No sweep: Bats come alive for Alabama in lone series win against Tigers
by Luke Brietzke
Sports Writer
May 17, 2009 | 1174 views |  0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AUBURN — Alabama's bats woke up in the final game of the three-game set against Auburn on Saturday at Plainsman Park.

After managing just three runs through the first two games of the series, the SEC's top offense scored eight runs over three innings and coasted to a 13-3 win.

"That's just two really bizarre games that hopefully we won't have ever again," Alabama cleanup hitter Kent Matthes said. "We just came out swinging today and played well."

Jake Smith led the charge by going 4-for-4 with five RBIs. Smith belted a two-run home run to left field in the second inning and added a two-run single in the third.

Matthes finished 2-for-3 with three runs scored and a pair of RBIs. He also tied the Alabama single-season record when he mashed his 27th home run.

The victory allowed the Crimson Tide to salvage one of the three games after the Tigers won the first two.

Alabama (27-17, 18-11) entered the series with hopes of winning the regular season crown. Those chances were dashed when Auburn captured the first two contests, the second of which was finished earlier on Saturday. After rain halted Friday's game in the fourth inning, it was completed on Saturday with Auburn earning a 3-1 victory.

After a 29-minute rain delay to start the game, the Crimson Tide turned the tables on Auburn in the series finale. By doing so, Alabama kept alive its chances of hosting an NCAA Regional.

The Tigers' SEC Tournament aspirations had already evaporated by the time the weekend opened, but they were still playing for the off chance of an NCAA Regional invite. Auburn's record (31-25, 11-19), itself, isn't all that impressive. However, the Tigers boast strong RPI and strength-of-schedule ratings.

Auburn coach John Pawlowski said after the game that he's not sure if the Tigers did enough this weekend to secure its spot.

"That's a tough question," Pawlowski said at the end of his first regular season as Auburn coach. "Maybe they'll consider us at least maybe to have helped ourselves. I certainly don't think we hurt ourselves here down the stretch. What they decide to do — who knows? There's a lot of baseball still yet to be played and a lot of things are going to have to fall our way and certainly there can't be any upsets. We want the top seeds to obviously win."

Since school has ended, Pawlowski now faces the decision of whether to send the students home or if they will stay around campus and await their postseason fate.

Pawlowski said in post-game that he and the team would discuss that before the team left the clubhouse.

"That's always a tough call," Pawlowski said. "When you are on the bubble like that, if we are on the bubble and hopefully we are, then maybe things will go our way."

Alabama is certainly not on the bubble.

Alabama coach Jim Wells said after the game he didn't think the SEC is strong enough this year to send a team to the NCAA Regional that didn't qualify for its own conference tournament.

The Crimson Tide finished as the No. 4 seed in next week's SEC Tournament, which starts Wednesday at Regions Park in Hoover. It might have received a good omen for its post-season success as well.

Starting pitcher Adam Morgan entered the series' final contest hoping to regain the form that made him Alabama's No. 2 starter for the first half of the season.

After missing five weeks with biceps tendonitis, Morgan wasn't at his best last weekend against Arkansas.

Morgan retired the first 11 batters he faced before Brian Fletcher drilled a home run to center field with two outs in the fourth. He set a career-high with 10 strikeouts in his complete-game victory.

Morgan seemed to hit a wall in the fifth, allowing home runs to Tony Caldwell and Joseph Sanders and a double to Wes Gilmer. He settled down after that and retired the next two hitters to avoid further damage.

Auburn managed just one hit after Gilmer's double.

SEC Tournament pairings

Wednesday's games Game 1: No. 7 Arkansas vs. No. 2 Florida, 10 a.m.

Game 2: No. 6 Georgia vs. No. 3 Ole Miss, 1:30 p.m.

Game 3: No. 8 Vanderbilt vs. No. 1 LSU, 5 p.m.

Game 4: No. 5 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Alabama, 8:30 p.m.

Thursday's games Game 5: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 10 a.m.

Game 6: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 1:30 p.m.

Game 7: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 5 p.m.

Game 8: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 8:30 p.m.

Friday's games Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 7 loser, 3 p.m.

Game 10: Game 6 winner vs. Game 8 loser, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday's games Game 11: Game 8 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 10 a.m.

Game 12: Game 7 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 1:30 p.m.

Game 13 (if-game): Game 11 rematch, 5 p.m.

Game 14 (if-game): Game 12 rematch, 8 p.m.

Sunday's game Game 15 (if-game): Game 13 winner vs. Game 14 winner, 3 p.m.

* — If both bracket winners are undefeated, there will be no 5:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. games on Saturday and the championship game Sunday would be Game 13.
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