Alabama Shuts Out Kentucky in Round 1 of SEC Tournament
By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Peyton Davis
HOOVER – After a rain delay set first pitch a little more than an hour back, the Alabama Crimson Tide faced the Kentucky Wildcats in the eight vs nine seed game in the first round of the SEC Tournament from Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. Both teams were projected to host regionals going into the game, but a win in Tuesday night’s game would surely secure that spot for either team.
Junior pitcher Hunter Furtado was on the bump for Alabama, and he faced right hander Darren Williams for the Cats in the single elimination game. Action started in the bottom of the second inning where Kentucky catcher, Devin Burkes led off with a double and advanced to third after a throwing error from Furtado. Designated hitter, Reuben Church hit a ball to right field in what surely looked deep enough for a sac fly, but a perfect of a throw from Tide right fielder Andrew Pickney hosed the runner after a gutsy tag from catcher Mac Guscette to keep the game tied and retire the inning.
This was the beginning of an incredible game from the junior, Pickney, as in the top of the fourth, he hit an opposite field two run homer that gave the Tide a 2-0 lead. This early game spark from Pickney was needed in a game where offense was very difficult to come by, and Kentucky continued to struggle to get anything going through the middle innings. This was largely due to a career best performance from the junior Furtado, who set a season high in pitches (77) and innings pitched (5.0) allowing no runs on two hits.
The Tide struck again in the top of the sixth inning where Tommy Siedl and Drew Williamson led off with a single and double respectively, and Andrew Pickney hit a sharp grounder that was fumbled by the third baseman leading to a throwing error that scored Siedl and advanced Williamson to third with no outs still. However, three clutch strikeouts in a row from Kentucky pitcher, Mason Moore kept the game at 3-0 going into the bottom of the sixth.
Alabama redshirt freshman pitcher Kade Woods came in relief for Furtado in the bottom of the sixth, and despite allowing two hits and a walk, kept the Wildcats off the board in two innings pitched. The Tide where able to add another insurance run in the top of the eighth with a two out double by Pickney and an ensuing RBI single from second baseman Ed Johnson that made it a 4-0 lead with only six outs remaining for the wildcats.
Freshman closer Alton Davis II appeared in the bottom of the eighth for the Tide. The 6’5, 185 pound Davis went 7/7 in saves this year, which earned him a spot on the Freshman All-SEC team, and he displayed his best stuff on Tuesday night with two scoreless frames to close out the game. Alabama knocked out Kentucky with a 4-0 win on Tuesday night, as they move on to face the one seed Florida Gators in the second round on 4:30 Wednesday afternoon.
At this point, the Tide may very well have secured themselves a home regional next weekend to begin the NCAA Tournament, but a deep run and even maybe an SEC Championship could put them in position to climb the seeding into the top ten overall teams–a feat that did not seem close to a possibility a month ago. For now though, Alabama will move on to the double elimination rounds of the conference tournament, in an SEC field that is projected to host at least six of the 16 tournament regionals.
One thing became even clearer Tuesday night, that the Crimson Tide are among the hottest teams in the country, and getting hot at the right time is the fist step to appearing in their first College World Series since 1999.