TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – No. 3 seeded Alabama posted a 5-3 win over the No. 2 seeded Central Florida Knights in the opening game of the Tallahassee Regional from Dick Howser Stadium on Friday afternoon. With the win, Alabama improves to 34-26 overall while the Knights drop to 38-22.
Making his sixth career appearance in the NCAA Tournament, senior right-handed pitcher Nathan Kilcrease posted another solid outing for Alabama. Kilcrease gave the Tide 7.0 innings, allowing two runs on four hits with a career-high tying 10 strikeouts. He improved to 8-4 on the season and 3-1 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. It was the third time this year Kilcrease had 10 strikeouts in a game. Jonathan Smart threw the final two innings to record his 11th save of the season.
"Nathan (Kilcrease) kind of did what he has been doing for us for the last couple of years," UA head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "He had a great start today when we needed it and got us deep in to the ballgame. I thought Nathan and then Jonathan (Smart) came in and we stayed pretty well under control on the mound and defended well."
The Crimson Tide pounded out 14 hits against Central Florida pitchers, as eight of the nine players in the lineup had at least one hit. Five players had at two hits for Alabama, as Brett Booth led the team with three hits. Josh Rosecrans was 2-for-4 with a RBI and two runs and Austen Smith was 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI. Both Taylor Dugas and Jared Reaves were 2-for-5 with a single, a double. Dugas had a RBI and Reaves scored once.
Central Florida starting pitcher Brian Adkins took the loss to fall to 6-5 on the season. Adkins pitched 6.0 innings, allowing four runs on nine hits with a walk and two strikeouts. UCF defeated the Crimson Tide 12-4 back on Feb. 27, when Alabama allowed a season-high 18 hits.
Alabama took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when a groundout by Andrew Miller pushed home Rosecrans from third. Rosecrans, who was starting as the designated hitter for the first time since May 1, doubled to left center to open the second inning and moved to third on a groundout to second by Booth.
UCF tried to answer in the bottom half of the inning, but on a double by Darnell Sweeney, Travis Shreve was thrown out at home trying to score from first. Left fielder Brandt Hendricks' throw missed the cutoff man, but Booth was there to back up the play and throw a strike to Brock Bennett to cut down Shreve.
"Offensively, we had good pressure," Gaspard said. "were able to tack on single runs as we went along. We had an opportunity, I thought, to stretch it out a couple of times and we just weren't able to do that. Once we got the lead we were able to maintain it throughout the ballgame."
Alabama extended its lead to 2-0 in the fourth inning when a sacrifice fly by Josh Sanders with the bases loaded plated Rosecrans. It was just the third RBI of the season for Sanders. After a walk and two singles loaded the bases for the Knights in the fourth, Kilcrease walked Sweeney on five pitched to push across UCF's first run, cutting the Tide's lead to 2-1 after four innings.
UA got the run back in the fifth inning on a RBI single by Smith. After Jared Reaves stretched a hit into a double, Smith singled to left field to drive in Reaves for a 3-1 Tide advantage. The double by Reaves was the team-leading 21st of the season for the junior shortstop.
Dugas' 20th double of the season came in the sixth inning and scored Hendricks from second base. The RBI double by Dugas made the score 4-1 in favor of the Tide. Smith homered to right center with one out in the seventh inning to give Alabama a 5-1 cushion. It was the fifth home run of the season for the freshman first baseman.