TUSCALOOSA, AL - Alabama junior right-hander Jimmy Nelson tossed his first career complete game and matched his career high with 11 strikeouts, leading the Crimson Tide to a 4-1 win over No. 14 Mississippi at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Nelson (6-2) threw 127 pitches to record Alabama's first complete game of the 2010 season and the first by a Crimson Tide pitcher since Del Howell beat No. 28 Vanderbilt on 7-3 on April 18, 2009 in Nashville.
The Niceville, Fla., native held the Rebels to one run and four hits with 11 strikeouts and two walks. The 11 strikeouts matched his career high set March 6, 2010 at the College of Charleston. The 11 strikeouts equal the most by an Alabama starter this season, joining Adam Morgan (11 vs. South Alabama) and Taylor Wolfe (11 vs. Mississippi Valley State).
"I just had all my pitches for strikes," Nelson said following the gem. "The slider is my out pitch and everything (else) I was throwing I was throwing for a strike. I would get behind 2-0, 2-1 or 3-0 and come back from those counts and do well with that.
"I trusted those guys behind me; they were making some great plays. The first inning (left fielder Jon) Kelton made a great catch against the wall. Those are some great plays out here."
Nelson out-dueled Mississippi starter Aaron Barrett, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
"Just a really well-pitched game on both sides," Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "Nelson, I thought, was just tremendous all day long. Barrett obviously carried a no-hitter into the seventh. Both guys were just big horses on the mound, throwing hard with good sliders and really good command.
"One thing about Nelson, today he threw 127 pitches which is his highest pitch count this year, he's a big durable body. He certainly could have gone 135, 140. The key was he had a little bit of a long break in the (bottom of the) eighth when we scored. I think that was his best outing all year. From the first pitch on he stayed sharp and didn't break rhythm for nine innings."
Alabama (30-21, 11-15 SEC) broke up the no-hitter and snapped a scoreless tie with one run on two hits in the seventh inning to take a 1-0 lead.
Senior catcher Cody Trotter led off the inning with a walk and sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas ended the no-hit bid with a bunt single that got past Barrett between first and second base. Barrett then struck out junior shortstop Josh Rutledge after two unsuccessful bunt attempts before junior second baseman Ross Wilson lined out to center field to chase Trotter to third base with two outs.
Senior first baseman Clay Jones followed with a double down the left field line to score Trotter with the first run of the game as the Tide took a 1-0 lead.
Matt Tracy (3-3) replaced Barrett after Jones' RBI double and got pinch-hitter Brett Booth to pop up to center field to end the inning.
Barrett allowed one run on two hits in 6 2/3 innings with eight walks and seven strikeouts. The Rebels starting pitchers have walked 15 batters in 11 2/3 innings in the series.
Mississippi (36-16, 16-10 SEC) immediately got the run back on Matt Smith's two-out single to right that scored Taylor Hashman with the tying run in the top of the eighth inning.
Alabama snapped the 1-1 tie with three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take a 4-1 lead. Senior third baseman Jake Smith stroked a leadoff single up the middle and moved to second on freshman right fielder Andrew Miller's sacrifice bunt.
Junior left fielder Jon Kelton drew a walk and Trotter lined out to center for the second out. Mississippi catcher Taylor Hightower's first passed ball of the inning moved both runners into scoring position before Dugas walked to load the bases. Smith then raced home on Hightower's second passed ball to give the Tide a 2-1 lead.
Rutledge atoned for his seventh inning at-bat when he slapped a 0-1 pitch to left field to score Kelton and Dugas to give the Tide a 4-1 cushion.
"We were just fortunate there with the passed ball late and then Rutledge gets the big hit (after) Jones had the big hit earlier. It was just one of those games, who's going to crack right there, and we found a way to get a couple of runs late. But the story of game, no doubt, was Jimmy Nelson and Barrett. Both guys were just tremendous today."
Nelson went back the mound in the ninth seeking his first complete game and promptly set the Rebels down in order as the Tide evened the weekend series.