Baseball Team Returns Home to Host Mississippi State
April 22, 2010
ALABAMA GAME NOTES vs. MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
Game Times: Friday, April 23 (6:35 p.m.)
The Records: Alabama (22-15, 5-10 SEC)
Mississippi State Starting Pitchers
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network
TODAY’S GAME: After spending the last two weeks on the road, Alabama returns home to host the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a pivotal three-game Southeastern Conference baseball series. The series opener is Friday, April 23, at 6:35 p.m. (CDT). The teams will also play Saturday, April 24, at 4:05 p.m. (CDT) and Sunday, April 25, at 2:05 p.m. (CDT). As the second half of the 2010 SEC regular season begins this weekend, Alabama (22-15, 5-10 SEC) is in a three-way tie for eighth place with Kentucky and Mississippi State in the overall league standings. The top eight teams advance to the 2010 SEC Tournament, which will be held May 26-30, at Regions Park in Hoover. Kentucky owns the tie-breaker over Alabama by virtue of its series win in Lexington (April 9-11). UK and MSU do not play one another this season. Mississippi State (20-17, 5-10 SEC) is coming off a home series win over Tennessee last weekend, where the Bulldogs outslugged the Volunteers on Super Bulldog Weekend. MSU has won four its last five games after a 27-4 win over Alcorn State on Tuesday night in Starkville. The Bulldogs have scored 74 runs (14.8 per game) in its last five games.
HEAD COACH Mitch Gaspard: Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard is 22-15 (.594) in his first season as the Crimson Tide’s head coach. Overall, he has compiled a 233-143 (.619) 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.
ALABAMA HITTING NOTES: Alabama is third in the SEC in sacrifice bunts (31), fifth in hitting (.303) and last in the league in home runs (27) and slugging percentage (.430) ... Alabama is 25th nationally with those 31 sacrifice bunts ... Alabama is hitting .362 (17-for-47) with the bases loaded ... UA pinch hitters are hitting .349 (15-for-43) this season ... Alabama has scored 19 of its last 29 runs with two outs ... Alabama has hit only 11 home runs in the last 20 games ... UA has been out-homered 33-11 in those 20 games ... the Crimson Tide is 14-5 when it hits at least one home run and 8-10 without a home run ... Alabama matched its season high with three home runs against LSU on April 17 ... the Tide also hit three home runs against Stony Brook on March 13 ... the Tide has nine double-figure scoring games and 21 double-digit hit games this season ... 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 ... Alabama tied an NCAA record with six sacrifice bunts in its 10-4 win at Jacksonville State on April 7 ... 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 is fifth in the SEC in strikeouts (299) and sixth in ERA (4.60) ... in SEC play, the Tide is sixth in strikeouts (106) and eighth in ERA (5.82) ... Alabama’s starting pitchers have only one win in the month of April ... the starters are 1-7 with five no decisions this month ... Adam Morgan is the last UA starter to earn a win, beating Auburn 10-5 on April 2 ... the Crimson Tide has yielded 39 home runs this season, including eight at LSU (April 16-18) ... LSU’s eight home runs were the most in series against Alabama this season ... Auburn hit seven solo home runs against Alabama (April 2-4) ... LSU hit six solo homers in the series against the Tide ... UA opponents have hit 34 home runs in the last 20 games ... on March 24, Alabama led the SEC in fewest home runs allowed with five dingers ... 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 strikeout games this season, including a season-high 16 strikeouts at the College of Charleston on March 6 ... the Tide has allowed three double-figure scoring games this season, including a season-high 12 by LSU on April 16 ... Alabama has allowed 20 double-figure hit games, including 17 hits by Kentucky on April 10.
ALABAMA FIELDING NOTES: Alabama entered the week ranked 25th nationally in fielding ... the Tide is fielding .974 this season and is on pace to break the school’s single-season fielding record (.971) set in 1996 and 2009 ... Alabama catchers rank second in the SEC with 34 assists ... UA catchers have the third-fewest errors (3) and third-highest fielding percentage (.992) ... Alabama is second in the SEC with 11 outfield assists by six different players, including Booth (3), Dugas (3), Miller (2), Tinlsey (1), Kelton (1) and Smelser (1) ... UA outfielders lead the SEC in fielding percentage (.992) and fewest errors (3) this year ... Alabama has played 12 errorless games and is 11-1 in those 12 games ... Alabama is 11-14 when committing at least one error ... Alabama has committed at least one error in 11 straight games ... from Feb. 27-March 7, UA logged 35 2/3 consecutive errorless innings and fielded 133 consecutive chances without an error ... Alabama logged an SEC high 20 assists in its win over Stony Brook on March 12 ... Rutledge had an SEC-high eight assists in that game.
MISSISSIPPI STATE SERIES: Alabama leads the all-time series with Mississippi State, 204-166-3 in a series that dates back to the 1896 baseball season.
Alabama has won four straight series against Mississippi State, dating back to the 2006 season. The Crimson Tide won a rain-shortened two-game series last year in Starkville, 10-8 and 17-16.
Mississippi State has not won a series from Alabama since the 2005 season in Starkville and has not won a series in Tuscaloosa since a three-game sweep in 2004.
The Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs have met every year since 1917, with the exception of 1944-45 due to World War II. Alabama and Mississippi State is the second-oldest baseball series in the UA record books. The only series older is the Alabama-Mississippi series which began in 1895. Alabama has played more games (373) against Mississippi State than any other team.
In fact, Alabama has played 1,045 all-time games against long-time SEC Western Division rivals Mississippi State (373), LSU (354) and Mississippi (327). Alabama also has more wins (204) against MSU than any other school. The Crimson Tide has posted 587 wins against long-time SEC Western Division foes Mississippi State (204), LSU (192) and Mississippi (191).
Alabama posted its 200th all-time series win with a 9-7 victory at Dudy Noble Field on the final day of the 2007 regular season.
The Tide and the Bulldogs first met in 1896 with UA posting a 19-5-1 slate in the first 25 meetings with then-Mississippi A&M. Alabama won the first six games in series history and then posted a 10-game winning streak from 1912-1917.
The Crimson Tide owned the series lead in the 1920s (18-6-1), 1930s (24-11-1), 1940s (24-8) and 1950s (23-12). Alabama posted an eight-game winning streak from 1940-42 and then added a nine-game winning streak from 1943-47. During the 1943 season, Alabama posted one of its most lopsided wins in school history as the Tide beat the Bulldogs, 29-10, in Tuscaloosa.
Mississippi State rebounded after the 1950s to win the next four decades. State posted a winning record over the Tide in the 1960s (28-18), 1970s (27-22), 1980s (27-19) and 1990s (21-16). MSU posted an eight-game winning streak over Alabama from 1992-94, including back-to-back sweeps in 1993 and 1994.
Alabama has had the upper hand since 2000, posting a 20-12 (.625) record. Since 1995, Alabama has won nine of the 15 series with MSU. Alabama posted a five-game winning streak from 2000-02, which included a three-game sweep to clinch the 2002 SEC Western Division championship. It was the Tide’s first sweep of the Bulldogs since 1976.
Alabama owns a 138-83-3 series lead in games played in Tuscaloosa. The Tide is 72-61 against MSU at the Joe since 1948. MSU leads the all-time series in Starkville, 80-59. The Crimson Tide swept a two-game series in 2009 at Dudy Noble Field, its first sweep in Starkville since 1979. Alabama holds a slim 8-5 lead in neutral site games.
Alabama is 9-2 (.818) in the postseason against Miss. State, including a seven-game winning streak. The Tide had two wins to eliminate the Bulldogs from the 1997 College World Series.
UA head coach Mitch Gaspard will be making his coaching debut against Mississippi State this weekend.
MSU head coach John Cohen, a native of Tuscaloosa and graduate of Tuscaloosa Academy, is 5-10 (.333) in his career against Alabama. Mississippi State will be the third different team to face the Tide with Cohen at the helm. He has faced the UA while at Northwestern State (0-2) and Kentucky (5-6) and Mississippi State (0-2). He led the Wildcats to a 4-1 record against Alabama in 2008, including a three-game regular-season series sweep in Lexington.
MSU SCOUTING REPORT: Mississippi State (20-17, 5-10 SEC) enters the Alabama series having won four of its last five games, including a home series win over Tennessee last weekend. The Bulldogs have scored 74 runs (14.8 per game) in those five games, including a 27-4 win over Alcorn State on Tuesday night at Dudy Noble Field.
The Bulldogs are hitting .299 (375-for-1,256) this season with 41 home runs and 258 RBI in 37 games. MSU averages 7.5 runs and 10.1 hits per game this season.
In SEC, play MSU is hitting .282 (144-for-511) with 15 home runs and 86 RBI. The Bulldogs average 6.1 runs and 9.7 hits per game against SEC opponents.
Senior first baseman Connor Powers (Naperville, Ill.) paces the MSU offense with a .407 average (55-for-135) with 10 home runs and 55 RBI in 37 starts. He is MSU’s second-leading hitter in SEC play with a .377 average (20-for-53) with only one home run and 12 RBI.
Senior infielder Russ Sneed (Senatobia, Miss.) is the leading hitter in SEC play with a .478 clip (22-for-46) with three home runs and 18 RBI. Junior infielder Nick Vickerson (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) has hit four of his five home runs this season against SEC pitchers.
On the mound, MSU is 20-17 with a 5.62 ERA. The staff has five complete games, one combined shutout and one complete game to its credit. MSU pitchers have worked 328 innings and allowed 243 runs (205 ER) and 387 hits with 274 strikeouts and 152 walks.
In SEC play, the staff is 5-10 with 8.10 ERA with one complete game and two saves. MSU pitchers have worked 130 innings and allowed 129 (117 ER) and 177 hits with 102 strikeouts and 74 walks against SEC teams.
MSU’s weekend rotation will consist of sophomore right-hander Caleb Reed (Cleveland, Miss.), freshman right-hander Chris Stratton (Tupelo, Miss.) and freshman left-hander Luke Bole (Hartselle, Ala.).
Reed is 0-3 with a 5.47 ERA 14 appearances this season, including two starts. In 49 1/3 innings, he has allowed 32 runs (30 ER) and 52 hits with 41 strikeouts and 11 walks. In SEC play, he is 0-2 with a 7.76 ERA in seven games. He has worked 29 innings and allowed 26 runs (25 ER) and 40 hits with 20 strikeouts and seven walks.
Stratton has been the Bulldogs most consistent hurler this year. He is 4-3 with a 3.88 ERA in nine starts. He is the only pitcher to start all nine series thus far. Stratton has worked 51 innings and allowed 29 runs (22 ER) and 49 hits with 50 strikeouts and 25 walks. In SEC play, he is 2-1 with a 4.55 ERA in five starts, including last week’s complete-game win over Tennessee.
Bole is 2-0 with 6.92 ERA in 11 games this season. He has also made five starts. The freshman has worked 26 innings and allowed 23 runs (20 ER) and 40 hits with 12 strikeouts and 12 walks. In SEC play, he is 1-0 with 7.71 ERA in four games. He has worked only 9 1/3 innings and allowed eight runs (8 ER) and 12 hits with four strikeouts and five walks.
MSU is fielding .959 as a team this season, with 61 errors in 37 games. Vickerson leads the team with 16 errors. In SEC play, MSU is fielding .960 with 23 errors in 15 games. Again, Vickerson leads the way with nine errors.
2009 UA-MSU SERIES REWIND: Alabama swept a two-game, rain-shortened series from Mississippi State last season in Starkville. UA won 10-8 and 17-16 for its first series sweep at Dudy Noble Field since 1979. The final game of the series was canceled due to weather and marked the first time since 1998 that Alabama did not play all three games of an SEC weekend series.
Alabama hit .378 (31-for-82) against the Bulldogs with three home runs and 27 RBI in the two games. The Crimson Tide scored 19 of its 27 runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
Alex Kubal, who now serves as Alabama’s first base coach, led the Tide with .667 (6-for-9) batting average and a 1.111 slugging mark. He had one double, one home run and seven RBI. He also scored four runs.
MSU hit .329 (26-for-79) in the series with five home runs and 21 RBI. The Bulldogs scored 17 of their 24 runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
Connor Powers and Russ Sneed paced the MSU attack with a combined nine hits, three home runs and 10 RBI.
Both pitching staff struggled in the weather-effected series. Alabama had an 11.00 (18 IP, 22 ER) series ERA, while Mississippi State posted a 12.00 (18 IP, 24 ER) ERA.
The teams combined for eight errors in the series, including five by Mississippi State. MSU turned two double plays.
Alabama 10, Mississippi State 8 (May 1, 2009)
Alabama took a 10-1 lead into the eighth inning but saw Mississippi State score seven runs over the final two frames and bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning before Nathan Kilcrease retired Russ Sneed and Jet Butler to end the threat.
MSU scored three runs in the eighth inning and added four more in the ninth to make things scary for the Crimson Tide. In the final inning, MSU benefitted from two hit batters, one balk and one wild pitch to make the game close. Ryan Collins had three this and Sneed drove in three runs for the Bulldogs.
Alabama scored five times in the eighth inning to take what appeared to be a commanding 10-1 lead. Brandon May’s two-run single busted the game open with two outs in the eighth.
Five UA players had two hits and four players knocked in two runs. The Tide took a 5-0 lead in the fourth on four straight two outs hits by Alex Kubal, Taylor Dugas, Josh Rutledge and Ross Wilson to plated four runs.
UA starter Austin Hyatt was the winner, while MSU starter Greg Houston was the loser.
Alabama 17, Mississippi State 16 (May 2, 2009)
MSU scored seven first-inning runs off Del Howell and owned a 7-3 lead when the game was suspended on Saturday night after a lengthy rain delay.
When play resumed on Sunday, Alabama scored eight runs in the seventh inning to take an 11-7 lead. May’s two-run double tied the game at 7-7 and Kubal ripped a grand slam off Paxton Pace to give the Tide a four-run lead.
The game endured another rain delay in the seventh inning and the two rain delays totaled three hours and 36 minutes.
When the game was resumed, May hit a two-run home run in the eighth to give the Tide a 13-7 lead.
The game was far from over, however, as Mississippi State scored five times in the bottom of the eighth inning on three straight home runs by Sneed, Powers and Duffy to close the gap to 13-12.
The home run derby continued in the ninth as May hit a three-run home run to give the Tide a 17-13 lead. May went 3-for-6 with two home runs and seven RBI in the win.
Mississippi State made it interesting again in the bottom of the ninth with four more runs. Powers hit a two-run home run and Collins added a two-run home to make it 17-16.
The game ended when Ryan Powers lined out to Jake Smith at third base with the tying run on base ending the nearly four-hour game.
UA-MSU CONNECTIONS: Alabama has two players from the state of Mississippi on its roster, including senior backup catcher Cody Trotter (Fulton, Miss.) and sophomore right-hander Tyler White (Brandon, Miss.).
Mississippi State has nine players from Alabama in its baseball roster, including freshman right-hand pitcher Ben Bracewell (Briarwood Christian), senior right-hand pitcher Justin Bussey (Dora HS and Shelton State), freshman left-hand pitcher C.C. Watson (Cleburne County), freshman infielder Sam Frost (Hoover), freshman left-hand pitcher Luke Bole (Hartselle), freshman left-hand pitcher Chad Girodo (Hartselle), junior infielder Nick Vickerson (Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa and Shelton State), freshman right-hander Kendall Graveman (Ben Russell) and senior right-hand pitcher Greg Houston (Hoover).
Alabama and Mississippi State have nine total players that were all teammates at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa. Shelton State is the three-time defending Alabama Junior College state champion and has played in three consecutive (2007, 2008 and 2009) NJCAA World Series.
Alabama has seven former Shelton State players including Clay Jones, David Kindred, Adam Scott, Jonathan Smart, John David Smelser, Cal Tinsley and Brett Whitaker. MSU has two former Shelton State players, including Bussey and Vickerson. All nine players played for Bobby Sprowl, who is former pitcher and assistant coach at Alabama.
Alabama second baseman Ross Wilson and MSU pitcher Greg Houston were teammates at Hoover High School.
CAREER STATS VS. MSU: Several Alabama players have enjoyed successful careers against Mississippi State. Here is a look at some of those career numbers entering this weekend’s series.
Taylor Dugas - Dugas hit .444 (4-for-9) in two games last season with four runs scored, two stolen bases and one RBI ... he had two hits and scored two runs in both wins last season.
Josh Rutledge - Rutledge is hitting .333 (7-for-21) in his five game career against the Bulldogs ... he has seven runs scored, five walks and four RBI ... as a freshman in 2008, he hit .417 (5-for-12) with five runs scored and two RBI ... he was 2-for-4 with two RBI in the Tide’s 17-16 win last season in Starkville.
Ross Wilson - Wilson is a career .500 (10-for-20) hitter against MSU with three home runs and 10 RBI ... he has scored 10 runs and compiled a 1.050 slugging percentage and .583 on-base mark in five career games ... Wilson was 4-for-9 (.444) with three home runs and five RBI in the Tide’s series win in Tuscaloosa in 2008 ... he tied an Alabama record with two home runs in one inning in UA’s 21-7 win on April 19, 2008 ... he added a game-winning two-run home run in UA’s 4-3 series-clinching win on April 20, 2008 ... last year, he was 6-for-11 (.545) in two games with two doubles and five runs scored ... he was 2-for-5 with two RBI in the Tide’s 10-8 win in May 1 and then went 4-for-6 with four runs scored and three RBI in the 17-16 win on May 2.
NEXT GAME: Alabama and Mississippi State will meet in game two of this weekend series on Saturday, April 24, at 4:05 p.m. (CDT).