Friday, June 11, 1999 • Box score
Alabama's baseball winning streak has grown to 16 games over 40 days.
The seventh-ranked Crimson Tide got three-hit pitching from Justin Smith over six innings and smacked three home runs Friday in an 11-3 romp over No. 8 and 9 Oklahoma State in the opening game of the 53rd College World Series.
The victory moved Alabama (52-14), which hasn't lost since May 2, to a Bracket One winner's game Sunday at 2:36 p.m. Oklahoma State (46-20), which rallied from losses to win regional and super regional titles, will play in a loser's game Sunday at 6:36 p.m.
Smith, who improved to 6-4, drew extra satisfaction from the win.
The junior left-hander is from Elk City, Okla., which is about three hours from OSU's campus. And his father is a Cowboy graduate.
"I'm pretty proud to beat them, just as I would have been against anybody else," Smith said. "But because I am from Oklahoma and it was Oklahoma State - a place I wanted to go as a child - it's special."
Smith, a self-described late bloomer in high school, went to Seward (Kan.) County Community College for two years, sitting out one with an injury. Even after posting a 9-0 record in 1997, Smith
drew no interest from Oklahoma State and signed with Alabama.
OSU Coach Tom Holliday said he wishes he could turn back the clock on Smith.
"He came out of Oklahoma, and I didn't know who he was," Holliday said. "He resurfaced at a junior college and obviously turned into a pretty good little pitcher.
"I'd like to have him. But we're not allowed to make trades in our business."
Looking at the box score only, Smith's time on the mound Friday appears uneventful. He didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning, and the only run he gave up was unearned.
But the estimated crowd of 12,000 at Rosenblatt Stadium and an ESPN television audience knows how close Smith came to not getting past the first inning.
Eight of his first nine pitches in the game were out of the strike zone, producing two walks. After a fly out to the fence in left, the home plate umpire ruled an inside pitch hit OSU third baseman Josh Holliday. Alabama coaches and players argued, but the ruling stood, loading the bases.
A grounder produced a forceout at home, leaving the bases loaded with two outs for Oklahoma State right fielder Lamont Matthews - the national leader in RBIs entering the CWS with 105.
Smith fell behind in the count 2-0, battled back to 3-2, then froze Matthews looking with a breaking pitch to end the inning.
"That was huge," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said. "He wasn't able to get his fastball down right away, and the mound was bothering him so he had to adjust.
"We were very fortunate. That kind of turned the tide. The fear of any team or coach is to have another team jump on you early."
After the first inning, Smith had little problem. He struck out seven Cowboys - including Matthews two more times looking - and gave up just three singles.
While Smith stymied Oklahoma State, Alabama scored two runs or more in four of the first six innings.
The Crimson Tide got a two-run home run from freshman first baseman Jeremy Brown in the second inning for a 2-0 lead. Three consecutive hits and a wild pitch led to three more UA runs in the fourth.
Oklahoma State, which didn't get a hit until two were out in the fourth inning, scored its first run in the fifth. Left fielder Carlos Gautreaux reached on an error and scored on back-to-back singles by second baseman Kevin Lucas and shortstop Billy Gasparino to cut the deficit to 5-1.
But Alabama retaliated with two runs in the bottom of the fifth.
And any Oklahoma State comeback hopes were crushed in the sixth when Alabama homered twice to build a 10-1 lead.
Designated hitter Antonio Bostic, No. 9 in the order, lined a ball over the right-field fence with one out. After second baseman Brent Boyd singled, right fielder Erik Smallwood got big metal on a ball that sailed out in right center.
Every starter in the Alabama lineup got a hit, which meant that shortstop Andy Phillips - who was 3 for 5 - stretched his hitting streak to a Southeastern Conference-record 34 games.
Alabama's hot bats impressed Holliday, who noted that the Crimson Tide got at least five hits with two-strike counts.
"The kids we sent out to pitch today weren't chopped liver," Holliday said. "For Alabama to get 13 or 14 hits (actually 15) is quite a performance."
- Lee Barfknecht