Kemp Alderman may not have gotten a chance to play for state championship at Newton County Academy but he’ll get the chance to play for a national championship at Ole Miss.
Alderman and the Rebels qualified for the College World after sweeping two games from host Southern Miss this past weekend, winning 10-0 on Saturday and 5-0 on Sunday to win the Super Regional and advance to Omaha.
The Rebels will take on Auburn in the first round of the College World Series after the Tigers defeated No. 3 seed Oregon State 2-1 in the Corvallis Super Regional.
Alderman said this is a culmination of years of hard work in the batting cage.
“I remember being 10 years old and hitting with my dad (Kelly Alderman) in the batting cage at East Central,” Alderman said. “He said if he lived long enough, he wanted to see me play in the College World Series. So that’s been a dream of mine to go play in the College World Series. So that was a special for me to be able to make it there.”
In game 1 of the series, Alderman was 1-for-4 with an RBI. That RBI came in the top of the third when Alderman lifted a long fly ball to left field after coming back from an 0-2 count that scored Tim Elko to give the Rebels a 2-0 count.
After the Rebels scored another run in the fourth, the Rebels broke open the game with seven runs in the sixth inning and took a 10-0 win.
“I had gotten an 0-2 count and he was throwing 97 and he’s a four-pitch guy,” Alderman said. “We had a guy on second and third and they had the infield in and I just choked up and took a couple of curve balls in the dirt. I was geared up for that fastball and he threw me a slider and when I swung I thought I had hit it out. But then I felt my hands tingle and knew I had hit it off the end of the bat. At the end of the day, I got the run home and did my job.”
In game 2 of the series, Alderman had a productive day without a hit, going 0-for-1 with two walks and also reached when he was hit by a pitch. Alderman also had his first stolen base of the season.
“They threw two really good arms at us and those guys are trying to attack early,” Alderman said. “Going into the weekend, I talked with my dad and have been working on some stuff, trying to cut down my swing with two strikes. When I got two strikes, I just tried to fight and find a way to get on base. I walked five times this weekend and just was just trying to do what I could do to help my team. I just tried not to give in and battle and foul off the good pitches and take the walks.”
Ups and downs
The Rebels have had a roller coaster season. The Rebels opened the season with nine straight wins and were ranked No. 1 in the country at one point before SEC play started.
“Going into the season, we knew we had a good offensive team,” Alderman said. “We had everybody returning in the lineup and a lot of veteran players. We were No. 1 in the country at one point but then struggled in the SEC. We lost a lot of one-run games and Coach Bianco told us to keep on working hard, stick with it and trust the process.”
When the Rebels were 7-14 in the SEC and many fans were calling for head coach Mike Bianco to be fired, the team got a visit from former major leaguer Chris Coghlan, who won a World Series ring with the Chicago Cubs.
“Chris came and talked with the team and related to the year the Cubs won the World Series,” Alderman said. “He told us we had a chance. He told us about how the Cubs won it that year and nobody thought that they would. He told us if we could just get in the tournament we would have a chance because we knew what it was like to deal with adversity. He told us we had a chance to win it and I think that got our attention.”
The Rebels then went to the SEC Tournament where they lost 2-0 to Vanderbilt in the opening round. Many thought their season was over.
“We came back and continued to practice after the SEC Tournament,” Alderman said. “I think we got a lot closer. We knew we were starting to play a lot better and were throwing it a lot better. Then we got the call that we had made the tournament. We knew we were going to Miami and they just didn’t lose at their place. Arizona was also there and they put us out last year. The coaches told us not to go down there to win the tournament but try to win each pitch and each at-bat and just continue to do what we had been doing all season.”
The Rebels, who were the last team in the tournament, swept through the Coral Gables regional with a 7-4 win over Arizona. The Rebels then beat Miami 2-1 and then hammered Arizona 22-6 to win the tournament.
The Rebels then matched up with Southern Miss in the Super Regionals. The Rebels won 10-0 and 5-0 to sweep the regional after losing splitting the regular-season series with the Golden Eagles.
“We had played them twice in the regular season but hadn’t seen their weekend arms, and they hadn’t seen ours,” Alderman said. “They are definitely the best Southern Miss team I have seen in a long time. Their two weekend arms are as good as anybody I have seen. Our coaches are really good friends and they both said if they couldn’t go, they would be happy to see other team go.”
Alderman is hitting .282 on the season with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs, playing mostly as the designated hitter.