Baseball Season Opener: Mitch Gaspard Era Begins Saturday



Feb. 19, 2010


FEBRUARY 20, 2010


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Tickets: $5 adult and $3 youth (12 and under)

Opening Day Special: Purchase tickets online and receive hot dog, chips and drink, all for $6 per person.

First Pitch: Alabama's all-time passing leader John Parker Wilson will throw out the first pitch on Saturday. He is the older brother of UA second baseman Ross Wilson.

Radio: WTSK (790 AM) with Mick Gillispie

TODAY’S GAME: The University of Alabama baseball team opens its 118th season of intercollegiate baseball on Saturday, Feb. 20, with a 2:05 p.m. (CT) game against the South Alabama Jaguars at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The 2010 season opener is the first game of a two-game, home-and-home series between these two in-state rivals. Alabama and South Alabama will meet on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 1:30 p.m. (CT) at Stanky Field in Mobile to conclude the opening weekend of college baseball action.

HEAD COACH Mitch Gaspard: Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard was named the school’s 30th head coach on Tuesday, Sept. 1, replacing Jim Wells, who retired after 15 seasons. Gaspard begins his 10th overall season with the Crimson Tide baseball program this spring, after serving two stints as an assistant coach under Wells from 1995-2001 and 2008-09, where he helped land some of the nation’s top recruiting classes. Gaspard spent six years as the head coach at Northwestern State, where he compiled a 211-128 (.622) record from 2002-07. He led the Demons to a pair of Southland Conference championships, one SLC Tournament title and a berth into the 2005 NCAA Baton Rouge Regional.

EVERYBODY’S ALL-AMERICAN: Alabama junior second baseman Ross Wilson and senior third baseman Jake Smith are both preseason All-Americans. Wilson was named first-team preseason All-American by Baseball America, and PING. He was also a second-team preseason All-American pick by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Smith was a third-team preseason All-American pick by the Collegiate Baseball newspaper, NCBWA and PING. 

GOLDEN SPIKES AWARD: Wilson and Smith were both named to the 2010 Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list on Thursday, Feb. 18. USA Baseball presents the award to the top collegiate player. Alabama’s David Magadan won the award in 1983 and Kent Matthes was a finalist for the trophy last season after leading the nation with 28 home runs.

HOME-AND-HOME: Alabama and South Alabama are playing a two-game, home-and-home series to open the 2010 season. The first game will be played Saturday in Tuscaloosa and the series finale will be played Sunday in Mobile. Alabama is opening the season with a two-game series for the first time since 1995. Ironically that was the head coaching debut of former Tide head coach Jim Wells. UA swept that two-game series, winning 2-1 (11 innings) and 6-2. In 2002, Alabama opened the season on Tuesday, Feb. 12 with a 4-0 win over Louisiana Tech. The 2010 season marks the first time in almost 90 years the Crimson Tide has opened the year with a two-game, home-and-home series. In 1922, Alabama played the Birmingham Barons to open the season. The Crimson Tide lost the season opener 6-0 in Tuscaloosa and then fell 11-4 the next day in Birmingham.

GASPARD ERA BEGINS: The Mitch Gaspard era officially begins today as the Crimson Tide opens the 2010 season against the South Alabama Jaguars. Gaspard was named the school’s 30th head baseball coach on Sept. 2, 2009 after former head coach Jim Wells retired after 15 successful seasons. Gaspard begins his 10th season on the Alabama staff this spring. He served as an assistant coach for nine years, working two different stints (1995-2001 and 2008-09) under Wells. Gaspard was the head coach at Northwestern State from 2002-07, where he fashioned a 211-118 (.622) record, leading the Demons to two Southland Conference Championships (2002 and 2005) and one NCAA Regional appearance (2005).

ALABAMA COACHING DEBUTS: Alabama head coaches are 18-11 in their coaching debuts. The Tide’s last two head coaches - Dr. Barry Shollenberger and Jim Wells - won their UA debut. Shollenberger led the Tide to a 9-5 win at Georgia Southern in 1980. Wells directed Alabama to a 2-1 win over Middle Tennessee State in 11 innings on Feb. 18, 1995 in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide posted a 20-3 win over Massey’s Business College in Joseph Black’s head coaching debut in 1898. The win over Massey’s Business College are the most runs scored and the most lopsided win by a coach in his UA debut. Hayden Riley made his coaching debut against South Alabama in 1970 and suffered a 6-1 loss.

COACHING STAFF: Coach Gaspard has assembled a young and enthusiastic coaching staff to help him lead the Crimson Tide baseball program in the new era. All four coaches bring high energy and unique qualities to the staff. Former Alabama All-American catcher Dax Norris returns for his third season on the UA staff. An All-American selection in 1996, Norris is the Tide’s hitting coach and recruiting coordinator. The Crimson Tide led the SEC with a .330 batting average last season and swatted a 107 home runs, the fourth-highest total in school history. He played 13 seasons in professional baseball with Atlanta and Houston. Kyle Bunn joined the UA staff this fall after two successful stints at Mississippi and Clemson. The Clemson pitching staff was fifth nationally in 2009 with a 3.68 ERA. He had 16 pitchers drafted in his five years at Mississippi. Bobby Barbier, who was a three-year starter and Academic All-American under Gaspard at Northwestern State, joined the UA staff this summer. Barbier is the Crimson Tide’s running game coordinator and will serve as the third base coach. Student assistant coach Alex Kubal, who played at UA in 2008-09, tutors the UA outfielders and will serve as the Tide’s first base coach.

GET DIRTY, PLAY HARD: The theme for the 2010 Alabama baseball under new head coach Mitch Gaspard is simple: “Get Dirty, Play Hard.” Gaspard believes in high-energy practices and competition with each coach and player giving his all each and every day to help the team improve. The motto doesn’t stop on the field either. Gaspard believes in hard work in the classroom, weight room and in the community. 

Jake Smith on the transition to Mitch Gaspard:
“The transition has been great. He gives us new life. He comes out here every day with a lot of energy and he expects that from us and we give it back to him in return. It’s just a good situation for every player here and I am honored to play for him.”

ROSTER BREAKDOWN: The Alabama baseball roster class breakdown includes six seniors, 12 juniors, five sophomores and 12 freshmen. The roster also contains 15 pitchers, seven infielders, six outfielders, four catchers and three two-way players (Jake Smith - 3B/P; Matt Taylor - P/OF; Brett Whitaker - P/DH).

STARTERS RETURNING: Alabama returns six starters off last year’s team that finished 1.5 games behind SEC co-champions LSU and Mississippi. The list of starters includes sophomore centerfielder Taylor Dugas (56 G, .352, 2 HR, 27 RBI), senior first baseman Clay Jones (43 G, .331, 7 HR, 39 RBI), junior shortstop Josh Rutledge (57 G, .305, 5 HR, 44 RBI), senior third baseman Jake Smith (49 G, .359, 18 HR, 54 RBI), senior catcher Cody Trotter (12 G, .342, 3 HR, 11 RBI) and junior second baseman Ross Wilson (55 G, .353, 9 HR, 47 RBI). The six returning starters hit a combined .341 (315-for-923) last season with 37 home runs and 183 RBI. The returning starters accounted for 45.7 percent of the Tide’s total hits (315-of-689, 38.6 percent of the RBI (183-of-474) and 34.6 percent of the home runs (37-of-107) last season. Senior infielder/outfielder Cal Tinsley (17 G, .429, 0 HR, 0 RBI) and sophomore infielder/outfielder Jon Kelton (15 G, .286, 0 HR, 4 RBI) also saw action for the Crimson Tide in 2009.

PITCHERS RETURNING: Alabama returns only one weekend starter from last season in sophomore left-hander Adam Morgan (13 G, 9 G, 4-2, 4.17 ERA). The Crimson Tide returns a handful of relievers off last year’s squad, including LHP David Head (12 G, 2 GS, 1-3, 9.36 ERA), RHP Nathan Kilcrease (24 G, 4-4, 4.11 ERA, 2 SV), RHP Jimmy Nelson (22 G, 3 GS, 2-3, 4.54 ERA, 2 SV), RHP Adam Scott (16 G, 5 GS, 3-1, 5.28 ERA), RHP Jake Smith (6 G, 0-1, 2.13 ERA, 2 SV) and RHP Tyler White (17 G, 1-0, 2.28 ERA, 2 SV). The seven pitchers accounted for 58.4 percent of the team’s appearances on the mound (108-of-185), 49.9 percent of the strikeouts (243-of-474) and 49.7 percent of the innings (251.2-of-508.2) in 2009.

NEWCOMERS: The Alabama roster contains 19 newcomers, including six redshirts. The list of newcomers includes freshman catcher Brett Booth, freshman infielder Danny Collins, freshman pitcher Tucker Hawley, junior transfer outfielder David Kindred, freshman outfielder Andrew Miller, freshman pitcher Trey Pilkington, junior transfer outfielder John David Smelser, freshman pitcher Matt Taylor, JuCo transfer pitcher Jason Townsend, JuCo transfer pitcher Brett Whitaker, freshman pitcher Adam Windsor and freshman pitcher Taylor Wolfe. The list of redshirts includes freshman pitcher Kelby Deerman, freshman outfielder Brandt Hendricks, freshman outfielder Kent Myer, junior pitcher Jonathan Smart, junior catcher Chris Smelley and freshman pitcher Troy Sutherland. Junior infielder Josh Sanders transferred to Alabama from Jacksonville State but must sit out this season due to the NCAA transfer rules.

SOUTH ALABAMA SERIES: Alabama leads the all-time series with South Alabama, 51-47. The two in-state rivals will meet for the 100th time in the series finale on Sunday in Mobile. Alabama and South Alabama first met during the 1967 season and have met every year since the 1995 season. Alabama won a pair of 3-2 games during the 1967 season in Tuscaloosa as the two teams for the first time on the diamond. South Alabama’s first series win came the following year in Mobile when the Jags won two of three in Mobile in 1968. Alabama will be meeting South Alabama in the season opener for the 10th time. The Tide also opened the season with the Jaguars in 1970, 1971, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1984 and 1993. South Alabama has won five of the previous nine openers. South Alabama dominated the series in the early years, winning of 12 of 13 games from 1968-73, including two, six-game winning streaks (the longest in the series by USA). Alabama won five of six meetings during the 1978 and 1979 seasons, before South Alabama reeled another six-game winning streak. Alabama had a six-game winning streak in 1981 and 1982 and then won four in a row in 1983 and 1984. Over a span of four years (1981-84), Alabama won 12 of 16 games in the series. Since 1995, Alabama has gone 14-5 against South Alabama, including a six-game winning streak from 1998-2001. Alabama is 35-19 all-time against South Alabama in Tuscaloosa and has won 10 of the last 11 meetings dating back to 1995. The only blemish was a 5-4 loss to the Jags in 2007, which snapped a nine-game winning streak at the Joe. Alabama is 16-28 all-time against South Alabama in Mobile. After losing 16 of the first 19 meetings in the Port City, the Tide has gone 13-12 in the last 25 games at Stanky Field and Hank Aaron Stadium. The Jags have won three of the last five in Mobile and two in a row. Mitch Gaspard is 1-0 in his career against South Alabama, posting a 5-3 win over the Jags on Feb. 17, 2002 at Stanky Field. The win over USA was the third game in Gaspard’s coaching career at Northwestern State. South Alabama head coach Steve Kittrell is 12-19 (.387) in his career against Alabama.

LAST YEAR’S SERIES: Alabama and South Alabama played a pair of slugfests last season. The Jaguars posted a 21-16 win on April 22 at Stanky Field. One week later, Alabama posted a 14-3 win at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on April 29. The teams combined to hit .422 (65-for-154) in the two game series, scored 54 runs and collected 22 extra base hits. Alabama hit .413 (33-for-80) last season against the Jags and averaged 15 runs and 16.5 hits per game. South Alabama hit .432 (32-for-74) against the Tide and averaged 12 runs and 16 hits per game. In the 21-16 win at Stanky Field, South Alabama scored 10 runs in the third inning to take a 14-5 lead. USA third baseman Jake Overestreet had a three-run home run and three-run triple in the win. Alabama’s Josh Rutledge went 4-for-5 with four runs scored and five RBI and hit for the cycle in the loss. One week later, Alabama scored a 14-3 win in Tuscaloosa. The Tide led 4-2 in the fifth inning but broke the game open with three runs in the fifth and five in the sixth. Brandon May and Jake Smith went 7-for-10 with four runs scored and five RBI in the win. Rutledge is hitting .462 (6-for-13) in three career games against South Alabama. He scored six runs, collected three extra base hits and knocked in eight runs. He hit for the cycle against the Jags on April 22, 2009, the second Alabama player to hit for the cycle against the Jags at Stanky Field.