Feb. 26, 2009
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Alabama looks to continue its winning ways this weekend as the No. 23 ranked Crimson Tide hosts the Illinois Chicago Flames in a four-game series at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The series opener is set for Friday, Feb. 27, at 6:35 p.m. (CST). The teams will play a double-header, consisting of two nine-inning games, on Saturday, Feb. 28, at 1:05 p.m. (CST) and then conclude the series on Sunday, March 1, at 12:35 p.m. (CST).
Illinois Chicago brings a 0-4 record to Tuscaloosa this weekend after a very competitive series with fourth-ranked Texas last weekend in Austin. The Flames’ four-man starting rotation worked 25 1/3 of the 30 innings last weekend. Senior right-hander Adam Worthington, who was the 2008 Horizon League Relief Pitcher of the Year and UIC’s all-time saves leader, held the Longhorns to one run and six hits in 7 2/3 innings in his first start for the Flames. Texas won the game, 1-0.
“Illinois Chicago is a very good team,” Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. “They were an NCAA Regional team last year and they have a lot of guys back off that team. They played well last weekend at Texas, with good pitching and good defense. We will have to play better than we have shown in the first five games.”
Alabama is playing its first four-game series since opening the 2005 season at Hawai’i (Feb. 10-13) in Honolulu. The Crimson Tide has not hosted a four-game series at Sewell-Thomas Stadium since the 1975 season, when SEC teams played four-game series, which consisted of two, seven-inning double-headers on Saturday and Sunday. Alabama played four-game home series with Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Louisville (non-SEC), Mississippi State, Mississippi and LSU during the 1975 campaign.
RANKINGS: Alabama enters the week ranked 23rd in the Rivals.com Top 25 poll. The Tide was ranked in three of the five preseason polls, but dropped out of the Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball newspaper polls after dropping the series with Southeast Missouri State.
TICKETS: Tickets for the Alabama-Illinois Chicago series can be purchased at www.RollTide.com or at the Sewell-Thomas Stadium box office, beginning two hours prior to each game. Tickets are $5 each.
RADIO: The Alabama-Illinois Chicago series will be aired by the Crimson Tide Sports Network. The series opener will be aired on the full network, including WFFN-FM (95.3 in Tuscaloosa) and WAPI-AM (1070 in Birmingham). The Saturday double-header will air only in Tuscaloosa on WTSK-AM (790). Mick Gillispie will handle the play-by-play duties for the first three games of the series. On Sunday, the game will be aired only in Tuscaloosa on WFFN-FM (95.3), with Chris Stewart calling the action.
HEAD COACH Jim Wells: Coach Jim Wells begins his 15th season at Alabama and his 20th overall as a Division-I head coach. He has compiled a 591-302 (.663) record in 892 games since being named UA’s 29th head coach on June 4, 1995. A 2009 Alabama Baseball Coaches Association (AlaBCA) Hall of Fame inductee, Wells is the winningest coach in Crimson Tide baseball lore. He is sixth on the SEC’s all-time win list and needs just nine wins to become the sixth league coach to win 600 games. He is also fifth on the SEC’s all-time list in terms of winning percentage. Overall, Wells has compiled a 783-391 (.667) record in 1,174 games over 20 seasons 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.
WHO TO WATCH: Senior right fielder Kent Matthes (.500, 4 HR, 8 RBI) is not only the hottest hitter in the Alabama lineup, but he may be the hottest hitter in the nation at this point in the season. In his last three games, Matthes is hitting .615 (8-for-13) with four home runs and eight RBI. He has scored eight runs and added seven extra base hits and one stolen base. Against Nicholls State, he was 6-for-9 (.667) with two doubles, two home runs and six RBI. He hit for the cycle on Tuesday, Feb. 24 and added a walk-off home run on Wednesday, Feb. 25. Matthes posted the third two-home run game of his UA career on Sunday, Feb. 22. In five games, he is hitting .500 with four home runs and eight RBI and leads the team in 11 offensive statistical categories. Senior outfielder Tyler Odle is hitting .429 (3-for-7) with one home run and two RBI. Odle started UA’s comeback against Nicholls State on Wednesday afternoon with a two-run home run in the fifth inning. The Alabama bullpen recorded a win and save in the Nicholls State series. The Crimson Tide’s five relief pitchers worked 10 innings in the series and allowed one run (0.90 ERA) and nine hits, with 10 strikeouts and two walks. Sophomore right-hander Jimmy Nelson appeared in both games, earning a win and save. He worked two perfect innings, with two strikeouts.
ALABAMA-ILLINOIS CHICAGO SERIES: Alabama and Illinois Chicago will be meeting for the first time this weekend when the two teams play a four-game series in Tuscaloosa.
SCOUTING ILLINOIS CHICAGO: Illinois Chicago brings a 0-4 record to Tuscaloosa this weekend after a very competitive series with fourth-ranked Texas last weekend in Austin. The pitching staff posted some impressive numbers on the mound, holding the Longhorns to 20 runs in the four-game set. The Flames lost three games by a total of seven runs (6-1, 3-1 and 1-0), while the third game of the series was a 10-1 setback. The four-man starting rotation worked 25 1/3 of the 30 innings last weekend. Senior right-hander Adam Worthington, who was the 2008 Horizon League Relief pitcher of the Year and UIC’s all-time saves leader, held the Longhorns to one run and six hits in 7 2/3 innings in his first start for the Flames. Texas won the game, 1-0. Senior right-hander Mike Kool held Texas to three runs and nine hits in seven innings in a 3-1 loss. The bullpen worked 4 2/3 scoreless innings last weekend and allowed three hits. UIC pitchers did struggle with control in the series with Texas, issuing 16 walks (6 strikeouts) and hitting three batters. On offense, UIC hit just .106 (12-for-113) in the series against the vaunted Texas pitching staff. Junior third baseman Jason Ganek hit .273 (3-for-11) with one RBI to pace the Flames offense.
ALABAMA VS. HORIZON LEAGUE: Alabama is 8-0 all-time against the Horizon League, including 3-0 records against Butler and Youngstown State and a 2-0 mark against Cleveland State. The Crimson Tide has never faced Illinois Chicago, Valparasio, Wisconsin Milwaukee or Wright State. Alabama swept a three-game series with Youngstown State, March 7-9, 2008 in Tuscaloosa. Brandon May went 5-for-9 (.556) in the series with six RBI. Ross Wilson added six RBI and Kent Matthes hit two home runs and knocked in five runs in the sweep. Austin Hyatt and Miers Quigley combined for 17 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings in their two wins. Alabama swept a two-game series from Butler in 1994, winning 8-6 and 10-1. The Tide also beat Butler 6-2 during the 2005 season. Alabama won single games against Cleveland State in 1980 (7-5) and 1982 (14-1).
WELLS VS. HORIZON LEAGUE: Alabama coach Jim Wells is 4-0 in his career against Horizon League schools, leading the Tide to a 2008 series sweep of Youngstown State (March 7-9) and a win over Butler in 2005.