May 26, 2011 8:02:00 AM
HOOVER, Ala. -- The University of Alabama baseball team used a five-run first inning and a solid effort by starting pitcher Nathan Kilcrease on Wednesday in a 7-4 victory against the No. 18 University of Arkansas in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament at Regions Park.
Kilcrease struck out a career-high 10 to help the seventh-seeded Crimson Tide (33-24) advance to play at 4:30 p.m. today against third-seeded Florida. Alabama will start left-hander Adam Morgan (5-5, 3.89 ERA).
"Nathan (Kilcrease) has delivered for us time and time again, and today was no different," Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. "It seems like every time we need one, he gives us one of his best outings. Today he had the most strikeouts he''s had in a game, and it came against an SEC opponent. I thought our team competed really hard, and in an early game, came out ready to play."
Kilcrease, the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week, tied his season and career-high with 10 strikeouts, to keep the SEC Western Division champion and second-seeded Razorbacks quiet. He allowed four runs (one earned) on seven hits in eight innings. Jonathan Smart pitched a scoreless ninth inning to pick up his 10th save.
The Crimson Tide collected 11 hits en route to a win in the first game of the SEC tournament for the second season in a row. Taylor Dugas, Brett Booth, Andrew Miller, and Jared Reaves each had two hits for Alabama. Dugas was 2-for-4 with a home run, a walk, and two runs scored. Booth, who is hitting .407 (11-for-27) with a team-high six RBIs in the past seven games, was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
Miller had a single and a double, drove in one, and scored once, and Reaves had a pair of singles. Hunter Gregory was 1-for-3 with two RBIs.
Alabama posted its biggest first inning of the season, scoring five runs and chasing starting and losing pitcher Randall Fant (3-4) before the inning ended. Fant lasted just 2/3 of an inning, allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits. The Crimson Tide finished the inning with five hits, including a two-run single by Booth, an RBI double by Miller, and an RBI bunt single by Gregory. The first run scored when Fant balked with the bases loaded.
"We got off to a really quick start," Gaspard said. "I thought the balk really energized us and got us started. Then we delivered some key hits and took advantage of some opportunities. With Kilcrease on the mound we felt pretty good, cause we knew he would pound the strike zone and carry us the rest of the way."
After back-to-back one out singles by Booth and Miller in the third, Gregory''s sacrifice bunt scored Booth to extend Alabama''s lead to 6-0. Arkansas got to Kilcrease in the fifth, scoring three unearned runs to cut the deficit to 6-3. A single by Collin Kuhn drove in the first run and a double by James McCann pushed across two.
Alabama got a run back in the sixth when Dugas hit his team-leading sixth home run of the season. Dugas blasted a 3-1 pitch over the right-field fence off reliever Brandon Moore. Moore took over for Fant and threw 8 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits with two strikeouts.
Arkansas got the run back in the bottom half of the inning when a sacrifice fly by Tim Carver scored Matt Reynolds, who doubled to lead off the inning, to account for the final margin.
n South Carolina 7, Auburn 3: Michael Roth recovered from a shaky start to pitch eight scoreless innings as South Carolina defeated Auburn.
The loss damages the Tigers'' chances of making the NCAA tournament. Auburn (29-28) must win today''s elimination game against Georgia to have a winning record, which is a requirement for NCAA tournament eligibility.
The Tigers scored three times in the first inning, but Roth (11-3) settled down after that, allowing three hits the rest of the way. He retired the final 13 batters in recording the Gamecocks'' first complete game of the season.
South Carolina (45-12) tied the game 3-3 in the second with four consecutive hits off Jon Luke Jacobs (1-5).
n Vanderbilt 10, Georgia 0, seven innings: Tony Kemp drove in three runs and two Vanderbilt pitchers combined to throw a one-hitter in Vanderbilt''s run-rule shortened victory against Georgia.
The Commodores (45-9) scored four times in bottom of the seventh to end the game, which was shortened by the 10-run mercy rule.
Vanderbilt starter T.J. Pecoraro gave up one hit before leaving the game in the fourth inning with a forearm injury on his right arm. His replacement, Kevin Ziomek, allowed no hits over the final 3 2-3 innings.
The Commodores had 14 hits, 11 of them off starter Michael Palazzone.
Vanderbilt will play South Carolina in the second round, while Georgia (28-29) will face Auburn in an elimination game.
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