Around the bases: UA 8, Southern Miss 3

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Don’t jump to calling Alabama a sleeping giant, but on Tuesday night the Crimson Tide offense finally woke up. Nearing the eve of SEC play and facing a team that demolished them two weeks earlier, the Tide righted the ship with an offensive outburst.

Josh Rosecrans hit a pair of home runs and the Tide ran over Southern Miss, 8-3, at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The win improves UA’s record to 7-9 with one non-conference game remaining before traveling to Arkansas on Friday.

Coming into play against Southern Miss, Alabama has scored four or fewer runs nine times. When UA faced Southern Miss two weeks ago, the Tide mustered just two runs, losing 14-2.

With Rosecrans' effort and a solid outing from the bullpen, UA got its revenge.

“We had a little flurry tonight which is good,” Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said of the offense. “I still think there’s more in there. But when you leave the yard a couple of times that makes it look even better. And Rosecrans is very capable of that. We’ve been kind of waiting on that for a little while with him. It would be nice for him to get hot and get going and then have some guys add in to what he did tonight.”

Rosecrans, who entered the game hitting .176, said he was working on staying in the middle of the field with his swings, and on Tuesday night it paid off. He hit a fastball over the left-field wall for a two-run homer in the first and followed with a two-run blast inside the left-field foul pole in the seventh.

“It felt good,” Rosecrans said, relieved to see some balls clear the fence. “The numbers don’t lie. Our hitting hasn’t been that great.”

Despite the offensive resurgence, Gaspard pointed to reliever Ian Gardeck’s performance as the key to the game. The Tide’s assumed closer had not pitched in a week and a half after surrendering a grand slam at Tulane, but returned to the mound against Southern Miss and threw 2.1 innings without surrendering a run and striking out four.

Gaspard said the coaches wanted to give Gardeck some time off to rest and regroup after the rocky series at Tulane. The junior college transfer threw a bullpen session last weekend but nothing more.

With his performance against Southern Miss, Gaspard said Gardeck has penciled himself into the rotation for the start of SEC play.

“I thought the story was Gardeck,” Gaspard said. “We’ve been working on things with him, trying to get more strikes with the two pitches -- fastball, slider. Certainly tonight he was good.

“We know Gardeck’s a guy we’ve got to have for us to get where we want to go.”

Gardeck said after the game that he was anxious to get back on the field after the extended layover in the bullpen. But considering the results, he felt good about taking a few days off to sort through his mechanics.

“It was time to clear the mind and get refocused and work on some things, and we did. We got back to work and it obviously paid off,” Gardeck said. “I feel fresh. I feel ready to go. The break was good.”

Gardeck earned the win against Southern Miss, his first at Alabama. Justin Kamplain started the game for UA, pitching four innings of two-run baseball. He allowed four hits and struck out five.

Alabama struck first with two walks, a sac bunt and a Taylor Dugas run scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the first. Rosecrans followed it up with a two-run homer on the next pitch, putting UA ahead 3-0.

Southern Miss came back with a two-run fourth inning, plating both runs without hitting a single ball squarely off the bat. Southern Miss started the frame with a walk, followed up by a pair of infield singles and then a sacrifice fly for the Golden Eagles’ first run. The next batter then slapped a single that bounced just over the third baseman’s head for another run.

The Golden Eagles tied the game up two innings later with a sharply hit triple, scoring the runner from second base.

Alabama took control of the game in the bottom of the seventh, scoring five runs, highlighted by a three-run homer from Rosecrans.

UA will host Samford tomorrow at 6:05 p.m. CST.