HOOVER, Ala. – Alabama sophomore left-hander Adam Morgan can add his name to the list of complete games thrown by Crimson Tide pitchers over the last three weeks.
Morgan tossed a seven-inning complete game as the Crimson Tide knocked off No. 4 Florida 5-2 in front of 11,532 fans at Regions Park on Saturday as Alabama advanced to the SEC Championship Game for the eighth time overall and first time since 2003.
Morgan (6-4) held the SEC regular-season champions to two runs on six hits for Alabama's fifth complete game since May 15. He struck out five and did not walk a batter in the 86-pitch performance than lasted only 98 minutes. He retired the first seven Florida batters and closed the game by retiring six of the last seven, including back-to-back strikeouts of Jonathan Pigott and Nolan Fontana to end the game.
"It's been a team effort and I really wanted to help the team out today," Morgan said after the Tide's eighth straight win. "It is always good to go out there and set the tempo right off the bat
No. 7 seed Alabama (37-21) will meet No. 8 seed LSU (39-20) in Sunday's SEC Championship Game, which begins at 1:03 p.m. (CDT) and will be televised nationally by ESPN 2 with Dave Neal and Kyle Peterson providing the commentary. The 2010 SEC Championship Game marks the first time the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds have met in the title game.
Alabama scored all five of their runs in the first three innings to take a 5-0 lead. The Crimson Tide scored four of its five runs with two outs and has scored 12 of its 18 runs in the tournament with two outs.
"Today was similar to the first two games, we had tremendous starting pitching," Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said. "Adam Morgan was dynamite and set the tempo to the game. Being a seven-inning game we were just really trying to get off to a good start. The recipe was just what we wanted today; really good pitching and early offense. It was a really good outing for us today."
Alabama set the tone early with a manufactured run in the bottom of the first inning to take a 1-0 lead. Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge reached on a one-out infield single and moved to third base when UF starting pitcher Tommy Toledo was charged with a two-base throwing error on an errant pickoff attempt. Rutledge scored the game's first run on junior second baseman Ross Wilson's sacrifice fly to shallow center field to put the Tide up 1-0.
The Crimson Tide increased its lead to 3-0 in the second inning when freshman right fielder Andre Miller lined a one-out double to left to score a pair of runs. Senior third baseman Jake Smith led off the inning with a single to right and moved into scoring position on junior left fielder Jon Kelton's sacrifice bunt. Freshman Brandt Hendricks, making his first postseason tournament appearance as the DH, followed with a one-out walk before Miller's two-run double to left to put the Tide up 3-0.
Alabama tacked on two more runs in the third to take a 5-0 lead. Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas, who has reached base in 46 consecutive games, was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning before Rutledge reached on a bunt single.
Wilson followed with a sacrifice bunt to put runners and second and third before Smith singled off the glove of UF shortstop Nolan Fontana to score both runners and give Alabama a five-run lead.
Florida (42-15) scored single runs in the fifth and sixth innings off Morgan to close the gap to 5-2. Florida second baseman Josh Adams stroked a leadoff double to left-center in the fifth inning and scored on Jonathon Pigott's one-out double to left to make it 5-1. The Gators added another run in the sixth inning when first baseman Preston Tucker doubled and later scored on Matt den Dekker's ground out to make it 5-2.