Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Crimson Tide falls in SEC Championship game

Crimson Tide falls in SEC Championship game

Two weeks ago, the Alabama Crimson Tide baseball team was fighting for the eighth and final spot in the SEC Tournament. After a sweep of Tennessee, the Tide was in and at the seventh seed.

The Tide took its 7th seed placing and had an early game to start the SEC Tournament at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala., where they faced in-state rival and No. 2 seed Auburn.

First-year head coach Mitch Gaspard was celebrating his 45th birthday that day. Gaspard received a present from right-handed pitcher Jimmy Nelson, who pitched his third consecutive complete game, and the Tide defeated the Tigers 7-1.

The Tide then moved on to face Ole Miss. They were held scoreless until the fifth inning when Josh Rutledge hit an RBI single. From there, local Hoover native Ross Wilson took over, landing three hits and reaching base in all of his five plate appearances. The Tide defeated Ole Miss 6-3.

“Playing in Hoover helps a little bit,” Wilson said, “but it’s the postseason, so you always want to step up your game. Hopefully I’ve done that so far.”

After a day off, the Tide faced nationally ranked Florida. Left-handed pitcher Adam Morgan held the Gators to two runs as Jake Smith powered the Tide on the offensive side with a two-run RBI, capping off a 5-2 victory over the Gators and earning a spot in the SEC Championship, where the Tide would face LSU, the defending SEC and National Champions.

“This is what we work for,” Gaspard said. He’s the first coach to lead the Tide to a championship appearance in a first year as head coach.

The Tide got off to a rocky start when LSU catcher Matt Gauder hit a two-run RBI. One inning later, LSU third baseman Mike Mahtook hit a homerun, putting the Tigers up 3-0.

Then Wilson made a diving catch to stop LSU in the top of the 4th and hit an RBI in the bottom of the 4th to make the score 3-1.

In the fifth inning, the weather came down hard forcing an 82-minute rain delay. After the delay, in the seventh inning, right fielder Jon Kelton stole second and third, and Andrew Miller drove Kelton in making the score 3-2.

In the bottom of the 8th, Smith hit a curve ball into right field driving one run in, tying the game at 3-3.

With the momentum and the crowd behind the Tide, Smith took the mound getting all three batters out. With the bottom of the 9th coming up, the grounds crew was pulling out the tarp again. Over an hour later, the 9th inning resumed.

“We really wanted to play through,” Smith said. “We had the momentum on our side.”

The Tide could not carry the momentum in the bottom of the 9th as LSU Pitcher Anthony Renaudo quickly got three outs.

In the 10th inning, Wilson was walked. He immediately stole 2nd, and then an LSU error helped him steal third during the same play.

With Wilson in position for the winning run, Smith stepped up to the plate and blasted the first pitch into right field. At the last second the wind took it hard right becoming foul. Two pitches later, Smith struck out.

In the top of the 11th, LSU pinch-runner Matt Furer had a single, and Tyler Hanover drove Furer in on a RBI, making the score 4-3.

After two quick outs the Tide had its chance to win the game, but Renaudo struck out all three batters, giving LSU their third consecutive SEC Championship.

Although the Tide bullpen couldn’t come though for this game, they made a big difference in the past two weeks.

“The starting pitchers have been great,” Gaspard said. “And when they are great your team has confidence. This time of year you need confidence to win, but you really need a handful of great starting pitchers with good defense, and we have that.

“Although we would of like to have won today, our team will walk away with a lot of confidence and will take it into whatever regional we end up in”

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