Tide turns it around, sweeps Northwestern stateBy Tony Tsoukalas | 03/06/2011 9:01am
The Alabama baseball team completed a weekend sweep of Northwestern State on Sunday, beating the Daemons 9-0.
The Crimson Tide was aided by a strong effort on the mound by starting pitcher Tucker Hawley, who threw a complete-game shutout, giving up only three hits while striking out nine batters.
“Tucker Hawley was outstanding today,” head coach Mitch Gaspard said. “Sometimes it takes one guy to get out there and get us going. [Nathan] Kilcrease did that with a great start last night, and Tucker took the lead from Nathan. He went out and was really dominant.”
The start was an enormous improvement from Hawley’s last start against Central Florida, when he gave up six runs over three innings.
“Last weekend, the tempo was off and we tried to work on it all week and tried to clean it up a little bit,” Hawley said. “I just worked with it all weekend with [assistant coach Dax Norris] and Dax got me right in the bullpen.”
The Tide was desperate for a turnaround after dropping four straight prior to the weekend.
“Last weekend, that was a tough weekend,” junior Jon Kelton said. “As a team, I think we had kind of lost a little bit of confidence, but this is a good team and we are going to continue to get better. To get three wins this weekend, I think that was really important.”
Left fielder Austen Smith was key for the Tide, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs. Kelton had an equally impressive day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with an RBI double that gave the Tide its first run of the game.
Kelton’s big day is a positive sign for the Tide, as it appeared that Kelton, who came into the day batting only .100, is breaking out of his early-season woes at the plate.
“That’s baseball,” Kelton said. “There is nothing I can’t do or haven’t done, but when you press you don’t play well. I have been tight and I have been pressing and I finally just relaxed. It felt good. That first at-bat [the RBI double] felt good confidence wise.”
Kelton’s double scored the first of four runs the Tide earned in the second inning. After that, Alabama did not look back, scoring a run in the third and two in the fourth to give the Tide a commanding 7-0 lead.
“We definitely attacked at the plate,” third baseman Brett Booth said. “We weren’t sitting back waiting for something to happen. All nine batters went up there to compete and get after somebody.”
Shortstop Jared Reaves continued his torrid start to the season, getting on base five times in the game, with three walks and two singles. Reaves is currently batting .447 and also leads the team in RBIs with 16.
The Tide has a busy week ahead, as the team is set to host Troy on Tuesday before meeting Georgia in a non-conference game in Lawrenceville, Ga.
The team will look to continue its recent success, as the Tide gets closer to SEC play.
“I think right now we have got to build on the little bit of momentum we have,” Gaspard said. “We are starting to show more solid play.”