PLAY BALL: Baseball Team Hosts Cal Poly in Season Opener



Friday, February 22 - 6:30 p.m. (CDT)
Saturday, February 23 - 2 p.m. (CDT) (DH)
Sewell-Thomas Stadium (6,118) - Tuscaloosa, Ala.

SEASON OPENERS: The University of Alabama baseball team opens its 115th season Friday, February 22, when the Crimson Tide plays host to the Cal Poly Mustangs in the first game of a three-game series at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.  Alabama has compiled a 74-39-1 (.654) all-time record in season openers, dating back to the inaugural season of Crimson Tide baseball.  Head Coach Jim Wells is 11-2 (.846) in season openers at the Capstone.  The Crimson Tide posted a 12-3 win over Georgia State in last year’s season opener on February 10.  UA’s school-record 12-game winning streak in home openers came to an end with a 9-6 loss to No. 26 Winthrop on Feb. 11, 2006.  

HEAD COACH JIM WELLS:  Alabama head coach Jim Wells has compiled a 554-272 (.671) record in 826 games as he enters his 14th season at the Capstone. He is the winningest coach in school history and has worked more games than any other Tide coach.  Wells has led the Crimson Tide to two SEC Championships (1996 and 2006), three College World Series appearances (1996, 1997 and 1999), three SEC Western Division titles (1996, 2002 and 2006), six SEC Tournament championships (1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2002 and 2003) and 10 NCAA Regionals.  He was named SEC Coach of the Year in 1996 and 2002 and the Baseball America National Coach of the Year in 1996.  Overall, Wells has compiled a 748-361 (.675) record in 1,109 games as he enters his 18th season at the Division I level.  Prior to Alabama, he spent five years at Northwestern (La.) State, where he compiled a 192-89 (.683) record and led the Demons to three Southland Conference championships and two NCAA Regional appearances.

CAL POLY SERIES: This is the first meeting between Alabama and Cal Poly.  The Mustangs are the first California team to play in Tuscaloosa since Cal-State Fullerton and Alabama played a three-game series February 26-28, 1999. After losing the opener, Alabama bounced back to win the next two games and take the series.  Both teams played in the College World Series later that season.

BIG WEST OPPONENTS: Alabama has compiled a 3-4 (.429) record against Big West Conference foes. Cal Poly will be just the third Big West team to play against Alabama, joining Cal-State Fullerton and Long Beach State.  The Crimson Tide and Titans split a pair of three-game series in 1998 and 1999.  CSF won two of three in Fullerton in 1998, while the Tide earned a series win in Tuscaloosa in 1999. Long Beach State beat Alabama, 5-4, in the championship game of the 1998 West Regional in Palo Alto, Calif., to advance to the College World Series. Alabama has never faced Cal State Northridge, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara or Pacific. 

ROSTER BREAKDOWN:  The 2008 Alabama baseball roster contains three seniors, 19 juniors, six sophomores and eight freshmen.  The 36 players hail from 10 different states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri and New Jersey.

SOMETHING OLD: The Crimson Tide roster contains 19 veteran players, with the majority of the experience coming from the position players.  The Tide returns 10 players who started at least one game last season, including Alex Avila, Matt Bentley, Del Howell, Kent Matthes, Brandon May, Kyle Moore, Ryan Rhoden, Jake Smith and Jeff Texada.  Alabama returns six experienced pitchers, including Josh Copeland, Austin Graham, Austin Hyatt, Casey Kebodeaux, Miers Quigley and Will Stroup.

SOMETHING NEW: Alabama welcomes 15 newcomers to the 2008 roster, including seven transfers and eight true freshmen.  The transfers include pitchers Jarrod Hewes (Faulkner State CC), Jamie Manning (Wallace State CC), Patrick Nappi (Shelton State CC) and Robert Phares (Shelton State CC); catchers Mike Sharp (Kansas CC) and David Woods (Meridian CC); and outfielder Alex Kubal (Gulf Coast CC).  The list of true freshmen include pitchers Connor Hoehn, Nathan Kilcrease, Jimmy Nelson and Tyler White and infielders Jon Kelton, Josh Rutledge and Ross Wilson.  Freshman pitcher Austin Evans and junior catcher Vin DiFazio both redshirted last year.

CRIMSON TIDE STARTERS: Alabama’s projected opening day starting lineup has combined for 451 career starts, including veteran players Alex Avila (112 games started), Ryan Rhoden (89), Matt Bentley (76), Kent Matthes (64), Jake Smith (39) and Brandon May (41).  Jeff Texada (26) and Will Stroup (4) have combined for 30 career starts, while true freshmen Josh Rutledge and Ross Wilson will make their collegiate debuts in the 2008 season opener.

CRIMSON TIDE DEBUTS:  The 2008 Alabama roster contains 17 players who have never played a game for the Crimson Tide.  Those playing looking to make their collegiate debut this season include pitchers Austin Evans, Connor Hoehn,  Jarrod Hewes, Nathan Kilcrease, Jamie Manning, Patrick Nappi, Jimmy Nelson, Robert Phares and Tyler White; catchers Vin DiFazio, Mike Sharp and David Woods; infielders Jon Kelton, Josh Rutledge, James Tullidge and Ross Wilson; and outfielder Alex Kubal.

SEASON OPENERS: Alabama has compiled a 73-39-1 (.656) all-time record in season openers, dating back to the first season of baseball in 1892.  In its first-ever game, Alabama defeated Sewanee 6-3 on July 1, 1892 at Birmingham’s Lakeview Park.  The Crimson Tide was coached by Shelby Fletcher, making his only appearance as the UA baseball skipper. Alabama’s most common opening day opponents are the Birmingham Barons (11 games), Samford (10 games) and South Alabama (9 games).  The Crimson Tide’s 9-6 loss to Winthrop in the 2006 season opener snapped an 11-game winning streak in home openers dating back to a 6-5 loss to South Alabama in 1993. Alabama’s school-record 11-game opening day winning streak came to an end with a 4-1 loss at Hawai’i on Feb. 10, 2005. It was the Tide’s first opening day loss since dropping a 4-3 decision to South Alabama at Mobile’s Eddie Stanky Field on Feb. 20, 1993.

LATER START DATE: The NCAA has gone to uniform a start date for all Division I baseball teams this season, with practice beginning February 1, and the first day of competition set for Friday, February 22.  The 2008 season is the latest Alabama has opened the season since the 1990 season when the Tide opened with an 11-9 win over Augusta College on Saturday, February 23, 1990.  The new schedule cut two weeks off the beginning of the season and forces teams to play five games a week for most of the season. The NCAA did grant Hawaii and Hawaii-Hilo a special waiver to begin Friday, February 15, due to the difficulty of scheduling midweek games. 

OPENING DAY FOES:  Cal Poly will mark the 63rd different opening day opponent for the Crimson Tide baseball team.  The Tide has a winning record against 42 of the previous 62 opening day opponents. Alabama has opened the season 11 times against the Birmingham Barons, the most of any opening day foe.  Among college teams, Alabama has opened the season with Samford 10 times, posting an 8-2 record against the Bulldogs.

HOME OPENERS: Alabama has compiled a 80-33-1 (.704) all-time record in home openers. The Crimson Tide played its games on the University Quadrangle (the present site of Toomey Hall, the Army ROTC Building) from 1893-1947 and compiled a 31-23-1 (.573) record in home openers.  Alabama is 49-10 (.831) in home openers here at Sewell-Thomas Stadium since the park originally opened as Thomas Field on March 27, 1948. Since 1979, Alabama is 25-5 (.833) in home openers, losing in 1981, 1987, 1989, 1993 and 2006.

HOME OPENER FOES: Cal Poly will mark the 60th different opponent for a home opener.  The Mustangs are also the 15th different opponent in the last 18 home openers.

WELLS IN SEASON OPENERS:  Coach Wells is 15-3 (.833) in season openers, posting an 11-game winning streak from 1994-2004.  Wells only three losses in season openers came in 1993 (Rice, 12-6), 2005 (Hawai’i, 4-1) and 2006 (Winthrop, 9-6). Including seven opening day double headers, Wells has compiled a 19-6 (.760) record, including a sweep of Georgia State last season.

FEBRUARY RECORD: Alabama has posted a 110-30 (.786) record in the month of February under head coach Jim Wells.  The Crimson Tide went 9-2 (.818) last season in February.  The team batted .343 (136-for-397) with 12 home runs and 90 RBI.  The Tide averaged almost 10 runs per game.  The pitching staff was 9-2 with a 2.56 ERA and recorded 106 strikeouts in 103 innings.  Ryan Rhoden (10 G, .421, 5 RBI) and Kent Matthes (11 G, .419, 4 HR, 19 RBI) were the team’s leading hitters.  The school record for wins in the month of February is 10 wins set in 1997 and 1998. Alabama is 13-2 (.867) in its last 15 February games.

ONE RUN GAMES: Alabama has compiled a 110-87 (.558) record in 197 one-run games under Wells.  The Crimson Tide posted a 5-8 record in one-run games last season.  Overall, Wells coached teams are 148-111 (.571) in 259 one-run games.  He was 38-23 (.623) in one-run games at Northwestern State.

EXTRA INNINGS: Alabama is 64-60-3 (.516) in extra inning games. The Tide is 21-22 (.488) in extra inning games under Coach Wells, including a 3-4 mark last season.

DOUBLE DIPPING:  Alabama has compiled a 210-10 (.955) record under since 1995 when scoring 10 or more runs in a game. The Crimson Tide was 9-0 last season when scoring 10 or more runs. Coach Wells has compiled a 245-13 (.950) all-time record in 258 games when scoring 10 or more runs. He was 35-3 (.921) at Northwestern State when scoring 10 or more runs. The Crimson Tide is 92-3 (.968) since the start of the 2001 season when scoring 10 or more runs in a game. Alabama won 42 consecutive games when scoring 10 or more runs from May 19, 2000 until March 30, 2003. The 42-game winning streak when scoring 10 or more runs was the longest by a Jim Wells coached team. His previous best was 36 consecutive games from 1993-96 at Northwestern State (9-0) and Alabama (27-0).

FIRST-TIME OPPONENTS:  Alabama will meet four first-time opponents this season, including this weekend’s opponent, Cal Poly.  The Crimson Tide has also never played UT Arlington, Dallas Baptist and Youngstown.  All of those meetings will come in the first 11 games of the 2008 season.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONS: The 2008 Alabama baseball schedule features 11 team’s that have won at least one football national championship. Alabama has 12 football national championships to its credit.  Including Alabama, the 12 teams have combined to win 31 football national titles.  There are five Football Bowl Championship teams that have one at least Associated Press or BCS National Championship, including Auburn (1957), Florida (1996 and 2006), Georgia (1980), LSU (1959, 2003 and 2007) and Tennessee (1998).  The other six schools have won national championships at the Football Subdivision (formerly I-AA) and Division II levels, including Cal Poly (1980), Jacksonville State (1992), North Alabama (1993, 1994 and 1995), Troy (1984 and 1987) and Youngstown State (1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997). In addition, four UA opponents have one at least one baseball national championship, including Cal Poly (1989), Jacksonville State (1990-91), LSU (1991, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 2000) and Troy (1986 and 1987). Those four teams have accounted for 10 baseball national titles.

CELEBRATIONS:  The Crimson Tide baseball team will host three reunions this season at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.  Alabama welcomes back to campus the 1983 College World Series runner-up, March 7-9, when the Crimson Tide hosts Youngstown State.  The 1983 CWS team will celebrate its 25th anniversary this season.  Alabama will celebrate the 60th birthday of “The Joe” on Friday, March 21, when the Crimson Tide opens SEC play against the defending SEC Champion Vanderbilt Commodores.  The celebration will include a large birthday cake and party favors for Tide fans, along with the return of all former baseball lettermen for the game.  One former player, representing each decade of “The Joe’s” existence will throw out the first pitch.  The final celebration will take place April 25-27, when the Crimson Tide hosts the Auburn Tigers.  The Crimson Tide will honor the 1968 team that weekend as the SEC Champions hold their 40th reunion in Tuscaloosa.