Alabama Plays Way Into Title Game
Alabama had qualified for the game against Georgia Tech by defeating Mercer, 5-3, earlier in the day.
Alabama and Georgia Tech will meet in a winner-take-all game Monday at 7:06 EDT (6:056 central time) for a berth in next week's NCAA Super Regionals. The game will be regionally televised by Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS).
It is almost hard to believe that just a few weeks ago Alabama's chances of advancing to the Southeastern Conference tournament were considered almost nil. The Tide has won 11 of its last 13 games.
Dugas hit one of three first inning home runs for Alabama and sophomore left hander Adam Morgan logged his third career complete game as the Crimson Tide defeated the Yellow Jackets for its second elimination-game win of the day.
Junior second baseman Ross Wilson went 3-for-3 with a two-run home run and score two runs for Alabama, which plated seven of its eight runs in the game's first two innings.
"Obviously there are two things, number one was the early offense," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "It all starts with Dugas' home run on the first pitch. We left the yard three times in the first inning, which has not been something we have done much this year. We had solid early offense to get the lead. Number two, Adam was just tremendous today. We felt like if we could get to this game, he would give us a really good chance to win.
"The combination of a real good offense and Morgan being really good on the mound and very sharp was a good combination to take us into tomorrow."
Alabama (40-23) scored five runs on three home runs in the first inning to take a 5-0 lead. Dugas slammed the first pitch he saw from Georgia Tech starter Brandon Cumpton over the right-center field wall to Alabama a 1-0 lead. It was Dugas' second home run of the year.
Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge and junior second baseman Ross Wilson walked to put runners at first and second with no outs. After senior first baseman Clay Jones struck out, senior third baseman Jake Smith drilled a 0-2 pitch over the center field wall to put the Tide up 4-0. It was Smith's 13th home run of the season and second of the day. He hit a game-tying home run in Alabama's 5-3 win over Mercer earlier in the day.
Sophomore left fielder Jon Kelton followed with a tape-measure home run to right field that staked UA to a 5-0 lead. It was his second homer of the year.
Dugas' leadoff home run was the first by an Alabama player since Emeel Salem stroked a leadoff home run against Georgia State on Feb. 27, 2007 in Tuscaloosa. Dugas is also the first UA player to lead off an NCAA Regional game with a home run since David Tidwell hit a leadoff homer against USC on May 25, 1997 in Tuscaloosa.
Georgia Tech got a run back on Matt Skole's 20th home run of the season to lead off the second inning.
Alabama answered with two more runs in the bottom of the second inning on Wilson's two-run home run to right field to extend the lead to 7-1. Rutledge stroked a two-out single to left and scored on Wilson's eighth home run of the season.
From there, Morgan and the Tide cruised. The Crimson Tide left-hander limited Georgia Tech to one run on five hits with nine strikeouts and one walk for this third career complete game and second in a row. It was the sixth complete game by an Alabama pitcher since May 15.
"I fed off of [the offense] a lot," Morgan said. "It's great to go into the second inning with a five-run lead. So I kind of pitched attacking them. I knew I had a shot at a bunch of lefties, so I just attacked them with the slider and got ahead of them with the fastball, and it was all great from there."
Morgan (7-4), who attended Kell High School in nearby Marietta, allowed two hits over the final six innings. He allowed only three batters to reach second base all night. Morgan retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced and at one point he sat down 10 straight Tech batters.
The Crimson Tide tacked on an insurance run in the seventh inning to increase its lead to 8-1. Rutledge reached on a two-base error by third baseman Matt Skole and scored on Wilson's RBI single to right center.
Alabama 5, Mercer 3
Alabama scored four runs with two outs in the second inning and freshman right-hander Tucker Hawley turned in a stellar relief outing as the No. 29 Crimson Tide eliminated Mercer with a 5-3 win Sunday afternoon.
Alabama scored four runs in the second inning to take a 4-1 lead. Senior third baseman Jake Smith hit a game-tying home run to put the Crimson Tide offense on the board.
"I thought it was big to come out and get those four runs in the second inning," Gaspard said. "It was great to get a lead and hold on. A lot of credit goes to Mercer. They pitched well and offensively we did not have a lot going for us."
The Crimson Tide then plated three runs with two outs to take the lead. Freshman right fielder Andrew Miller started the two-out rally with a single through the right side of the infield. Freshman DH Brett Booth kept the inning going with a single to right-center field to send Miller to third base. Booth moved into scoring position on the throw home.
Senior catcher Cody Trotter followed with a two-run single to left to score Miller and Booth to give Alabama a 3-1 lead. Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas followed with an RBI double down the left field line to score Trotter and give the Tide a 4-1 lead.
Mercer (38-23) had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning off UA starter Jason Townsend. Billy Burns singled and later scored on Thomas Carroll's sacrifice fly to give the Bears an early lead.
Townsend ran into more trouble in the third inning as Burns, Tyler McCarty and Jacob Tanis collected three straight hits to cut the UA lead to 4-2. Tanis' RBI single scored Burns and chased Townsend from the game. The junior right-hander allowed two runs on six hits in 2 1/3 innings.
Hawley replaced Townsend on the mound and put momentum back on Alabama's side as he got back-to-back fly outs from Carroll and Michael Langley as the Bears left the tying runs on base.
Hawley retired the first retired the first eight batters he faced before Mercer made it a one-run game in the sixth. Tanis and Carroll ripped back-to-back doubles to pull the Bears to within 4-3, but Hawley left the tying run at third base as Joe Winker popped up to left field and Nick Dimauro grounded out.
"I thought Tucker was the key," Gaspard added. "He held the lead and gave us some really good innings until Smith came in to close it for us at the end. The big thing today was to find a way to win the game and give ourselves a chance for tonight (vs. Georgia Tech) and that is what we were able to do."
Alabama added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 5-3 lead. Smith stroked a one-out single to center and moved to second when sophomore left fielder Jon Kelton drew a four-pitch walk. Miller then followed with an RBI single up the middle to score Smith and put the Tide in front 5-3.
Hawley (2-1) worked 4 2/3 innings and allowed one run on four hits with four strikeouts and no walks for his first career postseason win. In two tournament appearances, Hawley allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits in 6 2/3 innings with six strikeouts and no walks.
"I came out and tried to execute on the pitches that were called," Hawley said. "I worked down on the knees and tried to work ahead of the count as best as possible."
Smith, who hit a game-tying home run in the second inning, worked the final two innings for his fifth save of the season. He allowed two hits in two scoreless innings with two strikeouts and one walk. He stranded the tying runs on base in the ninth inning when he got Tanis to foul out with two runners on base to end the game.
*Alabama won two elimination games on Sunday afternoon with wins Mercer and Georgia Tech. Alabama had not won two elimination games in the same NCAA Regional since beating Nevada and Stanford at the 2000 Palo Alto (Calif.) Regional hosted by the Stanford Cardinal.
*Alabama and Georgia Tech will meet in a winner-take-all championship game on Monday, June 7, at 6:06 p.m. (CDT). The 2010 NCAA Atlanta Regional marks the Tide's 14th NCAA Regional championship appearance and first since 2006. Alabama is 6-7 in its previous 13 title games with victories in 1950, 1983, 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2006.
*Alabama has not won an NCAA Regional on the road since beating Miami and Florida State to capture the 1983 South Regional at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.
*The Crimson Tide won its 40th game of the season on Sunday night, its first 40-win season since the 2006 SEC Championship team posted a 44-21 record.
*Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard has had three 40-win seasons in his seven-year head coaching career. Gaspard had two 40-win seasons at Northwestern State in 2002 (43-17) and 2005 (41-20). Gaspard's 40 wins are the second-most by a first-year coach in Alabama history. Former head coach Jim Wells led the Tide to a 42-23 record in his rookie season in 1995..
*Alabama sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas homered on the first pitch of the game to give Alabama a 1-0 lead. It was the first leadoff home run by an Alabama since Emeel Salem's leadoff home run against Georgia State on Feb. 27, 2007 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
*Dugas' leadoff home run was the first by Alabama in an NCAA Regional game since David Tidwell led off the game with home run against Southern California on May 25, 1997 at Tuscaloosa. In fact, Tidwell and Joe Caruso hit back-to-back home runs to open the game as Alabama advanced to the College World Series with a 9-8 win over USC.
*Alabama hit three home runs in the first inning against Georgia Tech, its first three home run inning of the season. Dugas, senior third baseman Jake Smith and sophomore left fielder Jon Kelton all homered in the inning. Smith and Kelton hit back-to-back home runs, marking the second time this season the Tide has done that. Senior first baseman Clay Jones and Smith hit back-to-back homers against Mississippi Valley State on April 27, 2010.
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