Baseball Team Hosts Auburn in Three-Game SEC Series
April 1, 2010
ALABAMA BASEBALL GAME NOTES
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network
TV: CSS (Friday Only)
Auburn Starting Pitchers:
THE GAME: The battle of state bragging rights takes place this weekend in Tuscaloosa, as No. 23 Alabama hosts Auburn in a three-game Southeastern Conference series at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The series opener is set for Friday, April 2, at 6:06 p.m. (CDT) and the game will be regionally televised by Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS) with Chris Stewart and Scott McClanahan calling the action. The two teams will also meet on Saturday, April 3, at 4:05 p.m. and Sunday, April 4, at 2:05 p.m. Alabama and Auburn are meeting in the third weekend of SEC play, which marks the earliest meeting between these two long-time rivals since 1999. The Crimson Tide and Tigers also met during the third weekend of conference play on March 26-28, 1999 at Plainsman Park in Auburn. The Tigers won two of those three games. Both teams enter the weekend following SEC series losses last week and a midweek loss on Wednesday. Alabama (17-7, 2-4) has lost six of its last seven games after a 16-1 start to the 2010 season. The Crimson Tide was swept at Arkansas last weekend and suffered a 6-4 loss at UAB on Wednesday. Auburn (17-8, 4-2 SEC) lost a home series to South Carolina last weekend and fell 5-4 at Troy on Wednesday night.
HEAD COACH Mitch Gaspard: Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard is 17-7 (.708) in his first season as the Crimson Tide’s head coach. Overall, he has compiled a 228-135 (.628) 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 four of the six major polls this week, including the USA Today/ESPN Coaches (23rd) poll, Baseball America (25th), National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (29th) and Ping Baseball (29th). The Crimson Tide dropped out of the Collegiate Baseball newspaper and Rivals.com polls this week.
ALABAMA HITTING NOTES: Alabama is fourth in the SEC in hitting (.312) ... the Crimson Tide leads the SEC in hitting with the bases loaded (.417), runners at third and less than two outs (.746) and advancing runners (.559) ... Alabama has the least amount of strikeouts (129) and the fewest home runs (17) in the SEC ... the Crimson Tide has only one home run in its last seven games and has been out-homered 11-1 in that stretch ... Alabama has hit into nine double plays in its last five games, including seven in the series at Arkansas (March 26-28) ... the Tide has five double-figure scoring games and 12 double-digit hit games this season ... the Crimson Tide’s 25 runs scored against Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 27 tie LSU for the most runs in the SEC in a game this season ... LSU scored 25 runs against Centenary on Feb. 20 ... Alabama did not strike out in its 15-8 win over Stony Brook on March 12 ... the Tide had only one strikeout at Arkansas on March 27 ... junior shortstop Josh Rutledge scored five runs in the win over Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 27, the most by an SEC player in 2010.
ALABAMA PITCHING NOTES: Alabama leads the SEC in fewest runs (99) allowed this season ... the Tide is third in fewest hits allowed (211), third in fewest walks allowed (75) and fourth in fewest earned runs (91) allowed ... Alabama has yielded 16 home runs this year, including 11 in the last six games ... the Tide has thrown two shutouts this season against the College of Charleston (4-0, March 6) and Stony Brook (5-0, March 13) ... the 4-0 win at the College of Charleston marked the first time Cougars had been shutout at home since a 6-0 loss to top-ranked Clemson on March 3, 2006 ... Nelson, Wolfe and Pilkington combined for the SEC’s only one-hitter this season against Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 27 ... Alabama has six double-digit strikeouts games this season, including a season-high 16 strikeouts at the College of Charleston on March 6 ... Arkansas scored a season-high 10 runs against Alabama on March 28 ... the Tide has yielded 10 double-digit hit games, including a season-high 14 hits by Arkansas on March 28.
ALABAMA FIELDING NOTES: Alabama is third in the league in fielding (.976) and is tied with Mississippi for the second-fewest errors (21) in the league ... Alabama has played 11 errorless games and is 9-2 in those 11 games ... from Feb. 27-March 7, UA logged 35 2/3 consecutive errorless innings and fielded 133 consecutive chances without an error ... Alabama has eight outfield assists this season, by five different players ... the list includes Brett Booth (3), Taylor Dugas (2), Cal Tinsley (1), Andrew Miller (1) and John David Smelser (1) ... Alabama logged an SEC high 20 assists in its win over Stony Brook on March 12 ... Rutledge had an SEC-high eight assists in the game.
RPI WATCH: Alabama is 11th in the latest RPI rankings, released Thursday, April 1, by Boyd Nation (www.boydsworld.com). The Crimson Tide is one of six SEC teams among the top 20 one of nine SEC teams among the top 30. Alabama will play nine teams ranked in the latest top 40, including Florida (No. 3), Arkansas (No. 9), LSU (No. 10), Mississippi (No. 13), Vanderbilt (No. 18), College of Charleston (No. 19), Auburn (No. 22), Mississippi State (No. 29) and SE Louisiana (No. 30) and South Carolina (No. 36). The Crimson Tide has four more opponents in the top 100 RPI, including Michigan State (No. 47), Kentucky (No. 50), South Alabama (No. 58) and Tennessee (No. 82).
RANKED TEAMS: Alabama is 3-5 (.375) against ranked teams this season, including a series win over No. 16 Vanderbilt (March 19-21) in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide has eight different opponents ranked in this week’s various polls. Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Mississippi and South Carolina are ranked in all six polls. Southeastern Louisiana is ranked in four of the six polls and Kentucky is ranked in one poll. The combined record of those eight teams is 162-41 (.798) this season.
SMELSER OUT WITH TORN LABRUM: Alabama junior outfielder John David Smelser suffered torn labrum during pregame warm-ups at Arkansas on March 26 and will miss the remainder of the season. He is expected to have season-ending surgery next week. Smelser, a native of Tuscaloosa, played in 16 games and hit .306 (15-for-49) with 12 runs scored, four doubles and seven RBI. He also started 12 games in right field and left field. He had three multi-hit games, including a career-high three hits in the win over Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 27. He had a career-best three RBI a win over Stony Brook on March 13.
KELTON HAS NCAA’S TOP ON-BASE MARK: Sophomore DH Jon Kelton leads the nation with a .623 on-base percentage, according to the latest NCAA Division I baseball statistics released on March 30. He has reached base 44 times in 21 games this season, including 20 times in the last five games. For the season, Kelton has 18 hits, 17 walks and nine HBPs.
DUGAS AMONG TOUGHEST TO STRIKE OUT: Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas ranks as the sixth-toughest player to strike out, according to the latest NCAA Division baseball statistics released on March 30. Dugas has struck out only twice in 82 at-bats this season, or once every 41 at-bats. He also had 103 plate appearances (82 AB, 25 BB, 6 SAC), which gives him one strikeout for every 51.5 plate appearances this season. Iona’s Chris Griffin is the NCAA leader with no strikeouts in 61 at bats this year.
RUTLEDGE RIDING 19-GAME HITITNG STREAK: Alabama junior shortstop Josh Rutledge is riding a 19-game hitting streak, the longest active streak in the SEC. The 19-game hitting streak is the second-longest streak in the SEC this season behind Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox, who opened the year with a 24-game hitting streak. Cox streak ended when he went 0-for-4 against Centenary on March 31.
During the streak, Rutledge is hitting a robust .432 (35-for-81) with two home runs, 19 RBI and 20 runs scored. He has added seven doubles and one triple.
Rutledge has 12 multi-hit games during the 19-game hitting streak, including nine two-hit games, two three-hit games and one four-hit outing.
The streak began with a 2-for-4 two RBI game against Georgia on March 3 at Regions Park in Hoover.
For the season, Rutledge is the Tide’s second-leading hitter with a .412 batting average (.42-for-102) with three home runs and a team-best 27 RBI. He also leads Alabama with 28 runs scored, 14 multi-hit games and seven multi-RBI games.
Rutledge is looking for his second career 20-game hitting streak. He posted an Alabama freshman record 28-game hitting streak in 2008. During that streak, he batted .430 (52-for-121) six extra base hits, 27 runs scored and 20 RBI. The streak began with a 2-for-5 two RBI game at Jacksonville State on March 26, 2008 and ended with an 0-for-5 game against Florida on May 11, 2008.
There have been 11, 20-game hitting streaks in Alabama history and Rutledge is bidding to become the first player in school history with two 20-game hitting streaks.
Sophomore centerfielder Taylor Dugas posted a 24-game hitting streak in 2009 and assistant coach Dax Norris had a 20-game hitting streak in 1996. Andy Phillips owns the Alabama and SEC with a 36-game hitting streak in 1999.
In the history of Major League Baseball, a total of 350 players have achieved a 20-game hitting streak during their career. Pete Rose is the all-time leader with seven 20-game hitting streaks, including a National League record 44-game hitting streak in 1978. Ty Cobb had five 20-game hitting streaks during his Hall of Fame career. Joe DiMaggio had four 20-game hitting streaks, including the Major League record 56-game hitting streak in 1941. Other notable players with two or more 20-game hitting streaks in their career includes Hank Aaron (3), Wade Boggs (3), George Brett (2), Nomar Garciaparra (4), Juan Gonzalez (3), Vladimir Guerrero (3), Tony Gwynn (2), Derek Jeter (2), Willie Mays (3), Dale Mitchell (5), Stan Musial (4) and Ichiro Suzuki (5).
UNDER THREE HOURS: Alabama has played only one three-hour game this season. The Crimson Tide’s 9-8 loss at Arkansas on March 26 is the only game to go over the three-hour barrier this season. The average length of the Tide’s first 24 games is almost 2:43, with the shortest game being 2:14 against UIC (Feb. 27) and Stony Brook (March 13).
UAB RECAP: Alabama stranded 10 base runners, including five in the final two innings, in a 6-4 loss to UAB at Regions Park in Hoover. Alabama had the winning run at the plate in both the eighth and ninth innings, but could deliver the hit as Brandt Hendricks and Clay Jones ended each inning with a strikeout. UAB took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on solo home runs by Luke Stewart and Ryan Ussery and stretched that lead top 4-1 after six innings. Alabama scored single runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, but could not overtake the Blazers. Josh Rutledge went 4-for-5 with two runs scored and one RBI to lead the Crimson Tide offense. The Blazers scored two more run in the eighth inning to take a 6-3 lead and essentially seal the win. Benji Waite was the winning pitcher for UAB, while Tucker Hawley took the loss for Alabama.
JAX STATE RECAP: Alabama scored four runs in the bottom of the second inning and four UA relief pitchers held Jacksonville State to one unearned run and three hits over the final seven innings, as the Tide posted a 7-3 win in Tuscaloosa. Taylor Dugas put Alabama head to stay with a two-run single in the second inning off JSU starter and losing pitcher Kevin Elwell. Alabama added two more runs on a balk and error to take a 5-2 lead. JSU scored once in the third, but Alabama bounced back with two in the bottom of the frame to take 7-3 lead before leaving the bases loaded. Sam Eberle’s two-run home run home run gave the Gamecocks a first-inning lead. Freshman right-hander Trey Pilkington was the winning pitcher with two scoreless innings of relief.
AUBURN SERIES: Alabama leads the all-time series with Auburn, 139-116. Auburn has won four of the last five meetings, including an 8-6 victory at the 2010 Capital City Classic on March 24 in Montgomery, Ala. The game did not count in the SEC standings. The two teams first met on the diamond in 1896 with Auburn winning the first two games played in Auburn. Alabama swept a two-game series the following year in Tuscaloosa for its first series win. The two teams split the first 10 meetings, before Alabama won 14 of the next 21 meetings (1901-08) before the series was halted. Alabama and Auburn did not meet in football (1908-48) or baseball (1909-48) for a 41-year period. The series was finally resumed in 1949, with the Crimson Tide and Tigers playing in opposite divisions in the SEC from 1949-75. Alabama has been a long-standing member of the SEC Western Division, while Auburn moved from the Eastern Division to the Western Division after the 1975 baseball season. The Tide and Tigers annually played four games each season, but none of those counted in the SEC standings until 1976. When the series was finally resumed in 1949, Alabama posted a nine-game winning streak en route to a 28-8 record over Auburn during a 36-game stretch from 1949-58. Alabama and Auburn met in the best-of-three SEC Playoffs in 1958, with the Tigers sweeping two games from the Tide at Rickwood Field to win the 1958 SEC Championship. The SEC championship series was part of six-game series winning streak for the Tigers. From 1958-79, Auburn posted a 34-18 record against Alabama. The Tigers also had a series-long nine-game winning streak from 1978-79, winning three straight SEC series with two sweeps. Alabama regained the upper hand in the 1980s, posting a 35-19 record from 1980-89, including a 10-game winning streak from 1980-82. Alabama RHP Vince Barrentine fired a seven-inning no-hitter against Auburn at Plainsman Park in 1981. The Tigers went 14-8 against Alabama from 1990-94. Since 1995, the Tide is 32-25 against the Tigers and has won nine of the 15 series. Alabama beat No. 1 ranked Auburn two out of three in 1995, including a 10-5 win at Montgomery’s Paterson Field in front of a then-state record 8,543 fans, on May 12, 1995. The Crimson Tide beat the Tigers four times in 1996 as Auburn managed only one run in 36 innings against Alabama. UA came within two outs of a no-hitter against the Tigers at Paterson Field on April 2, 1996 as Corey Spiers, Manny Torres and Skip Ames combined on the one-hitter. Alabama also went 4-0 against Auburn in 2002, including a 6-3 win in the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional at the Joe. Alabama and Auburn have met at 11 different sites in the 113-year history of the rivalry. The two teams have also played in Auburn, Selma, Birmingham, Mobile, Dothan, Huntsville, Baton Rouge, La. (1986, 1993 SEC Tournament), Montgomery, Huntsville and New Orleans (Winn Dixie Showdown). Alabama owns a 73-39 all-time series lead in games played in Tuscaloosa, including a 58-34 mark at the Joe since 1948.
2010 CAPITAL CITY CLASSIC RECAP: Alabama dropped an 8-6 decision to No. 29 Auburn in the second annual Capital City Classic in front of 7,205 fans at Montgomery’s Riverwalk Stadium on Wednesday, March 24. The Crimson Tide was held in check during the middle innings by Auburn relief pitcher Michael Hurst, who saw his teammates extend a one-run lead to three runs during his time on the mound. Hurst (2-0) allowed one run and three hits in 3 1/3 innings with two strikeouts and three walks. Auburn (16-5) led 7-4 entering the eighth inning before the Crimson Tide scored two runs and had the tying and go-ahead runs on base. Sophomore DH Jon Kelton drew a leadoff walk against Hurst, who left the game after throwing 51 pitches. Dugas went 3-for-3 with two walks to extend his on-base streak to eight straight plate appearances. Rutledge went 1-for-5 with three RBI. Auburn scored an insurance run in the eighth inning to take an 8-6 lead. Wes Gilmer drew a leadoff walk and later scored on Crede Simpson’s sacrifice fly to give the Tigers a two-run lead. Alabama (16-3) scored two runs in the third, fourth and eighth innings, only to see Auburn score in the bottom half of each inning, including a four-run third inning, highlighted by McElroy’s three-run home run that gave the Tigers a 5-2 lead.
2009 ALABAMA-AUBURN SERIES RECAP: Auburn posted a 3-1 record against Alabama last season, including an SEC series in Auburn to close out the regular season. It was just the Tigers’ second series win over the Crimson Tide in the last five years. The Crimson Tide hit only .279 in the four games last season with 14 extra base hits and 22 RBI. Alabama averaged only 5.6 runs and 9.5 hits per game against the Tigers. Jake Smith was the leading hitter, going 7-for-15 with four runs scored, two home runs and seven RBI in four games. Auburn hit just .244 against the Tide with 11 extra base hits and 16 RBI. Tony Caldwell (5-14, 2 R, HR and 4 RBI) and Brian Fletcher (5-14, 3 R, 1 HR and 5 RBI) both hit .357 to lead the Tigers offense. Alabama’s pitching staff went 1-3 with a 4.01 ERA last year against the Tigers. The Crimson Tide allowed 17 runs and 32 hits in 33 2/3 innings, with 37 strikeouts and 11 walks. Auburn went 3-1 with a 5.14 ERA. The Tigers allowed 23 runs and 38 hits in 35 innings, with 36 strikeouts and 14 walks. Both teams played good defense last season against one another. Alabama made two errors and turned one double play in the four games, while Auburn made one error and turned four double plays.
RECORD VS. IN-STATE SCHOOLS: Alabama owns a 499-245 (.671) all-time record against in-state schools. The Crimson Tide is 3-2 against in-state schools this season, including two wins over South Alabama and one against Jacksonville State. Alabama’s losses have come to Auburn and UAB. Alabama’s next win will be its 500th win against an in-state opponent. In addition, Alabama played its 100th all-time game against South Alabama on Feb. 21 and will face Samford for the 100th time in history on May 12.
SEC HOME SUCCESS: Alabama has been almost unbeatable at home, winning 58 of its 74 SEC home series in the last 15 years. Since 1995, Alabama has won 33 of the 42 home series against SEC Eastern Division teams. The Crimson Tide opened the 2010 season with a series win over No. 16 Vanderbilt and has now won 14 straight home series against SEC Eastern Division teams. The Tide claimed series wins over No. 1 Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky last season. The last home series loss came to South Carolina in 2005. From 1995-2000, Alabama won 13 straight home series wins against Eastern Division teams. Since 1995, Alabama has won 24 of its 35 home series against Western Division teams and has won seven of its last nine series, dating back to the 2006 season. The Tide lost its only home series to a Western Division team last season, losing to No. 2 LSU (April 10-12) to snap its streak of 10 straight home series wins. From 1996-2000, the Tide won 11 straight home series against SEC Western Division clubs. Dating back to 2005, Alabama has won 21 of its last 25 SEC home series.
ALABAMA GRAND SLAMMERS: One of the nation’s top college baseball booster clubs, the Alabama Grand Slammers, is an active group of Tide baseball loyalists. The club was founded in 1983 and has served as the support group for the Alabama baseball program for the last three decades. The Alabama Grand Slammers are a 501.C3 non-profit group that supports the Crimson Tide program with various projects throughout the season. For more information on the Grand Slammers, or for an application to join the group, please call Ron Hughston (205.792.2116). The GrandSlammers will host a pregame cookout on Saturday, April 2, from 2:30-3:30 p.m. in the right field area at the stadium.
NEXT GAME: Alabama and Auburn play game two of this series on Saturday, April 3, at 4:05 p.m. (CDT).