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

Tide sweeps Flames, stays unbeaten

Mitch Gaspard and the Alabama baseball team found out there’s more than one way to skin a cat over the weekend, defeating the University of Illinois-Chicago in two very different ends of a doubleheader Saturday to complete a sweep of the Flames and move to 5-0 for the first time since 2002.

After earning a 9-4 victory on Friday, the Crimson Tide finished 25-1 in the early afternoon game before taking the third contest of the series down to the final at-bat in a tight 4-3 decision.

“Through five games, we’ve won in about every facet of the game,” Gaspard said. “It’s a feel-good for us right now after five games, but there are still some things we need to get better at.”

The final notes of the Star-Spangled Banner were still echoing at the Joe when the Tide had effectively won the first dip, piling up 15 runs in the first three innings, including seven in the third frame.

“It was just one of those types of games that got away from them really early,” Gaspard said.

The most damage was done by freshman left fielder Bret Booth, who made his first career Alabama home run count by sending a UIC offering with the bases loaded cascading through the Coleman Coliseum parking lot for a grand slam.

“It was great,” Booth said. “When I saw that fastball come in, I just put a really good swing on it.”

Booth had an impressive series in his first starting action, earning a hit in all three games and scraping together six RBIs for the series. Gaspard was asked after the final game whether the freshman had forced his way into the regular lineup.

“Yes,” Gaspard said. “He hasn’t had a whole lot of reps in left field but he’s a confident kid… we gave him some extended playing time, and he certainly took advantage of it.”

The starters would enter the game for the fourth, with the Alabama reserves batting a combined 10-for-15, led by sophomore first baseman John Kelton’s 2-for-3 abbreviated day that included three RBIs.

The reserves’ best work was yet to come, however. With the Tide finishing the first game after seven innings due to the run rule, the second game took on a different flavor. After a three-run burst in the fourth inning, the potent Alabama offense was shut down until the bottom of the ninth.

With the score knotted at three apiece, junior catcher Brock Bennett reached on an error. Redshirt freshman Brandt Hendricks executed an aggressive hit-and-run single that pushed Bennett to third, where junior John David Smelser lay down the second pitch on a perfect bunt that scored Bennett on a safety squeeze to finish the contest.

Smelser said he had missed the call to bunt on the first pitch, and the frigid look from Gaspard inspired him to make sure he executed.

“I swung at the first pitch and fouled it off, and when I looked over there I could tell he was kind of mad,” Smelser said.

The aggressive late strategy has been a point of emphasis for Gaspard, who has yet to see it fail to win a contest for the Tide this season. But more impressively, at least Saturday, was that none of the heroic trio of Bennett, Hendricks or Smelser started the contest.

“I just felt like late, hey, let’s be aggressive,” Gaspard said. “As I told the team, the key to playing a lot of guys and those bench players, when they can come in and execute as they are we can put a good team together.”

The Tide faces Samford in Birmingham on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and follows up with a neutral site contest against Georgia at Regions Park on Wednesday.

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