June 7, 2010
ATLANTA – Jake Smith drove in four runs with a pair of hits and a bases-loaded walk, and Nathan Kilcrease shut out the Yellow Jackets on five hits over the final five innings, lifting Alabama to a 10-8 win over Georgia Tech and the championship of the NCAA Atlanta Baseball Regional at Russ Chandler Stadium.
The Crimson Tide (41-23), who came out of the loser’s bracket and beat the Yellow Jackets (47-15) twice to win the regional, advances to face Clemson in a Super Regional next weekend in Clemson, S.C. The Tigers defeated Auburn Monday night.
After a 2-0 start that included a 5-2 win over the Crimson Tide in the winner’s bracket game Saturday night, Tech couldn’t hold off Alabama’s bats Sunday and Monday. The Tide scored 18 runs in last two meetings.
Monday night, Alabama rallied from a 6-3 deficit with a five-run fourth inning, then turned to its earned run average leader, Nathan Kilcrease (8-2), who pitched the final six innings and earned the win. After giving up a pair of runs on four hits in his first inning of work, he allowed just four hits the rest of the way, striking out eight and leaving two Jackets stranded in both the eighth and ninth innings.
It was Kilcrease’s second win of the tournament, following a seven-inning start for the win against Elon in Alabama’s opening game, and he was named the regional’s most outstanding player. He threw 107 pitches, two days after tossing 99 in his start Friday.
“This was a tough ballgame to lose,” said Tech head coach Danny Hall. “I’m proud of the way our team battled. Many times it comes down to a pitch, a play, an at-bat. We kind of let the game get out of hand, but the five-run inning definitely hurt. I felt like we had great at-bats and the right people to the plate trying to comeback.
“Kilcrease did a good job of using his pitches and throwing strikes. It seemed like we’d hit a ball hard off him and it would be either barely land foul or go right to somebody.”
Both teams piled on the scoring early. Alabama struck first with two in the first on Smith’s double, and Tech answered with four in its half, courtesy of two-run home runs by Derek Dietrich and Chase Burnette.
Jacob Esch, who like Burnette had three hits for the Yellow Jackets, singled and scored on Tony Plagman’s ground out in the second for a 5-2 Tech advantage. Alabama cut into the lead in the third on Smith’s RBI single, but Tech got the run back in its half with three straight hits, including Esch’s RBI single for a 6-3 lead.
But Tech starter Jed Bradley couldn’t hold it, giving up five runs in the fourth to put the Tide ahead 8-6. Josh Rutledge drove home two with a double, and Clay Jones followed two batters later with a three-run homer, his 17th of the season.
Bradley stuck it out for five innings, but when he gave up a single to Taylor Dugas to start the sixth, Hall lifted him in favor of Patrick Long. After getting Rutledge to line out, Long walked three straight batters to force in Dugas with the go-ahead run. It proved to be the winning run and Bradley (9-5) was charged with the loss as a result.
Taylor Wood replaced Long and gave up an RBI fielder’s choice grounder to Jon Kelton before ending the rally on an Andrew Miller ground out. Alabama now led, 10-8, and Tech could do no more damage against Kilcrease.
“Our team battled to get guys on base to give ourselves a chance to win in the ninth inning,” said Hall, whose team put two runners on in each of the last two innings. “In the eighth inning, we had the right guys up there, but we couldn’t quite get the hit we needed. In the ninth, we ended up having (Derek) Dietrich up there with the game still hanging the balance. We just couldn’t quite get it done.”
In addition to Kilcrease, the Atlanta Regional all-tournament team included DH Ross Wilson, shortstop Rutledge, third baseman Smith and outfielder Dugas of the Crimson Tide; first baseman Tony Plagman, second baseman Esch, outfielder Burnette and pitcher Deck McGuire of Georgia Tech, catcher Alex Swim of Elon and outfielder Billy Burns of Mercer.