In Defeat, Tide Makes Statement

It's not often that the story of a game is the effort of the losing team, but Alabama's dramatic comeback, albeit a comeback that came up a bit short, is the memory of the NCAA Super Regional baseball final at Clemson Monday. The final score was Clemson 8, Alabama 6, but the Crimson Tide won a lot of admiration for its courageous effort.

"I've been coaching for 24 years as an assistant and a head coach, and I've never been more proud of a team than this group," first year Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "The way we finished up the season over the last month, the way we competed, was as good as any I've ever seen. To put ourselves back into a position to win the game in the ninth inning speaks volumes about our team. I couldn't be more proud to be the coach of this Alabama baseball team."

Clemson took an 8-1 to the bottom of the ninth (Alabama was the designated home team). The Crimson Tide scored five runs with two outs and had the tying runs on base and the winning run at the plate before the Tigers were able to get the final out.

Alabama scored five two-out runs in the ninth inning against Clemson to continue its postseason success with two outs. In 12 postseason games, Alabama scored 38 of its 73 runs with two outs.

Alabama finished the season with a 42-25 overall record and one win from the College World Series. The Crimson Tide closed the season by winning 13 of its last 17 games.

Alabama recorded its 14th 40-win season in school history in 2010. The complete list of 40-win seasons include 1981 (41-15-1), 1983 (46-11), 1986 (46-20), 1991 (42-20), 1995 (42-23), 1996 (50-19), 1997 (56-14), 1998 (46-18), 1999 (53-16), 2000 (41-24), 2002 (51-15), 2005 (40-23), 2006 (44-21) and 2010 (42-25).

Gaspard said, "First of all, congratulations to Clemson. Offensively, they were really good. The last two games, they really jumped on us with their offense. They put a lot of really good swings on a lot of pitches. They were able to extend their lead. Pitching-wise, I thought we battled really hard. They just continued to put the barrel on a lot of balls."

Gaspard was optimistic as Alabama began its ninth-inning comeback. "You've got to come out and have something to get you going," Gaspard said. "Jake (Smith) drew a walk. Then, all of a sudden (Brett) Booth hits a home run. Before you know it, you've got a couple of guys on and string a couple of hits together. That's when the belief started happening. (Clay) Jones got on with the error. The way this last month has played out, I felt pretty good with Jake Smith up in that spot with two outs. He's run into some balls pretty good this weekend. He's a guy we wanted up in that situation, and I thought he put a pretty good swing on it."

Although Alabama starter Nathan Kilcrease didn't have one of his better outings and took the loss, Kilcrease has been one of the true stars for the Tide in Bama's stretch run. He didn't dwell on Monday's loss, focusing instead on the fabulous finish to the season.

"It's been awesome," Kilcrease said. "The way we've played together has just been unbelievable. We keep believing and battling, just like that ninth inning, all the way until the last pitch. I've never been a part of a team like that and it's just been awesome."

Second baseman Ross Wilson said, "For the longest time, we were scratching and clawing trying to get out of the funk we were in and it just happened one day. Everything started clicking like we knew it could. Pitching, hitting, defense; we kept getting key hits. I've been proud of all our guys. It's been a fun ride. We tried to just ride that wave out and unfortunately we didn't get to our ultimate goal but it's been fun."

Clemson Coach Jack Leggett said, "That was a tremendous game for us. I thought we came out to play offensively and we did a great job of scoring two runs in the second inning, two in the third and two in the fourth to keep the pressure on Alabama. We were swinging the bat really well and had some great at bats on a good pitcher."

Alabama finished the season with a .977 fielding percentage, the highest in school history. The previous record was a .971 fielding mark in set in 1996 and 2009.

Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas went 1-for-5 and scored two runs in the loss to Clemson. Dugas finished the season with a team-leading .395 (96-for-243) average in 67 games.

Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge had two hits in the season finale and finished the year with 107 hits, tying G.W. Keller (1999) for the second most in a season in school history. David Magadan (1983) holds the single-season record with 114 hits.

Rutledge finished the season with 69 RBI to set the Alabama single season record for most RBI by a shortstop. The previous record was 66 RBI held by Andy Phillips in 1999. Rutledge is also the first Alabama shortstop to lead the team in RBI since Steve Houlberg (28 RBI) in 1978.

Junior second baseman Ross Wilson had two hits and two RBI in the loss to Clemson. Wilson was the Tide's leading hitter this postseason with a .415 (17-for-41) average with two home runs and nine RBI. He was second on the team with 10 runs scored.

Freshman Brett Booth hit a two-run home run in the Tide's five-run ninth inning on Monday. It was his second home run of the season and first career postseason home run. In eight postseason games, Booth hit .357 (10-for-29) with one home run and four RBI. He added two doubles and scored five runs.

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