Bama advances to Regional Final
By By Mark Etheridge/staff writer
June 2, 2002
TUSCALOOSA With their backs against the wall, Alabama came out swinging. Alabama got a pair of quality starts along with two saves from Taylor Tankersley to advance to Sunday's NCAA Regional Final. In the first game Alabama defeated Auburn 6-3 and followed that with a 7-4 win over Southeast Missouri State in the nightcap.
The win over Auburn was the Tide's fourth in four tries this season and eliminated the Tigers from NCAA play. The win over the Indians gave the Tide a measure of revenge for the upset loss suffered the prior night.
In double-elimination tournaments, pitching is at a premium the Tide got quality starts in both games. Lance Cormier (11-3) picked the win versus Auburn and Jeffrey Norris (6-1) continues to come through when his team needs him the most. Last Sunday the sophomore lefthander Norris beat South Carolina for the SEC Tournament title. Saturday Norris gave Alabama coach Jim Wells what he needed the most, a strong eight innings in route to victory.
Cormier was equally effective in his performance. "We didn't get out of the blocks and Lance Cormier has done that many, many times," Said Auburn head coach Steve Renfroe. "He is one of my favorite guys to watch compete. He is one of those warriors."
After Friday's disappointing loss, the Tide needed something good to happen early in game one. In the bottom of the first inning, Peter Stonard spanked a 1-0 fastball into right-center for a standup triple. He scored as Jeremy Brown hammered a one-hopper to third that Jonathan Schuerholz could only knock down. In the second Brent Boyd and Chad White reached on singles and advanced on a Colby Paxton balk. Both scored as Zach Welch pounded a Paxton fastball to the wall in right-center.
Alabama added more in the third as Travis Garner singled and stole second. Brown plated him with a single to left. McClanahan reached on a bunt single. Boyd then chased Paxton with a double to left that scored Brown.
Auburn made a run in the seventh. Bobby Huddleston led off with a double and took third on a Pratt single. After Scott Schade was hit by a pitch, Matt Grooms singled to left scoring Huddleston and Pratt. That cut the lead to three and brought the tying run to the plate in Schuerholz. Schuerholz hit into a fielder's choice for the second out. Cormier walked Chuck Jeroloman loading the bases.
Wells brought the hook to the mound bringing in lefty Tankersley to face Auburn's Sean Gamble. Gamble had a grand slam in Friday's game. Gamble topped one off the pitcher's glove that landed near second base. Second baseman Stonard collected the ball and lunged his leg touching the bag just ahead of the Auburn runner leaving the bases full of Tigers.
Auburn made it interesting in the ninth. Gamble came up once again with the bags full of Tigers. The freshman hitter fouled off five pitches before watching a called third strike on a curve. Tankersley notched his sixth save in the dramatic finish.
Against Southeast Missouri, the game was scoreless until Alabama finally broke through in the fifth inning. Rice doubled to right and scored on McClanahan's single to center. McClanahan came around to score on Stonard's double down the leftfield line. Stonard then raced around to score as Brown singled up the middle.
Bama scored in the sixth as Chad White singled off Alvarez. Zach Welch popped up a bunt attempt but Alvarez threw to an unoccupied first base allowing White to advance to second anyway. Adam Pavkovich singled to left scoring White. The Tide would have had two more runs if not for a great defensive play by leftfielder Brian Hopkins. Hopkins scaled the wall bringing a McClanahan home run back into the park.
Bama added some cushion in the seventh as White connected his third hit of the game scoring two runs. This hit scored Stonard and Brown and came with the infield in. Pinch hitter Carlos Sosa then punched a single to right scoring Boyd.
Tankersley retired two batters in the ninth collected his second save of the day and seventh of the season.
Alabama and Florida Atlantic will play Sunday at 2 p.m. Alabama will have to defeat Florida Atlantic twice to advance to the Super Regionals. The winner of the Tuscaloosa Regional will face the winner of the Atlanta Regional. Georgia Tech and Georgia are in the finals of the Atlanta Regional.