Tide Shells State 21-7 In Saturday Game-One

TUSCALOOSA – Alabama batters uncorked four home runs, three in the seventh inning and two of those by second baseman Ross Wilson, as the Crimson Tide overpowered Mississippi State 21-7 in game-one of a Saturday doubleheader at Sewell-Thomas Field. Game two was to begin at 6:15.

Ten Alabama runs were scored via longballs, with catcher Alex Avila smacking a three-run shot in the fourth inning and designated hitter Del Howell smashing a grand-slam in the seventh. That slam came in-between Wilson's shots for one and two RBI which made for a eight-run frame in all. This was Alabama's first 20-run SEC effort since 2001; and the first time the Tide hung twenty on a Bulldog team since 1946.

State starter Chad Crosswhite (2-3) took the loss, giving up the first nine Alabama runs in his four complete innings of work. The junior righthander was hit nine times and walked a pair with no strikeouts. Four of his runs were unearned, as State would record three official errors in the contest.

Righthander Austin Hyatt had a better stint for the home side, and with offensive support was able to work into the sixth inning despite being touched for eleven base hits and five runs. Hyatt (3-3) struck out three and walked three before a pair of Tide relievers ran out the rest of the affair.

After the shelling it wasn't easy to recall that Mississippi State scored first, though only after leaving runners at third base in the opening two innings as Hyatt stranded CF Grant Hogue and 2B Jet Butler 90 feet from home. And when the Bulldogs did get on the board in their third, as 1B Tyler Moore dropped a hit between the right- and center-fielders to drive in LF Jason Nappi, there was still some waste of opportunity as Moore tried stretching the safety and was thrown out at second base.

Leaving men un-scored stung more as Alabama tripled that output in the bottom of the frame. The first two runners reached on infield singles, though 3B Russ Sneed's scoop-and-throw of a Brandon May dribbler was very close at first base. The safe ruling meant Avila got to deliver a drive to right-centerfield for a triple and two RBI. Matt Bentley followed suit with another safety to the same location, scoring Avila, but his footwork wasn't as fast and Bentley was thrown out at third to end the inning.

Still Alabama led 3-1, and Coach Ron Polk—not happy about May's hit or a close 2-2 ball call to Avila—got himself ejected between innings. So he did not see the Tide blow it open with six runs in their fourth. Howell singled and came all the way around on a Jake Smith double to left-centerfield. Then with two on and two outs Josh Rutledge singled in Smith. May's grounder was errored at shortstop, allowing Alex Kubal to make the plate and putting a pair on for Avila.

The 1-1 offering from Crosswhite was crushed off the centerfield wall above the home-run mark for a three-run blast.

Singles by Hogue, RF Ryan Collins, and DH Cody Freeman made it a 9-2 margin at the half-way point. State also made the mound-change for the bottom of the fifth with freshman Forrest Moore sent to the hill. A leadoff walk, single through the right side, and errored grounder by Sneed scored Rhoden, and it took Butler's stab of a Rutledge liner and step on the middle-bag to make it just a one-run inning.

Consecutive doubles by Sneed and C Ryan Duffy started State's sixth with one run, and Hogue's fly ball to centerfield let Duffy come home on the sacrifice. Walks of Collins and Nappi brought righthander Austin Graham from the bullpen to deal with loaded bases and one out and fourth-batter Freeman swinging.

Graham's 1-2 got away from catcher Avila but SS Ryan Powers wasn't taking the chance. On full count Freeman missed another pitch in the dirt for out-two. Graham pushed his bouncing pitches too often though as a curve in the dirt got away from the backstop for a free Bulldog run, before T.Moore fanned on full-count. Avila didn't drive in a run in the Tide sixth but did score. F.Moore walked him and May and Bentley bunted both in position to score, which they did as Rhoden took the first pitch into leftfield.

Any home-crowd concerns the lead wasn't secure were settled by the seventh-inning onslaught, which began with Wilson lifting a fly to leftfield that carried over the wall for a leadoff homer. F.Moore had two outs and two on when Bentley check-swung but made enough contact for a RBI-single, 14-5 scoreboard, and change on the mound. Except Greg Houston filled all posts with a walk of Rhoden, then served up a fat first pitch that Howell sailed over left-centerfield for his first career grand slam—and only second college home run.

That wasn't all, as Smith singled and Wilson got to take another hack. This time it was a no-doubter that leftfielder Nappi just watched and the 19th and 20th Tide runs scored.

Lefty Will Stroup was given the last two innings to toss and gave up State's other runs. Andy Rice took a pitch off the helmet, made third on a right-corner double by Nick Hardy, and scored on Freeman's fly ball. An errored grounder let Hardy come home. That only mattered on the stat sheet, as did Kent Matthes' infield single in the Tide eighth to score Rutledge.

Alabama totaled 22 hits off the three State hurlers, seven for extra bases. The Dogs did manage 14 hits with five doubles but knocked nothing near the fences on the fly.

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