More than a loss for
the Crimson Tide
By Vince Ferrara
Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com
HOOVER, Ala. - In Game 4 of the first round of
the SEC Baseball Tournament at Regions Park, the fifth-seed
South Carolina Gamecocks (38-19) defeated the fourth-seed
Alabama Crimson Tide (37-18) 9-5 in 11 innings. The Top 4 seeds
all lost on Day 1 of the tournament.
What looked like a great night early for the
Alabama baseball team turned into a grueling and intense 3:57
game that ended at 1:54 a.m. CT Thursday morning with
frustration and devastation. Alabama's All-SEC third baseman
Jake Smith suffered an unspecified leg injury trying to reach
safely on the final out of the game at first base. Smith
extended his stride while stepping on the bag and immediately
collapsed in pain grabbing his right leg. He had an inflatable
air cast put on his leg and was driven off in an ambulance. The
injury to Smith overshadowed a frustrating night for the Crimson
Tide that included Alabama's head coach getting ejected late in
the game, numerous missed opportunities and a catcher having to
play left field. Alabama could be staring at the possibility of
not having one of its best players for the rest of the
Alabama head coach Jim Wells talked about the
prospect of losing Smith. "It hurts us all the way around, he's
such a good player. Pitching, he was just getting back to where
we could use him on the mound. We wanted to use him a couple of
times. What happened to Jake is way more important than any
other stuff. It would be a blow to us for sure because he's a
two-way player that hit .360 with 17 home runs."
jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first off South Carolina starter
Blake Cooper (right) on Brandon May's two-run double and Smith's
sacrifice fly. The Tide added a run in the fourth on Josh
Rutledge's RBI groundout which made it 4-0.
South Carolina's DeAngelo Mack hit a two-run
single in the fifth to cut the lead to two, 4-2. In the top of
the sixth, Adam Matthews hit a three-run home run off of Alabama
starter Del Howell to put the Gamecocks up 5 to 4.
In the seventh, Kent Matthes hit a solo home run
to tie the game at 5. That's Matthes' 28th home-run of the
season, which gives him sole possession of the all-time Alabama
single-season home run record. He also now leads the nation in
home runs, one more than Middle Tennessee's Bryce Brentz with 27
at the moment. Matthes is the SEC Player of the Year.
Alabama leads the SEC in virtually every
offensive category. However, the Tide could only notch eight
hits and left 13 men on base.
"Offensively we've got to control the outer half
of the plate," Wells said. "People are really attacking that
part of the plate and making us go the other way. The offense
has carried us the entire year. We would not be here without
them. We just need to make an adjustment there because people
will continue to attack us in the same way."
South Carolina's Jackie Bradley Jr. went 3 for 6
and the bullpen pitched 4.1 innings of scoreless relief.
Alabama reliever Nathan Kilcrease pitched well in
relief for Alabama before getting into trouble to start the top
of the 11th. Reserve catcher Kyle Moore was called on to play
left field after Taylor Dugas left with an injury and Tyler Odle
was pinch-hit for in the 10th. With one out, Moore misjudged a
line drive off the bat of Adam Matthews, which was ruled a
double. Bobby Haney then hit a bloop single over third to put
runners on the corners. Kilcrease then hit Scott Wingo with a
pitch to load the bases.
Jimmy Nelson then entered the game in the 11th.
He allowed the go-ahead run to score on a wild pitch that went
to the backstop to make it 6-5 South Carolina. Nelson would then
issue two more walks, record a strikeout, give-up a two-run
double and get an inning-ending groundout. The damage, though,
was done with Gamecocks up 9-5 headed to the bottom of the 11th.
Brandon May's two-out walk loaded the bases for
Alabama in the bottom of the 11th, bringing the tying run to the
plate in Jake Smith. Smith then grounded out to end the game and
a South Carolina 9-5 win.
"Hyatt will go tomorrow," Wells said. "Hyatt will
do his job. He's done it for 14 weeks. He'll certainly keep us
in the game. Hyatt is the right guy to go to the mound, sure
South Carolina will take on Vanderbilt on
Thursday (8:30 p.m. CT) and Alabama will play LSU in an
elimination game on Thursday (1:30 p.m. CT).
#2 Florida vs. #3 Ole Miss is next, Thursday
morning...in a few hours!
(photo by Jimmy Jones)