May 26, 2002
BIRMINGHAM, ALA. – Alabama jumped out with five runs in the first two innings and Jeffrey Norris threw his third complete game of the season as the Crimson Tide defeated second ranked South Carolina 6-2 in the championship game of the SEC Baseball Tournament. This afternoon’s game was played in front of 13,367 fans, the third largest crowd in SEC Baseball Tournament history. South Carolina is now 48-14 on the season and awaits an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament field. The field will be announced on Monday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2. This was South Carolina’s first trip to the final of the SEC Baseball Tournament.
Junior RHP Rocky Evans worked his longest outing of the season in relief of Carolina starter Chris Hernandez, pitching five innings while allowing one run on three hits. Hernandez took the loss for USC and is now 1-1 on the season.
Alabama opened the game with three runs in the first inning off Hernandez. After loading the bases with no outs, Scott McClanahan hit into a double play that scored Travis Garner for a 1-0 Crimson Tide lead. With two outs, Alabama struck with three consecutive singles, with Brent Boyd and Zak Welch each driving in a run to put the Tide on top 3-0.
The Crimson Tide added two more runs in the second inning to knock Hernandez out of the game. Allen Rice singled to open up the frame and advanced to third on a single by Garner. After Garner stole second, Rice scored on a RBI groundout by Peter Stonard. Jeremy Brown followed with a sacrifice fly off to score Garner, giving Alabama a 5-0 lead. Hernandez went one and one third innings for Carolina allowing five runs on six hits.
South Carolina got on the scoreboard in the top half of the fifth inning. Drew Meyer knocked a two-out double off the right field wall and scored on a RBI single by Steve Thomas. Meyer’s double was his 20th of the season. It was the 149th double by a South Carolina player this year, tying a team record set in 1985.
Alabama increased its lead to 6-1 in the seventh inning as Chad White knocked an RBI single to left field to score Jeremy Brown, just a step ahead of the throw from left field by Garris Gonce. Gonce picked up his eighth assist of the season from the outfield when he threw out Scott McClanahan in the fifth inning trying to score on a fly ball. Junior Demetric Smith pinch-hit for Carolina in the ninth inning and hit his second home run of the season bringing USC within four runs.
South Carolina finished the tournament with three players named to the All-Tournament Team. LHP Gary Bell, SS Drew Meyer and OF Steve Thomas earned the honors for South Carolina. Today’s game marked the second time in the SEC Baseball Tournament that the SEC Eastern Division and SEC Western Division champions faced each other in the finals. Alabama and Florida reached the finals in 1996. South Carolina tied a record for games played at the SEC Tournament with six.
This year’s SEC Tournament set a new total attendance record with 124,440 fans attending the nine-session tournament in Hoover, Ala. The previous attendance record was 98,873 set in 1999. This marked the sixth championship at the SEC Baseball Tournament won by the Crimson Tide.
Third baseman Brian Buscher’s hitting streak of 21 games came to a halt. Buscher’s streak was the longest by a Carolina player this season.