Morgan's eight innings propel Tide
Arkansas drops fourth game in a row
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - A standout start from junior lefty Adam Morgan helped secure the 5-3 victory for No. 21 Alabama (21-8, 7-1 SEC) against the 13th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks (18-8, 2-6 SEC), at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
"Morgan had a quality start and it's just been the same formula that it's been," UA head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "He took us deep into the game and Smart's been able to come in and close them out."
Morgan (4-1) won his second conference game of the season to improve his record to 2-0 in SEC play, after going eight innings, allowing only two runs on six hits, while walking two and striking out a season-high seven batters. Morgan has now struck out five or more batters in each of this three SEC starts (6 vs. Mississippi, 5 vs. Kentucky).
Brett Booth had a solid day at the dish, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs and one walk and Brant Hendricks added a pair of hits and an RBI. Austen Smith also continued to excel at the plate, going 1-for-4 with a double and two runs scored. Smith is now 3-for-8 with a double, a triple, four RBIs and two runs for the weekend.
Alabama closer Jonathan Smart came in for the ninth to earn his seventh save of the season, his fifth in SEC play, and second of the weekend. Arkansas starter DJ Baxendale (5-1) took the loss for the Hogs. The win is the Tide's seventh straight in SEC play.
For the second straight game, Alabama benefited greatly from some shaky defense by the Razorbacks. Arkansas committed three errors in the game, leading to three unearned runs.
The Razorbacks struck first in the top of the second thanks to a solo blast from James McCann that lead off the inning to give Arkansas the early 1-0 lead.
Alabama answered in the bottom of the inning. Smith continued to stay hot against Arkansas, leading off the inning with a double. He would cross the plate three batters later when Hendricks slammed a double to left to even the score at 1-1.
The Tide took its first lead of the game in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single from Booth that scored Josh Rosecrans, who singled to reach base three batters earlier, and put the Tide ahead, 2-1.
Alabama added another run to its lead in the bottom of the sixth. With runners on first and second and two outs, Booth singled up the middle, over the head of the Hogs' pitcher, setting the score at 3-1.
Arkansas chipped away at the Tide lead in the top of the seventh adding one of run of its own. The Hogs added a tally on an infield groundout, bringing home the first batter of the inning and narrowing the gap to 3-2.
"Baseball is a game of momentum and streaks and those things and right now, obviously, we're on a good ride," Gaspard added. "You try not to think about it so much. You just keep showing up. It's one thing that makes you a lot more aggressive in situations because mentally we're a lot more positive in your thoughts, and I think the players are the same way."
Alabama added more runs to its lead in the bottom of the seventh. A double-steal attempt by the Tide resulted in a rare, run-scoring play. The throw to cut down the runner at second was cut off by the second baseman, but the throw back to the plate to nail Dugas ricocheted off the back of Arkansas starter Baxendale, allowing Dugas to cross. In the process, Smith, who was initially attempting to steal second, continued around the bases and was making his way to third when the errant throw rolled into the Alabama dugout, awarding Smith another base and giving the Tide two runs to add to its total, and a 5-2 advantage
The Hogs did not go quietly in the ninth. After a leadoff single, a walk and a force out put runners on first and third with two outs. In the next at-bat, a hard grounder plotted Reaves deep in the hole at short and allowed the runner from third to score and the batter to reach first, narrowing the Tide lead to 5-3. However, Smart would close the door on any Arkansas rally when he got the final Razorback hitter to line out to Dugas in center.
Collin Kuhn was the only Arkansas player to record a multi-hit game, recording two hits and scoring a run. Franco Broyles had a team-high two RBI and went 1-for-4, while McCann hit his fourth home run of the season.