*Courtesy Alabama Media Relations
HOOVER, Ala. - In the opening round of the 2014 Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament, the eighth-seeded and 24th-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide fell to the ninth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats, 7-1. With the loss to the Tide is eliminated from the tournament.
"It was a tough day for us and we didn't' perform very well today," Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "We knew going in it could potentially be a tough matchup with A.J. (Reed) on the mound and us starting a freshman. We got off to a rough start, as Nick (Eicholtz) struggled in the second. Jay (Shaw) did a nice job to minimize things there, to give us a couple opportunities, but we couldn't get the big hit."
Kentucky (33-22) got a good start from A.J. Reed (11-2), who got the win after throwing five innings, allowing one run on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts. In relief, Andrew Nelson threw the final four innings without allowing a run on two hits with a strikeout to notch his first save of the year.
Alabama (34-22) collected a total of eight hits in the game, as Georgie Salem was 2-for-4 with a pair of singles for his team-leading 22nd multi-hit game of the year. Wade Wass was 2-for-4 and had his team-leading 19th double of the season. Wass' RBI double in the third inning drove in Salem for the Tide's lone run of the game.
Alabama used a total of six pitchers in the game, as starter Nick Eicholtz (3-2) took the loss after allowing two runs in one-plus inning of work. Although he did not allow a hit, Eicholtz had four walks and hit one of the seven batters he faced.
Jay Shaw allowed two runs on four hits over the next three innings, Ray Castillo and Mitch Greer had an inning of work, Tucker Hawley gave up a run on two hits in 1.1 innings and Taylor Guilbeau finished out the night with 1.2 scoreless innings, allowing one hit with a strikeout.
For the Wildcats, Storm Wilson, Matt Reida and JaVon Shelby had two hits each and all three scored two runs, and Austin Cousino was 1-for-3 with three RBI.
"For us over the last three or four weeks, that's been the same theme, we've been too giving on the mound and creating opportunities for our opponents and we haven't been able to get many timely hits," Gaspard said. "It's a bad formula, particularly with the schedule we've had to play on the back end of the season. This team will regroup and this team will be very dangerous come regional time when this team is fresh."
After Eicholtz hit the first batter of the Kentucky second, he and walked the next two to load the bases, forcing Alabama made a pitching change just seven batters into the game. Reliever Jay Shaw got Reida to fly out to left field, but it was deep enough to allow Michael Bernal to score from third. After a Shelby single re-loaded the bases, Cousino's fielder's choice allowed Storm Wilson to score, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead after an inning and a half.
The Tide responded in the bottom of the third, when Wass doubled to the wall in left center field to drive in Salem, who singled to start the inning.
The Wildcats added two more runs in the fourth when Cousino dropped a two-out, bloop single down the right field line to drive in Wilson and Reida, who both singled earlier in the inning. The Wildcats added two runs in the sixth inning off Castillo, before capping the scoring with a run in the eighth in an RBI fielder's choice by Ka'al Tom off Hawley.
After Reed left the game after six innings, Nelson retired 12 of the 14 batters he faced and did not allow a runner past first base over the final four innings.