HOOVER, Alabama -- A commanding night on the mound from a trio of pitchers and an incredible all-around performance by right-fielder Andrew Pinckney led 9-seed Alabama past 8-seed Kentucky in the win-or-go-home first-round game of the SEC Baseball Tournament at the Hoover Met.
The Tide earned their first shutout win in SEC Tournament history.
Pitcher Hunter Furtado pitched five innings for the first time in his collegiate career, allowing only two hits and two walks while striking out two. Kade Woods pitched two perfect innings and Alton Davis II finished the game out with a spectacular relief performance.
"I thought it was a really clean game overall. Hunter gave us a great start, and he's done a lot out of the bullpen for us. He made a spot start a few weeks ago in a midweek game. And he looked -- we thought he looked really good in that outing," interim head coach Jason Jackson said following the game.
Kentucky nearly broke the game open in the bottom of the second inning, but Pinckney gunned down UK's Devin Burkes at home plate for the final out of the inning. Burkes doubled earlier in the inning and advanced to third on a Bama throwing error, and had tried to score on Reuben Church's flyout to right.
Furtado discussed the importance of Pinckney's spectacular play to keep the Wildcats off the board.
"Well, I just take it one batter at a time, and I knew I had great guys behind me. I thought the biggest play of the game was when Pinck threw that guy out because we had one at the time, caught the ball and threw the guy out. And once that happened, I just knew that if there were guys in scoring position, all I had to do was just get the next guy out," Furtado said.
The play was close as Burkes collided with Alabama catcher Mac Guscette who was slow to get up. Kentucky challenged the out call but it was upheld.
Two innings later, Pinckney snapped the 0-0 tie by launching a long two-run home run over the right-field fence, giving Alabama a 2-0 lead.
The star of the game was playing light and pressure-free the entire night, as he later discussed.
"Yeah, I mean, we're not really worried about any adversity or anything. We're just playing no pressure, playing for the guy beside us and just taking everything a pitch at a time. When you do that and you just play as a team, good things happen, and we'll just be happy to be playing tomorrow," Pinckney said.
Pinckney, who was awarded his co-Scholar Athlete of the Year award before the game and also was recently named second team All-SEC, made a spectacular sliding catch an inning later.
The Wildcats continued to struggle headed into the sixth inning, only totaling two hits after five frames. After holding Kentucky scoreless for the first half of the game, Furtado was relieved by Woods.
Alabama put two batters on base with no outs and none other than Pinckney stepped up to the plate, driving in his third RBI and giving his team a 3-0 lead. After a stellar seventh inning by Woods on the mound, the Wildcats entered the eighth inning still scoreless.
Kentucky retired the No. 2 and 3 batters in the top of the eighth, but Pinckney built on his incredible performance by drilling a ball down the left line and securing a double -- his second hit of the night. Despite having two outs before Pinckney's at-bat, the Tide put another runner on base and eventually scored Pinckney on a single from Ed James.
Alabama kept fresh arms in rotation by bringing in Davis II in the bottom of the eighth to close the game out. He did just that as the Wildcats were unable to fight back and prevent the first-round shutout loss.
HOW IT HAPPENED
T4 | Tommy Seidl was hit by a pitch to lead off Alabama. One out later, Pinckney homered to right field. Alabama 2, Kentucky 0.
T6 | Seidl began the inning with a single up the middle. Drew Williamson followed with a double to left center, advancing Seidl to third. Pinckney reached base with an error and Seidl scored, while Williamson made it to third. Alabama 3, Kentucky 0.
T8 | Pinckney doubled with a shot to center field. Colby Shelton was walked on the following at-bat. Johnson singled to right center and scored Pinckney. Alabama 4, Kentucky 0.
Alabama (39-17) advanced to the second round in a tough matchup against 1-seed Florida (42-13). First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and the game will be televised on SEC Network.
Kentucky (36-18) will await the announcement for the 2023 NCAA Division I baseball tournament.