Alabama baseball knocks off No. 2 South Carolina 2-1

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Senior right hander Nathan Kilcrease held No. 2 South Carolina to a season-low five hits, pitching a complete game while allowing just one run to propel the Alabama baseball team to a 2-1 victory over the Gamecocks on Thursday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

The win improves the Crimson Tide to 32-22 overall and 14-14 in Southeastern Conference play and clinches a spot in next week's SEC Tournament. With the loss, the Gamecocks fall to 42-12 (20-8 SEC).

"It was a really good night," Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "We clinched a spot to get in the (SEC) Tournament, which was big, and we got a win against the No. 2 team in the country. As I told the team, with (Nathan) Kilcrease, for four years that's what he's done, and then when you really need one and you got to have it he has the ability to deliver and that's what he did tonight. He went a complete game, 114 pitches working on a day's rest, which again shows you the heart of a champion and who he is and how much he competes."

Kilcrease (6-4) pitched his second complete game of the season and the third of his career, striking out five batters and stranding nine base runners. The senior pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the first and then stranded a pair of runners in the fifth, sixth and one in the eighth before needing just five pitches to get through the final inning.

Offensively, the Crimson Tide notched both of its runs in the top of the first courtesy of a two-run double by sophomore third baseman Brett Booth. Booth finished the night 1-for-3 with two RBI while junior center fielder Taylor Dugas paced the UA attack from the top of the lineup, reaching base in all four plate appearances, finishing 2-for-2 with one run scored and two walks.

Gamecock starting pitcher Michael Roth, who came into the game with a 10-2 record and 1.35 ERA, took the loss after allowing two runs (both unearned) on six hits in 5.2 innings pitched.

"I'm proud of our team and our resiliency throughout the year to get to this point," Gaspard said. "Now, with everything that happened tonight, us winning and whatever else happened around the league, we have an opportunity to win the Western Division. Now we got to keep our focus tomorrow and come out and win another ballgame."

The Gamecocks and Tide both came out swinging in an action-packed first inning.

USC loaded the bases in the top of the first, however Kilcrease was able to work his way out of the jam with some deft pitching, forcing Gamecock third baseman Adrian Morales into a fielder's choice for the final out of the inning.

Immediately following, Alabama took advantage of the situation, notching a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning to take a 2-0 lead. The Tide loaded the bases courtesy of a single, a Gamecock error and then a walk before Booth ripped a 2-0 pitch to right center field, plating Dugas and Bennett to give Alabama the early lead.

The Gamecocks got on the board in the fifth, cutting the UA advantage in half following an RBI single by first baseman Christian Walker. The Tide avoided further damage on the play courtesy of an excellent defensive sequence by Hunter Gregory, Jared Reaves and Brock Bennett.

After Walker's deep shot to left missed clearing the wall by a few feet, Gregory scooped the ball up and immediately hit Reaves in the cutoff position. From there, Reaves fired a quick relay throw to Bennett who got USC shortstop Peter Mooney at the plate.

Alabama will look to continue its winning ways tomorrow as junior left hander Adam Morgan (5-4, 3.89 ERA) takes the mound looking for the Tide. South Carolina will counter with freshman right hander Forrest Koumas (5-0, 3.17 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 (CST).

INFORMATION SOURCE: University of Alabama Athletics