June 4, 2010
ATLANTA – A three-run home run by Josh Rutlege ignited a six-run fourth inning for Alabama and pitcher Nathan Kilcrease threw a seven-inning gem as the Crimson Tide cruised past Elon 11-2 Friday in the opening game of the NCAA Atlanta Baseball Regional.
Alabama (38-22), which won for the ninth time in its last 10 games, will play Saturday at 7 p.m. against host Georgia Tech. Elon (38-23) will face Mercer Saturday at 3 p.m. in an elimination game.
The winner of the four-team, double-elimination Atlanta Regional will advance to next week’s Super Regional against the winner of the Auburn Regional.
Alabama, which fell to LSU in last week’s SEC Tournament finals, made short work of Elon despite a 1-hour, 21-minute weather delay. Nos. 1-4 in the Crimson Tide batting order – Taylor Dugas, Rutledge, Ross Wilson and Clay Jones – combined for 12 hits and 10 RBI. Lead-off hitter Taylor Dugas and Rutledge were both 4-for-5 at the plate.
While Alabama flexed its muscles on offense, it was Kilcrease who kept Elon’s bats quiet all day long. Kilcrease allowed just three hits and one run in seven innings while striking out five. Reliever Tucker Hawley came in to mop up the final two innings after the rain delay.
“I thought for us it was just a complete game,” Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. “I thought Nathan (Kilcrease) was outstanding from the first inning on, and we really got the offense going.”
“Early on, I couldn’t really get comfortable,” Kilcrease said. “I was leaving pitches up and then I’d leave them down. But I still made a couple of pitches and got out of jams. In the latter part of the game, I found my rhythm and kind of settled in a little bit and gave us a chance to win.”
Alabama struck first in the bottom of the third inning when the first four Crimson Tide batters reached base. Brock Bennett led off the inning with back-to-back singles to put runners on the corner, then Josh Rutledge singled to center field to score Bennett and give Alabama a 1-0 lead. After Ross Wilson walked, Clay Jones hit a sacrifice fly to score Dugas, giving the Tide a 2-0 lead.
The wheels came off for Elon in the bottom of the fourth when Alabama used a three-run home run by Rutledge to take a commanding 8-0 lead.
Andrew Miller led off the Alabama fourth inning with a walk. One out later, Bennett walked, followed by a Dugas double to score Bennett. That set the stage for Rutledge, who slammed a three-run homer over the left-field wall to give the Crimson Tide a 6-0 lead. Not satisfied, `Bama scored another run when Wilson singled, stole second and scored on a Jones single up the middle. That chased Elon starter Jimmy Reyes from the game and reliever J.D. Reichenbach was greeted by a Jake Smith single. Jones scored one out later on a nifty sacrifice bunt by Jon Kelton.
“I just thought that early in the game we were behind in a lot of counts,” Elon coach Mike Kennedy said. “We couldn’t get the first guy out. I think we did the first couple of innings, but we couldn’t after that. There were three or four innings in a row where the first guy of the inning got on base, which put pressure on us.”
Reyes, a southpaw who entered the game with a 10-3 record and a 3.97 ERA, allowed eight hits and eight earned runs in three and one-thirds innings.
“I definitely didn’t have my best stuff today,” Reyes said. “You can’t have it every time out, but you have to compete and get through it. I wasn’t able to do that today.”
Kilcrease, meanwhile, was cruising, allowing just one hit through the first five innings before Elon’s Ryan Adams belted a two-out solo home run to the deepest part of the park (left-center).
The Crimson Tide added a run in the bottom of the sixth when Jones belted a solo home run to give Alabama a 9-1 advantage.
With rain and lightning hovering over Midtown Atlanta, the umpires stopped the game after the top of the seventh. Play resumed one hour and 21 minutes later.
`Bama upped its lead to 11-1 in the bottom of the seventh when Dugas and Rutledge both collected their fourth hits of the game with back-to-back one-out singles. Dugas crossed the plate on a Wilson ground-out and Rutledge scored on a double down the right-field line by Jones.
Mercer scored the final run of the game in the top of the ninth when pinch-hitter Chris Bresnahan singled and scored on a double down the left-field line by Grant McCoury.