Tide earns opening day win

Spencer White

Riding a strong pitching performance and four offensive bursts, the Alabama Crimson Tide baseball team began the Mitch Gaspard era with a dominant team win, cruising past the South Alabama Jaguars 12-4 Saturday afternoon in front of an opening day crowd of 4,848.

“It feels good to get started,” Gaspard said. “We had a great day to play, had a good crowd, and I thought we played with good energy for nine innings.”

Earning the first start of the 2010 season, sophomore Adam Morgan didn’t disappoint, hurling his way to a six-inning, 11-strikeout performance. The fan mark was a career-high for Morgan, who threw had 55 of his 64 pitches called for strikes.

“I just had a good day,” Morgan said.

The Tide pitchers as a whole (Morgan, Jason Townsend and Brett Whitaker) surrendered a mere five hits and a single walk. The trio also recorded 15 strikeouts.

“I thought [Morgan] was outstanding,” Gaspard said. “Then, obviously, the bullpen came in and did a nice job as well.”

Little seemed to go wrong for Morgan, even after a potentially disastrous fourth inning. First, Morgan’s perfect game came to a halt after the top two South Alabama batters popped off back-to-back hits. A strikeout and a sacrifice gave the sophomore a chance to end the damage at a single run, but a poor pitch selection saw its way over the left field fence at the bat of Jaguar first baseman Tyler Vick and tied the contest at 3-3.

“I just sped his bat up,” Morgan said. “I threw two fastballs away … then I threw a breaking ball that just sped his bat up, and he got a hold of it.”

No problem for the Tide, who rattled off a four-run counter punch in the bottom of the inning. Freshman right field Andrew Miller, a replacement for departed Major League draftee Kent Matthews, was the catalyst for the inning as he slammed a two-run single on a 3-2 pitch to get the rally started.

In total, the Tide would put together four separate innings of at least two runs, wearing out four South Alabama pitchers in the process, beginning with starter Jarrett Bailey, who took the loss for the Jaguars.

“We always talk about if they put up a run, we need to put one right back on,” All-American second baseman Ross Wilson said. “That’s what you’ve got to do to win.”

Wilson did nothing to denounce his accolades, cobbling together a solid 3-for-5 performance that included an RBI and a run.

“Great weather, great crowd, the fans were into it,” Wilson said. “We just played well in all phases of the game.”

Jake Smith carried the offensive high mark for the Tide, going 4-for-5 with two RBIs from the five spot. It was an especially triumphant start for Smith, who saw his season end prematurely last year with torn ankle ligaments in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

“It’s real big to come out and start fast,” Smith said. “Especially [after the injury] for me to get off to a good start to help the team win.”

Tide rallies to Sunday win

In Sunday action, the Tide scored four runs in the final two innings to erase a two-run deficit and post 5-3 come-from-behind over South Alabama in front of 3,273 fans at Stanky Field in Mobile to complete the two-game sweep.

“Today was really good to see on our side because we were facing their No. 1 guy and really had to compete and work for everything we got today,” Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said.

Alabama returns to action next weekend at home against Illinois-Chicago.  The series opener is set for Friday, Feb. 26 at 6:35 p.m.  The two teams will close out the three-game series on Saturday, Feb. 27 with a double header at 12:05 p.m.

Information from UA Athletics was used in this report.