Ah, Nuts

HOOVER, Ala. – Ole Miss hitters made Peanut look like a Giant the last time they faced him. The Alabama starter, known by name as Nathan Kilcrease, pitched a complete game on Sunday in Tuscaloosa two weeks ago.

That was a rain-delayed 6-3 Crimson Tide win as the former junior right-handed closer, all 5-foot-6 of him, allowed just two earned runs and five hits in nine innings with seven strikeouts and two walks facing 31 Rebels.

Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard has gotten several complete games lately, and Peanut's was the second of the weekend against Ole Miss, joining Jimmy Nelson's nine-inning affair the day before, another Bama win.

"Our team has played with so much energy these past few games and that happens with quality starts," Gaspard said Wednesday after his seventh-seeded Crimson Tide knocked off second-seeded and SEC West champ Auburn 7-1 in the opening game of the SEC Tournament. "Today as the game got deeper, our energy in our dugout kept growing. Energy, confidence and timely hits wrapped up our game. I think our defense did great despite a few errors."

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said Kilcrease (5-2, 2.39 ERA, 4 saves) was effective when his team first faced him, and there's no reason to believe he won't be again.

Nathan Kilcrease

"He's been really terrific for them in this span," he said. "We'll certainly have our work cut out for us facing him and facing one of the hottest teams in the country."

Bianco said Alabama, now 35-21 on the season, had a terrific start, then stumbled a bit before finding its way again late in the season.

"They're playing really well," he said. "Since we won that game on Frday (a 5-4 UM victory) in Tuscaloosa, they haven't lost. This is an Alabama team that most people in our league thought they would be throughout. They started 16-1 and then struggled, which can happen. It happened to us. They're certainly playing their best ball of the year."

The sixth-seeded Rebels had nine hits but only got three runs in their impressive 3-0 shutout win of third-seeded South Carolina Wednesday to advance in the winner's bracket.

The Gamecocks meet Auburn at 9:30 a.m. today.

All the lower seeded teams won on day one. Top seed Florida fell to eighth seed LSU 10-6, while fifth seed Vanderbilt knocked off fourth seed Arkansas 2-0.

The Rebels, 37-20 now on the season, will send their regular No. 2 starter to the mound against Alabama. Aaron Barrett (7-3, 4.03 ERA) has 14 appearances, all starts, for the Rebels this season.

Aaron Barrett

In the 4-1 Saturday loss at Tuscaloosa, Barrett allowed one run on two hits in 6 2/3 innings with eight walks and seven strikeouts.

"He pitched great there in Tuscaloosa, although his walk numbers were a little high," Bianco said. "Some of that has to do with trying to be a little fine at times and not attacking. But he pitched well, and I know he knows them.

"One of the good things about playing a team like Alabama (which the Rebels played in mid-May) as opposed to South Carolina (that they played in mid-April), you feel like you just played them," Bianco continued. "They're fresh in your mind, and you know their pitchers and their hitters. But you still have to execute, make good pitches, and have good at-bats. They're a team that's playing really, really well right now."

Player comments from the win against USC:

Miles Hamblin on his two-run home run: "I've just been trying to swing the bat hard and put some good swings on it. I got it to 3-2, and got the pitch I wanted, got a good swing off, and good things happened."

Brett Huber on his 11th save of the season coming on the heels of his only blown save of the season vs. Auburn: "Being a closer, it's tough when that happens. Like Coach B(ianco) says, you've got to flush it if you want to be a good closer. When you go out there, you just want to make it pitch by pitch. And that's what I did today."

Drew Pomeranz on if the clock used in the tournament affected his rhythm any: "I actually kind of like the clock being like that. I felt like I needed to speed up my rhythm, and I don't know if that forced me to or if I just had it in the back of my mind. But I was getting out there, and my tempo and pitching was a lot better today, a lot more upbeat. I think that's what I've been missing the last couple of weeks. So I actually like the clock."

OM Spirit Top Stories