May 25, 1997

    USC Eliminated from NCAA Tournament

    TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama's big bats were more timely than USC's, and the No. 1 Crimson Tide advanced to the College World Series with a 10-inning, 9-8 win at the South II Regional on Sunday, ending USC's season.

    Crimson Tide catcher Matt Frick hit his team's fifth home run of the day with two out in the bottom of the 10th inning off Jack Krawczyk to end the game.

    Alabama's nine runs came on 11 hits, while USC scored eight runs on 19 hits. The Trojans left 12 runners on base and had two runners thrown out at home.

    Heath Henderson (12-2) got the win for the Crimson Tide (52-12), while Krawczyk (2-3) took the loss for the Trojans (42-20).

    The Trojans would have needed to beat the Crimson Tide twice on Sunday to attain the berth in the College World Series. After losing their opening game to Virginia Tech on Thursday, the Trojans won their next three to reach this game, including one against North Carolina State that didn't end until early Sunday morning, less than 12 hours before the Alabama game began.

    Greg Walbridge, Wes Rachels, Marc Mirizzi, Robb Gorr and Seth Etherton of USC were named to the All-Regional team.

    USC got started quickly, as Mirizzi doubled off the wall in the top of the first and scored on an RBI single by Jason Brown to give the Trojans a 1-0 lead.

    Alabama came right back, however, as David Tidwell and Joe Caruso led off the bottom of the first with back-to-back homers off Trojan starter Randy Flores to give the Crimson Tide a 2-1 lead. Flores settled down, however, and would retire seven of the next eight batters.

    USC retook the lead in the top of the second. Brad Ticehurst walked with one out and went to third on Gorr's double. Jeremy Freitas had an RBI single, Rachels bunted for a single that drove in Gorr and Mirizzi followed up with a bunt single of his own to load the bases again. Following a pitching change that saw Jarrod Kingrey replace starter Pete Fisher, Walbridge then looped a single to left field to make it 4-2.

    In the top of the third, Gorr made it 5-2 for USC with his sixth home run of the year.

    Alabama got its third home run of the game, however, and closed the gap to 5-4 on Dustan Mohr's two-run shot in the bottom of the third.

    USC scored again in the top of the fifth to make it 6-4. Morgan Ensberg doubled with one out and scored when a ground ball hit by Ticehurst went through the second baseman's legs.

    Flores exited the game in the bottom of the fifth, however. With two outs, G.W. Keller doubled and Mohr singled to left, scoring Keller when Eric Munson bobbled the ball, to make it 6-5. Flores was lifted in favor of Mike Penney, who got the third out.

    It was a gutty performance by Flores, who was pitching on just one day's rest, as he was the winning pitcher in Friday's game against Troy State. He went 4 2/3 innings and allowed five runs, seven hits and two walks against the Crimson Tide.

    Penney, however, got roughed up in the bottom of the sixth. He struck out the first batter, but then allowed a walk, single and three-run homer to Nate Duncan, Alabama's No. 9 batter. That made it 8-6 Alabama, and Mike Weibling would come in for Penney later in the inning.

    USC got it back within one run in the top of the seventh. Ticehurst led off with a single and he scored all the way from first base on Gorr's double down the left-field line. With no outs, the Trojans had a chance to do further damage, but the next three hitters were retired.

    After Weibling walked the first batter in the bottom of the seventh, Trojan closer Jack Krawzcyk came in to pitch. Krawczyk was outstanding until giving up the game-winning homer, retiring nine of 10 batters and coaxing two double plays out of the Crimson Tide.

    In the top of the eighth, USC tied the game, 8-8, but potentially could have scored more. Walbridge led off with a single, then moved to second on the pitcher's errant pickoff throw and to third on Brown's ground out. Munson walked and Ensberg hit a sacrifice fly that scored Walbridge and sent Munson to second. Ticehurst then singled, but on a controversial play at the plate, Munson was called out for not tagging home plate.

    The Trojans wasted another outstanding opportunity in the top of the ninth. Gorr singled and Alabama removed Kingrey in favor of Henderson. Freitas then sacrificed Gorr to second. Rachels hit a ground ball to shortstop, who tried to throw out Gorr at third, but Gorr slid under the tag. That put runners on first and third with one out, but Mirizzi hit into a double play. In the top of the 10th, Henderson got USC to hit into another double play.

    Seven of USC's nine hitters had multiple hits, led by Gorr (4-for-5, two RBI, two doubles, home run) and Walbridge (3-for-6, one RBI).

    Post-Game Quotes

    USC Coach Mike Gillespie:
    "Our hats are off to Alabama. They are really a fine team. They will be a great representative in Omaha. Jim Wells has done a remarkable job in an amazingly short period of time ... We have been very well treated. Everybody has been very nice. The grounds crew was awesome, and I like Superfan. I'm envious of the support that Alabama gets. They have very classy fans. I admire their fans, they are not like that everywhere ... Some losses are tougher to deal with than others. This is one of them ... It usually isn't a good-news situation to face the host team. But in this case, the home plate umpire was strong, and was not intimidated by the situation."

    USC outfielder Eric Munson:
    "The whole time here we had a great time. Everybody was really nice. We're a little disappointed from the outcome. You can't win them all. I thought we played well. We came back and put ourselves in the position we were in today ... (on being tagged out in a controversial play at the plate in the eighth inning) I came around third. The throw was a little up the line. I slid wide and reached my hand out. Maybe he didn't see me touch the plate. I thought I was safe. I know I touched the plate."

    USC outfielder Robb Gorr:
    "I'd like to thank the school and the city. I've got to give praise to Alabama, they are a great team. I'm not exactly happy about the outcome. We'll just have to swallow that loss and wait until next year. I think we did well, we just fell a little short ... (on the short turnaround from Saturday to Sunday's game) That was no problem. We were ready to play. We were all up in high spirits today. If you think in California time, it was only 11:00 when we went home to sleep."

    Alabama Coach Jim Wells:
    "We live and die by the home run. I thought Matt Frick had the biggest one ever here ... If you can survive this regional, you can handle Omaha. We fell short sometimes, but our whole game is coming around. We actually had to manufacture some runs in this regional and that will help us down the road."

    Alabama catcher Matt Frick:
    "Jack Krawczyk was the pitcher I hit the home run off of. He's from where I'm from back in Arizona so we played a lot of games against each other in the summer. He mostly throws me off-speed stuff, so, on the home run pitch, I was looking off-speed. He threw his change-up, and he got it up and I got a good swing on it. I've only hit one other home run against him. In the past, he's gotten me out more often than not."