Baseball Team Plays First SEC Road Series at No. 15 Arkansas



March 25, 2010

Alabama Game Notes (Arkansas Series) Get Acrobat Reader

Baum Stadium – Fayetteville, Arkansas

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network
          Chris Stewart and Mick Gillispie
          WFNN-FM (95.3) in Tuscaloosa

TV:      Cox Sports Television (Arkansas and Louisiana)
           Mike Nail and Ron Swoboda

Friday, March 26 (6:35 p.m.)
UA - 32 Adam Morgan (LHP, Soph., 3-0, 2.83 ERA) 
AR - 32 Mike Bolsinger (RHP, Jr., 3-0, 3.18 ERA) 

Saturday, March 27 (2:05 p.m.)
UA - 40 Jimmy Nelson (RHP, Jr., 4-0, 1.26 ERA)
AR -33 Drew Smyly (LHP, Soph., 2-0, 1.73 ERA)

Sunday, March 28 (1:05 p.m.)
UA - Taylor Wolfe (LHP, Fr., 2-0, 3.00 ERA)
AR -24 Brett Eibner (RHP, Jr., 2-2, 3.18 ERA)

THE GAME: The No. 16 Alabama Crimson Tide plays its first Southeastern Conference road series this weekend against No. 15 Arkansas at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark. The two teams will play Friday, March 26, at 6:35 p.m., Saturday, March 27, at 2:05 p.m. and Sunday, March 28, at 1:05 p.m. The Friday and Sunday games will be televised throughout Arkansas on Cox Sports Television (CST), with Mike Nail and Ron Swoboda calling the action. Alabama (16-3, 2-1 SEC) enters the game following an 8-6 non-conference loss to Auburn in the 2010 Capital City Classic in Montgomery on Wednesday night. Arkansas (15-5, 1-2 SEC) is fresh off midweek sweep of McNeese State in Lake Charles, La., this week.

HEAD COACH Mitch Gaspard: Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard is 16-3 (.842) in his first season as the Crimson Tide’s head coach. Overall, he has compiled a 227-131 (.634) record in seven seasons as a head coach. He was named the school’s 30th head coach on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009, 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.

THE RANKINGS: Alabama is ranked in all six major polls this week, entering the Baseball America (20th) and (22nd) rankings for the first time this season on Monday, March 22. Alabama is also ranked by Collegiate Baseball (16th), NCBWA (20th), Ping Baseball (17th) and USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll (17th).

DUGAS’ STREAK: Alabama center fielder Taylor Dugas has been difficult to keep off the bases of late. In the Tide’s last three games, the sophomore has reached base 13 times in his 15 plate appearances, including the last eight in a row. During the streak, he has six hits, seven walks and two sacrifice bunts en route to a whopping .867 on-base percentage. For the season, Dugas leads the Tide in hitting (.484) and on-base percentage (.607).

HITTING LEADERS: Alabama boasts the SEC’s leading hitter in all games played and SEC games played entering the Arkansas series. Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas leads the SEC with a .484 batting average through 19 games. He is 31-for-64 for the season and has recorded at least one hit in 15 of 19 games. He also leads the SEC with a .607 on-base percentage and has reached base safely in 18 of 19 games. Junior catcher Brock Bennett is the leading hitter in SEC play with a .727 clip. He went 8-for-11 in the season-opening series with Vanderbilt and at one point in the series tallied eight straight hits. He made his SEC debut in the series opener and went 2-for-3 with two RBI.

ARKANSAS SERIES: Alabama leads the all-time series with Arkansas, 38-21, following last year’s three-game sweep in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide’s three wins were by four total runs. Alabama has won the last three series (2007, 2008 and 2009). Arkansas’ last series win came in Fayetteville in 2006. The Crimson Tide has also won five of the last six meetings between the two SEC Western Division rivals. The last four meetings have been decided by five total runs. Alabama and Arkansas never met prior to the Razorbacks joining the SEC in 1992. The Crimson Tide claimed the inaugural SEC series, winning the first two games 11-2 and 4-3 at George Cole Field in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks salvaged the series finale with a 7-3 win. The first meeting in Tuscaloosa took place in 1993, with the two teams splitting a Saturday twin bill before Alabama took the series with a 10-1 win in the finale. Alabama has won 13 of the 18 series between the two schools, including an incredible eight-series winning streak from 1996-2003. From 1996-2003, the Crimson Tide posted a 21-3 (.875) record against the Razorbacks, including a 13-game winning streak (1998-2002). Arkansas answered with three straight series wins in 2004, 2005 and 2006. The series win in Tuscaloosa in 2005 was just the Razorbacks’ second series win (1995 and 2005) at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Alabama has won the last three series, including a sweep last season in Tuscaloosa. Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard will be making his coaching debut against Arkansas this weekend. Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn is 10-14 (.417) in his career against Alabama. 

2009 ARKANSAS SERIES RECAP: Alabama swept a three-game series between the two nationally ranked teams, winning 2-1, 8-6 and 6-5 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Crimson Tide outscored the Razorbacks 16-12 in the three-game series and all three games were decided in the final three innings. The Crimson Tide hit .300 (30-for-100) in the series with six home runs and 15 RBI. The Tide pounded out 12 extra base hits in the series. Brandon May was the Tide’s leading hitter, going 6-for-12 (.500) with one home run and six RBI. Kent Matthes was 5-for-11 (.455) with two home runs and five RBI in the series. Arkansas pitchers sported a 6.00 staff ERA in the series. Alabama pitchers went 3-0 with one save a 3.00 series ERA. The staff worked 27 innings allowed 12 runs (9 ER) and 20 hits with 23 strikeouts and 10 walks. Nathan Kilcrease turned in two solid relief appearances for the Tide. He was 1-0 with one save and a 0.00 ERA against the Razorbacks. He worked 3 1/3 scoreless innings and allowed one hit, two walks and one strikeout. Arkansas batted .208 (20-for-96) in the series.

Alabama 2, Arkansas 1 (May 8, 2009)
Kent Matthes capped a two-run eighth inning with a two-out RBI double off Dallas Kuechel to give the Crimson Tide a 2-1 series-opening win. Alabama trailed 1-0 entering the eighth inning, but scored two runs for its fifth straight win. Alex Kubal opened the inning with a single and later scored the tying run on a passed ball by Arkansas catcher Ryan Cisterna. The Razorbacks had taken a 1-0 lead on Collin Kuhn’s first home run of the season in the third inning. Austin Hyatt (9 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K) went the distance for the Tide on the mound for the win. Keuchel (7.2 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, BB, 2 K) took the loss.

Alabama 8, Arkansas 6 (May 9, 2009)
Alabama overcame a 5-1 fourth-inning deficit and posted an 8-6 series-clinching win over Arkansas. The Crimson Tide trailed 5-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning before scoring two runs on Jake Smith’s RBI triple and an RBI single by Vin DiFazio. Alabama took the lead with a three-run fifth inning, highlighted by Brandon May’s two-run home run. After Arkansas tied the game in the seventh inning, Alabama took the lead for good on Matthes’ two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh. Kilcrease worked the final 2 1/3 innings for the win.

Alabama 6, Arkansas 5 (May 10, 2009)
Kilcrease worked a perfect ninth inning, stranding the tying run at third base as Alabama completed the three-game sweep of Arkansas. Chase Leavitt stroked a leadoff triple of Tyler White before Kilcrease entered the game for the second straight day. He retired the first two hitters before Ben Tschepikow struck out looking to end the game. Arkansas scored three unearned runs in the first inning to take a 3-0 lead before the Tide made another comeback. Alabama hit four home runs in the win, including two in the three-run third inning. Alex Kubal hit a solo home run and Matthes added a two-run shot. Clay Jones and Jake Smith also homered as the Tide built a 6-4 lead. Arkansas got a run in the eighth, but stranded the tying run a third. Adam Scott earned the win in relief, while Kilcrease picked up the save. Brett Eibner was the loser for Arkansas.

RPI WATCH: Alabama’s 16-3 start has not gone unnoticed. The Crimson Tide is third in the latest RPI rankings, released Thursday, March 25 by Boyd Nation ( Alabama will play 10 teams ranked in the latest top 40, including Florida (No. 4), LSU (No. 13), Mississippi (No., 14), Auburn (No. 16), College of Charleston (No. 18), Mississippi State (No. 19), SE Louisiana (No. 22), Arkansas (No. 26), Vanderbilt (No. 28) and South Carolina (No. 38).  Alabama has three more opponents in the top 100 RPI, including Kentucky (No. 44), South Alabama (No. 64), Tennessee (No. 89) and Georgia (No. 100).

RANKED TEAMS: Alabama is 3-2 (.600) against ranked teams this season, including a series win over No. 16 Vanderbilt (March 19-21) in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide has 10 different opponents ranked in this week’s various polls. LSU, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi and South Carolina are ranked in all six polls this week, while Vanderbilt is listed in five of the six weekly rankings. Southeastern Louisiana is ranked in four of the six polls and Kentucky is listed in three of the six polls. Auburn and College of Charleston are also ranked this week. The combined record of those 10 teams is 155-42 (.787) this season. College of Charleston cracked the rankings this week after winning nine of its last 11 games, including a six-game winning streak.

Mitch Gaspard Teleconference Transcript
Opening comments:
“Obviously looking forward to heading to Fayetteville. It’s always a great place to play with great fans there and our players enjoy making that trip. Overall, going into the series, we’ve gotten off to a nice start. I’d say pitching overall has been the one key thing that is probably the most improved from a year ago. We are still finding our way offensively. We have had some good nights and some nights where we are still trying to put it together. The pitching and defense has been pretty solid all year and we’ve been able to play pretty consistent in doing that.”

On the play of centerfielder Taylor Dugas:
“Taylor is certainly one of the top leadoff guys in the country. He led the SEC for good bit last year in hitting as a freshman. He is just off to another tremendous start. He is our spark plug and gets us going and sets the table. For most of last year, he led the league in doubles. He is a Lenny Dykstra-type player that ignites the offense. He is one of the better players to come through Alabama.”

On Arkansas’ team:
“We’ve got an awful lot of respect for Arkansas. We know that they are loaded back with a lot of experienced players that went to Omaha last year. They’ve played a pretty tough schedule up to this point. We will really start breaking them down today on the trip there. (Mike) Bolsinger, we have seen him enough, to know that he is awfully good. (Drew) Smyly has pitched really well for them. (Brett) Eibner and couple of guys out of the pen are good. The one thing about Arkansas is they can be a really powerful lineup with some really physical players. They have good team speed. It’s a team with good balance throughout. They are awfully good at home and are very well coached with Dave (Van Horn) and Todd (Butler) and (Dave) Jorn, who all do a really nice job. We certainly know that for us this weekend it’s going to be a great challenge. They have such a great fan base and a great environment to play baseball in.”

On Arkansas infielder Zack Cox:
“Cox is one of the best players in the country. The challenge he brings is one mistake, and he can even hit a pitcher’s pitch, and he'll hit a three-run homer in a heartbeat. In this league there are a select five to seven players that can turn a game around with one swing of the bat and he is certainly one of those guys. That to me is where they really present some real issues for you on the other side, because they’ve got three guys or so in that lineup that can run a ball out of the park at any time and change the score quickly. Cox, (Andy) Wilkins and Eibner all have big-time power. Cox is really complete and he is really developing into a real special player.”