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February 26, 2012

UA baseball finishes sweep

TUSCALOOSA | What a difference a week makes.

The University of Alabama baseball team made easy work of Arkansas-Pine Bluff Sunday, 9-3, to complete a sweep of the Golden Lions, evening its record at 3-3 after being swept to open the season by Florida Atlantic a week earlier.

Offensive production proved to be the biggest improvement as the Crimson Tide scored 30 runs for the series. Second baseman Kenny Roberts led UA Sunday with two hits, two runs and two steals.

"I think that's something we can do with this team is have a pretty good running game. Kenny was good. He was able to pressure the defense," said UA coach Mitch Gaspard. "That's what we want out of our offense, is to pressure guys with the running game, hit-and-run, the bunting game, all those things. But we've also got some physicality in the lineup too, with Kenny and some other guys who can drive balls in the gaps and occasionally hit the ball out of the park."

The series with Arkansas-Pine Bluff jumped Alabama's team batting average from .204 to .275 and provided, Roberts said, some needed confidence going into the team's first mid-week games against South Alabama and Southern Miss Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

"It's a completely different team. We came out with a lot of intensity," Roberts said. "We hit the ball, played solid defense, and played how Alabama is known to play. It's definitely a mental thing. I think our confidence shot up after this weekend, and we're going to be ready for Tuesday."

Freshman left-handed pitcher Justin Kamplain made a turnaround of his own, shutting down the Golden Bears over five innings, allowing just one run on three hits and striking out six. Just a week earlier, Kamplain struggled in Alabama's series finale against Florida Atlantic, but some adjustments in practice made a difference, Kamplain said.

"Just loading over the mound," Kamplain said. "I started getting ahead of myself, my foot was touching before my hands would break and that was leaving my arm lagging behind and I was leaving everything up. Once we made that adjustment the ball started getting down and the defense started making plays. It's not hard to throw strikes. You go out and compete and pitch when you know you've got a defense like this making plays behind you."

Kamplain pitched out of trouble in the first inning, allowing one run, but was more effective thereafter.

"Justin Kamplain, it was good to see him get his first collegiate win. I told he and (Taylor) Guilbeau both, as freshmen, the biggest thing is you've got to pound the strike zone," Gaspard said. "Today he was fortunate, he was able to wiggle out of a few spots. His command has to continue to improve, and his secondary pitches with it."

Four of Alabama's five relievers -- Jay Shaw, Trey Pilkington, Ian Gardeck and Jake Hubbard -- each pitched a scoreless inning. Adam Windsor allowed four hits in a two-run seventh inning for the Golden Bears, but Pilkington came on to induce a double play and finished the inning with a groundout.

With Alabama routing UA-PB in each game of the series, closer Gardeck still awaits his first save opportunity of the season, but got an inning of action in the eighth Sunday and recorded a perfect inning with two strikeouts.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.


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