined 12-for-15 in the win over Elon with eight runs scored, two home runs and 10 RBI. The quartet accounted for 10 of the 11 runs and nine of the 17 hits.
*Dugas (4-for-5, 3 R, 2B, RBI) and Rutledge (4-for-5, 2 R, HR, RBI) were a combined 8-for-10 with five runs scored, one double, one home run and five RBI.
*Dugas had four hits and scored three runs in the win over Elon. It was his fifth career four-hit game for the Tide.
*Rutledge collected his seventh career four-hit game for the Tide. He drove in the first run of the game with an RBI single in the third inning and then added a three-run home run in UA's six-run fourth inning. It was his ninth home run of the season and his first career postseason home run.
*Jones was 3-for-3 with two runs scored, one home run and four RBI. He had a sacrifice fly in third inning and an RBI single in the Tide's six-run fourth inning. He added his team-leading 16th home run of the year in the sixth inning and capped the scoring with an RBI double in the seventh.
*Wilson was 1-for-4 with one run scored, one RBI and one stolen base.
*Junior RHP Nathan Kilcrease earned his first career NCAA postseason victory against Elon on Friday. The Phenix City, Ala., native worked seven innings and allowed one run on three hits with five strikeouts and two walks. He shut out the Phoenix through 5 2/3 innings before he allowed a two-out, solo home run to Ryan Adams.
*In his five starts this season, Kilcrease is 4-0 with a 3.18 ERA and one complete game. He has worked 39 2/3 innings and allowed 16 runs (14 ER) on 32 hits with 23 strikeouts and four walks.
*Freshman RHP Tucker Hawley threw innings in relief of Kilcrease. He allowed one unearned run on two hits and struck out two batters in his NCAA postseason debut.
*Alabama had seven players make their NCAA postseason debut on Friday against Elon. The list includes junior catcher Brock Bennett, freshman left fielder Brett Booth, freshman RHP Tucker Hawley, redshirt freshman DH Brandt Hendricks, sophomore left fielder Jon Kelton, freshman right fielder Andrew Miller and junior outfielder Cal Tinsley.
ALABAMA NCAA TOURNAMENT QUOTES
Head Coach Mitch Gaspard
"I thought for us it was just a complete game. I thought (starting pitcher) Nathan [Kilcrease] was outstanding from the first inning on, and we really got the offense going. We did a nice job executing early in the game, getting some bunts down and hit-and-runs and then some power showed up with Josh [Rutledge] and Clay [Jones]. I thought we played really well for nine innings today."
"This is a better offense than has shown up for most of the year, and I think right now you're starting to get some guys dialed in with guys who really have had good years throughout. Now we've got more guys clicking, so now you've got six or seven guys going well, rather than just two or so. When that happens, you score more runs."
On pitcher Nathan Kilcrease:
"I thought early he was just a little bit up in the zone, but still had the ability to make pitches when he needed to. One thing about Nathan--I believe that's his 32nd outing, his fifth start--but he's been the most consistent pitcher we've had all year."
Sophomore CF Taylor Dugas
On today's performance:
"I wanted to come out with a bang. This is a new season for us right now. We're trying to get to Omaha, and we wanted to come out and play well today."
On Elon's pitching:
"The first time through, we didn't do too much. Once you see a pitcher two times or the third time around, you start to pick up the ball a little bit better. We had a good idea with our scouting report of what he was going to do, so we took advantage of it."
Junior SS Josh Rutledge:
"I think we were seeing it pretty well today. It really helps when Taylor gets on and puts their pitcher in the stretch, and it just gives us a little more confidence. One through nine, I think we swung it well today."
On scoring the run against a tough left-hander:
"It's always good to get the first run, get you some momentum going, and then after that, I think we just started clicking. People got on and we were bunting them in, hitting them in, just whatever. It was just working for us all day."
Junior RHP Nathan Kilcrease
On his performance:
"Early on, I couldn't really get comfortable. I was leaving pitches up and then I'd leave them down. But I still made a couple of pitches and got out of jams. In the latter part of the game, I found my rhythm and kind of settled in a little bit and gave us a chance to win."
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