HOOVER, Ala. | Adam Morgan scattered six hits in a seven-inning game and Alabama beat Florida 5-2 on Saturday to set up a matchup of streaking underdogs in the Southeastern Conference title game.
The Tide (37-21), which has won eight straight games, will face eighth-seeded LSU Sunday for the tournament championship in a matchup of the bottom two seeds. It's the first time a No. 7 and 8 seed have met for the SEC tournament title but the third straight year a No. 8 has made it to Sunday.
Both have skated through without a loss with the help of superb starting pitching.
Morgan (6-4) kept that going, striking out five and walking none. Tide pitchers haven't issued a walk during 25 innings of tournament play, and Alabama has only needed relievers to get two outs.
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"I kind of wanted to help the team out, too," said Morgan, hammered for six runs in his last outing against the top-seeded Gators. "It was good to go out there and set the tempo right off the bat. It was just a good day and I feel like it kind of got me over the hump."
The Gators (42-15) are still expected to host a regional and be one of the top eight national seeds.
"From a coaching perspective, what we want out of this tournament, you want to win but more importantly you want to feel good about your team going into next weekend," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "And I certainly do."
The Saturday games were shortened to seven innings because of rain, but the weather was clear and sunny for much of the day's finale. Florida would have had to beat Alabama twice to earn a spot against LSU.
"The recipe was really what we wanted today: Seven-inning game, good pitching and early offense," Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said.
Gaspard chatted with LSU coach Paul Mainieri before the game on what effectively amounts to a home-field advantage for the Tide, located about 45 minutes away.
"He said, 'I really would like to see you guys win just to enjoy the crowd and atmosphere,'" Gaspard said. "It should be a tremendous environment."
Morgan allowed a one-out infield single to Ben McMahan in the ninth, but then struck out Jonathan Pigott and Nolan Fontana to end the game.
"The story of the game was Adam," O'Sullivan said. "He was outstanding. He pitched up and down in the zone and was really effective and if he pitches like that next weekend, whoever plays against him is going to have some trouble."
The Tide has won the championship the previous six times it started out 2-0. Alabama is riding a hot streak after starting out 10-15 in SEC play.
"You always hope late in the season your team catches fire," Gaspard said. "It's been a long road to get here. We fought through a lot of adversity, we had some injuries and other things.
"To have our team playing as well as we are at the most important time, you couldn't ask for anything more."
Alabama jumped ahead 5-0 with runs in each of the first three innings. The Tide scored an unearned run in the first, then got Andrew Miller's two-run double and a Jake Smith's two-run single over the next two innings.
The Gators cut it to 5-1 with doubles by Josh Adams and Pigott in the fourth and pushed across another run in the sixth. Preston Tucker hit a leadoff double, moved to third on a pop fly and scored on Matt den Dekker's grounder.
Alabama chased Florida starter Tommy Toledo (3-2) two outs into the fourth. He allowed seven hits and five runs, four earned, and also committed a throwing error that led to the Tide's first run. The Gators relievers didn't give up a hit over the last 2-1/3 innings.
Florida players are hoping playing a big game in front of a largely hostile environment will help in regional play. They've had an extended road trip, starting with a three-game series at South Carolina last weekend with the regular-season title on the line.
"It's definitely going to prepare us down the road," Matt den Dekker said. "We know what to expect and it gave some younger guys an opportunity to see what to expect on the road."