Alabama 2 #2 South Carolina 1
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Senior right hander Nathan Kilcrease held No. 2 South Carolina to a season-low five hits, pitching a complete game while allowing just one run to propel the Alabama baseball team to a 2-1 victory over the Gamecocks on Thursday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
The win improves the Crimson Tide to 32-22 overall and 14-14 in Southeastern Conference play and clinches a spot in next week’s SEC Tournament. With the loss, the Gamecocks fall to 42-12 (20-8 SEC).
“It was a really good night,” Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said. “We clinched a spot to get in the (SEC) Tournament, which was big, and we got a win against the No. 2 team in the country. As I told the team, with (Nathan) Kilcrease, for four years that’s what he’s done, and then when you really need one and you got to have it he has the ability to deliver and that’s what he did tonight. He went a complete game, 114 pitches working on a day’s rest, which again shows you the heart of a champion and who he is and how much he competes.”
Georgia 5 #3 Vanderbilt 4
ATHENS—–Michael Palazzone retired 19 of the final 20 batters he faced to notch his third complete game and his ninth win of the season as the Bulldogs defeated third-ranked Vanderbilt 5-4 Thursday at Foley Field.
Palazzone (9-3) has six wins over ranked foes this season and improved to 7-2 in the SEC. The Bulldogs moved their record to 28-26 overall and 16-12 in the SEC.
Vanderbilt (42-9, 20-8 SEC) started the scoring in the top of the 2nd when Curt Casali knocked an RBI-double into right center field bringing home Mike Yastrzemski. Later in the inning, with runners on corners, Riley Reynolds knocked a single into right field giving Vanderbilt a 2-0 lead. Tony Kemp added another run for Vanderbilt with a drag bunt that brought home Connor Harrell.
#5 Florida 9 Kentucky 6
Florida sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) cranked a pair of homers and drove in five runs to lead No. 4 Florida (40-14/21-7 SEC) to a 9-6 victory over Kentucky (24-29/7-21 SEC) in the series opener between the Eastern Division rivals on Thursday night at McKethan Stadium. UF’s victory, coupled with losses by No. 2 South Carolina (2-1 at Alabama) and No. 3 Vanderbilt (5-4 at Georgia), puts head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s club in first place on top of the league standings with two games remaining in the regular season.
Zunino (3-for-4) belted a solo shot in the third inning that tied the game at 4-4 and connected on a three-run jack with two down in sixth to move the Gators in front, 7-5. He now has a team-leading 15 homers, including five in the past three games, and increased his team-high RBI total to 58. Sophomore left-hander Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) worked six innings, giving up seven hits and five runs (four earned), with six strikeouts and one walk to pick up the win, while sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) recorded the final three outs to collect his third save.
“What can you say about Mike Zunino?” O’Sullivan said. “He keeps swinging the bat like the leader of a ballclub and came up with some big home runs. I was proud of the way we fought back tonight, this time of the year you have to focus on the positives. I thought that Brian Johnson’s start, other than the third (inning), went well. He gave up one run over six innings, minus the third inning, so we’re going to focus on those other five innings.”
Mississippi 2 #18 Arkansas 1
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – It was a pitcher’s duel from the start between the Rebels and Razorbacks on Thursday night, and though the Rebels blinked first, it was Ole Miss (30-23, 13-15 SEC) that came out on top with timely hitting in a 2-1 win over Arkansas (34-18, 13-15 SEC) at Baum Stadium.
With a solo home run in the sixth to get Arkansas on the board, the Rebels buckled down to get out of the inning and responded with a pair of runs in the top of the seventh before Jake Morgan closed things out down the stretch to give Ole Miss the series opening victory.
Matt Crouse (7-4) grabbed the win as he worked 6.1 innings and allowed only one run on the solo shot from Colin Kuhn as one of five hits. He also struck out four while walking two. Morgan then picked up his sixth save of the season, working the final 2.2 innings and holding the Razorbacks scoreless with one hit, a walk and four strikeouts.
Tennessee 5 Auburn 2
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Junior starting pitcher Steven Gruver twirled 7.1 strong innings, scattering five hits and striking out seven, and all nine Tennessee starters had at least one hit as the Volunteers defeated Auburn, 5-2, on Thursday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
“We had some big hits tonight with two outs, something we haven’t been doing a lot of,” UT Head Coach Todd Raleigh said. “We still left a lot of guys on and had some chances, but Davis Morgan did a great job getting two two-out hits. (Gruver) was unbelievable tonight too. Seven and a third innings, didn’t give up many hits, only walked a couple. He was good tonight, he was really good.”
Gruver (5-7) faced the minimum through the first four innings en route to posting his fifth win of the season, while freshman Nick Williams came on to record the final two outs of the game to pick up his fourth save. Auburn starter Jon Luke Jacobs (1-4) suffered the loss after yielding three runs on eight hits and four walks in 5.1 innings.
LSU 17 Mississippi State 1
STARKVILLE, Miss. – LSU freshman right-hander Kevin Gausman limited Mississippi State to one run over 7.2 innings Thursday night and the Tigers erupted for 10 runs in the sixth inning to defeat the Bulldogs, 17-1, at Dudy Noble Field.
LSU improved to 35-19 overall and 12-16 in the SEC with Thursday’s victory. The Tigers have won 11 of their last 13 games, including eight of their last 10 league contests.
Mississippi State dropped to 33-20 overall, 13-15 in league play.