Baseball Team Visits Third-Ranked South Carolina
April 29, 2010
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (27-15, 8-10 SEC) at SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (32-8, 14-4 SEC)
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network (Chris Stewart)
TODAY'S GAME: Playing its third Southeastern Conference road series in four weeks, the Alabama baseball team heads to Columbia, S.C., for a three-game series with the No. 3 South Carolina Gamecocks this weekend at the new Carolina Stadium. The series begins Friday, April 30, at 6 p.m. (CDT) and continues Saturday, May 1, at 12 p.m. (CDT) and Sunday, May 2, at 12:30 p.m. (CDT). Saturday's game will be televised regionally by Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS) with Chuck Hussion and Nate Ross describing the action. The game can also be seen on ESPN3.com (formerly espn360). Alabama (27-15, 8-10 SEC) brings a five-game winning streak to Columbia after a three-game sweep of SEC Western Division foe Mississippi State and a two-game midweek sweep of Mississippi Valley State. The five-game winning streak is the Tide's longest since winning eight straight games from March 12-20. South Carolina (32-8, 14-4 SEC) leads Arkansas (13-5 SEC) by one game in the overall SEC standings. The Gamecocks have not played since a three-game sweep of Georgia last weekend in Athens.
HEAD COACH Mitch Gaspard: Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard is 27-15 (.643) in his first season as the Crimson Tide's head coach. Overall, he has compiled a 238-143 (.625) 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.
CAROLINA CONNECTIONS: Alabama has two players with South Carolina connections, including junior catcher Chris Smelley and freshman right-hand pitcher Tucker Hawley. Smelley was a two-year starter at quarterback for the Gamecocks under Steve Spurrier in 2007-08. In 12 games, he completed 169-of-302 passes for 1,922 yards and 14 TDs. Hawley was a two-time AAAA All-Region IV selection at South Aiken High School in Aiken, S.C. He played for Coach Bob Palewski. Alabama is making its second trip to the Palmetto state this season. The Crimson Tide won two of three at the College of Charleston (March 5-7) earlier this season. Alabama is making its first visit to Columbia since 2006 (UA won series from No. 1 South Carolina) and is playing in the new Carolina Stadium for the first time.
TIDE OWNS FIVE-GAME WINNING STREAK: Alabama enters the South Carolina series riding a five-game winning streak, its longest winning streak since an eight-game streak from March 13-20. The Tide is hitting .290 (45-for-155) during its current winning streak with eight home runs and 33 RBI, while averaging 7.0 runs and 9.0 hits per game. Ross Wilson (.467, HR, 5 RBI) and Clay Jones (.400, 3 HR, 5 RBI) are a combined 13-for-30 (.433) in the last five games with four home runs and 10 RBI. Alabama has scored at least one run in every inning during the winning streak with the exception of the third inning. The Crimson Tide has scored 10 runs in the fourth inning and six runs in the first and seventh innings. The Crimson Tide pitching staff has compiled a 5-0 record with two saves and a 4.71 ERA during the five-game winning streak. The staff has recorded 45 strikeouts in 42 innings. Nathan Kilcrease has one win and one save with a 1.35 ERA in three appearances.
ALABAMA HITTING NOTES: Alabama is 39th nationally with 34 sacrifice bunts and 51st nationally with 191 walks ... the Crimson Tide is fourth in the SEC in sacrifice bunts (34) and sixth in the league in hitting (.302) ... the Tide is hitting .365 (19-for-55) with the bases loaded ... the pinch hitters are hitting .354 (17-for-48) this season ... Alabama has homered in six of its last seven games and hit 12 home runs since April 17 ... UA is 18-5 when it hits at least one home run and 9-10 without a home run ... Alabama hit a season-high three home runs against Mississippi Valley State (April 27), LSU (April 17) and Stony Brook (March 13) ... the Crimson Tide stranded a season-high 13 base runners against Mississippi Valley State (April 27) and Samford (April 13) ... UA is 5-6 in one-run games and 8-10 in games decided by two runs or less ... UA is 2-1 in extra inning games this season ... UA is 20-2 when leading after eight innings and 1-12 when trailing after eight innings ... the Tide has nine double-figure scoring games, including a season-high 25 runs against Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 27 ... the Tide has 22 double-digit hit games this season, including a season-high 23 hits against UIC on Feb. 27 ... Junior SS Josh Rutledge scored five runs in the win over Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 27, the most by an SEC player this year ... 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 ... UA tied an NCAA record with six sacrifice bunts in its 10-4 win at Jacksonville State on April 7 ... UA scored seven of its eight runs against MSU on April 23 with two outs.
SMITH NEARING GRAND SLAM RECORD: Alabama senior third baseman Jake Smith has five career grand slams, leaving him one shy of the Alabama career record. Mike Pitisci hit six grand slams in 1984 to set the NCAA career and single season record for grand slams. The 1984 season was the only year in which Pitisci played for the Tide. Smith has hit five grand slams in his four-year career, including two this season against Kentucky (April 11) and Mississippi State (April 25). Ironically, both grand slams came in games in which the Tide trailed by seven or more runs and Smith's grand slams ignited an Alabama offense and keyed two impressive comeback wins. Alabama trailed Kentucky 9-0 in the sixth inning on April 9 before Smith's grand slam pulled the Crimson Tide to within 9-5. UA took a 10-9 lead by scoring five runs in the eighth inning and added a huge insurance run in the ninth for an improbable 11-9 win. The Crimson Tide found itself down 7-0 in the fourth inning to Mississippi State on April 25, but scored eight times in the bottom of the fourth inning to take an 8-7 lead. Smith put the Tide on the board with a grand slam to cut the lead to 7-4. Josh Rutledge added an RBI single and Ross Wilson gave UA its first lead with a three-run homer.
Mike Pitisci Career Grand Slams
Jake Smith Career Grand Slams
HOME RUN TOTALS ON THE RISE: Alabama's home run totals are on the rise, as the Crimson Tide has homered 12 times in its last seven games. UA has hit at least one home run is six of its last seven games. Alabama is now tied with Vanderbilt for 11th place in the SEC entering the South Carolina series. The home run stretch is the best for Alabama since opening the season with at least one home run in five of its first six games. The Crimson Tide homered in a season-high four straight games from Feb. 26-March 3 and again from April 17-25. Alabama hit a season-high three home runs against Stony Brook (March 13), LSU (April 17) and Mississippi Valley State (April 27). Clay Jones leads Alabama with a career-high 12 home runs this season, with seven of those home runs coming in his last 13 games. He has hit three home runs in the last two games, including his first career multi-homer game on April 27.
ALABAMA PITCHING NOTES: Alabama is 44th nationally in strikeouts (8.1) per nine innings, 56th in walks (3.29) per nine innings and 66th in ERA (4.61) ... the Tide is fifth in the SEC in strikeouts (344) and sixth in ERA (4.61) and has the second fewest hit batters (25) in the SEC (Arkansas pitchers have hit the fewest, 24) ... in SEC play, Alabama is seventh in ERA (5.90) and strikeouts (126) ... Alabama's starters are 12-9 with a 5.17 ERA this season ... after compiling only one win from April 2-18, Alabama starters have two wins in the last five games ... Jimmy Nelson started and beat Mississippi State on April 23 and Taylor Wolfe earned a win as a starter against Mississippi Valley State on April 27 ... UA starters 13-9 with a 5.19 ERA this season ... Alabama is 15-6 in the 21 combined starts from Jimmy Nelson and Adam Morgan ... the bullpen is 14-6 record with 10 saves and 3.98 ERA in 42 games ... Alabama has yielded 45 home runs this season, including eight at LSU (April 16-18) ... LSU's eight home runs were the most in a 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 40 home runs in the last 25 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 ... Alabama has 16 double-digit strikeout games this season, including seven in its last 10 games ... UA pitchers recorded 25 strikeouts in the two-game series with Mississippi Valley State on April 27-28 ... the Tide recorded a season-high 16 strikeouts at College of Charleston on March 6 ... Alabama had an SEC-high 12 strikeouts against Mississippi State on April 23 ... the Tide has allowed three double-figure scoring games this season, including a season-high 12 by LSU on April 16 ... Alabama has allowed 22 double-figure hit games, including 17 hits by Kentucky on April 10 ... Nelson, Wolfe and Pilkington combined for the SEC's only one-hitter this season against Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 27 ... Alabama recorded 12 strikeouts and no walks in its 8-5 win over Mississippi State on April 23 ... the MSU game marked the fourth time this season the Crimson Tide has not issued a walk ... the others came against Illinois-Chicago (Feb. 26), College of Charleston (March 6) and Auburn (April 4).
KILCREASE HAVING BIG SEASON: Alabama junior right-hander Nathan Kilcrease is having his best season in his three-year career for the Crimson Tide. The Phenix City, Ala., native has compiled a 3-1 record with four saves and a 1.45 ERA in 25 appearances. Kilcrease has worked 43 2/3 innings and has allowed seven runs and 28 hits with 49 strikeouts and 11 walks. He leads the SEC in appearances (25), relief appearances (25), earned run average (1.45), fewest runs (7) allowed, fewest earned runs (7) allowed, fewest hits (28) allowed, fewest doubles (3) allowed and fewest home runs (2) allowed. Kilcrease has turned in 19 scoreless relief appearances this season and he opened the year by retiring the first 16 batters he faced over his first four outings. He has retired 20 of 25 first batters and stranded 10 of 15 inherited base runners.
PITCHING IN: Alabama used eight different pitchers in its 5-1 win over Mississippi Valley State on April 28. The list included junior left-hander Adam Morgan (1 IP), freshman right-hander Tucker Hawley (2 IP), freshman left-hander Matt Taylor (1 IP), junior right-hander Jason Townsend (1 IP), senior left-hander David Head (1 IP), sophomore right-hander Tyler White (0.1 IP), senior right-hander Jake Smith (1.2 IP) and junior right-hander Nathan Kilcrease (1 IP). Townsend was the winning pitcher after he tossed a scoreless fifth inning. The Crimson Tide snapped a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the frame when Josh Rutledge reached on an error and scored the deciding run on a wild pitch. Smith worked a season-high 1 2/3 innings and recorded a career-high four strikeouts.
ALABAMA FIELDING NOTES: Alabama is 15th nationally with a .976 fielding percentage this season ... UA is tied for second in the SEC with a .976 fielding mark and has the second-fewest errors (37) in the league ... in SEC play, Alabama is third with a .977 fielding mark and has the third-fewest errors (15) ... UA catchers are second in the league with a .992 fielding mark and are tied for third in the SEC with only three errors ... Alabama is second in the SEC with 12 outfield assists ... the 12 assists have been recorded by seven different players, including Brett Booth (3), Taylor Dugas (3), Andrew Miller (2), Cal Tinlsey (1), Jon Kelton (1), John David Smelser (1) and Kent Myer (1) ... UA outfielders lead the SEC in fielding percentage (.989) and have the second-fewest errors (3) this year ... Alabama has played 16 errorless games this season and 15-1 in those 16 games ... Alabama is 12-14 when committing at least one error ... the Tide played a season-high four straight errorless games from April 23-27, including all three games of its SEC series sweep against Mississippi State ... from April 18-28, Alabama played 46 1/3 consecutive errorless innings and handled 176 straight chances without a miscue ... the Tide played three straight errorless games from March 3-6 ... 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 ... Alabama did make an error in the win over Mississippi State on April 23, snapping a streak of 11 consecutive games with at least one error.
ERRORLESS STREAKS: Alabama has put together two impressive errorless streaks this season. The most recent errorless streak took place from April 18-28 when the Crimson Tide posted 46 1/3 consecutive errorless innings and 176 errorless chances. The streak began in the eighth inning of the Alabama-LSU game on April 18 and ended in the eighth inning against Mississippi State on April 25. The first errorless streak took place from Feb. 27-March 7, when UA turned in 36 errorless innings and 142 errorless chances. That streak began in the second inning against Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 27 and ended in the second inning at College of Charleston on March 7.
MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE RECAP: Alabama swept a two-game series from Mississippi Valley State at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on April 27-28. The Crimson Tide has won all 13 meetings with the Delta Devils. Alabama hit .246 (16-for-65) in the series with four home runs and 11 RBI. Wilson paced the Tide at the plate, going 4-for-7 (.571) with two runs scored and two RBI. Jones hit .500 (3-for-6) with three home runs and four RBI. The pitching staff was 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA in the two wins. Freshman LHP Taylor Wolfe struck out a career-high 11 batters in the opener. The Tide used eight pitchers in the series finale. Jones recorded his first career multi-home run game as the Tide won the series opener 7-4. Jones hit a two-run home run in the Tide's four run first inning and added a solo home run in the eighth. Jake Smith homered in the eighth. Alabama led 5-0 in the third inning before MVSU scored a run in the fifth and added three more in the sixth to close the gap to 5-4. Taylor Wolfe was the winning pitcher as he worked a season-high seven innings and struck out 11. Alabama escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning in game two as Jake Smith kept the Tide in front in this tightly contested game. Trailing by one run, MVSU loaded the bases with one out before Smith struck out Donquarious Farmer and Luke Walker to end the threat. The Crimson Tide iced the game with three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning when Jon Keton delivered an RBI single and Andrew Miller plated two runs with a single to right. Alabama used eight pitcher in the wins over MVSU. Jason Townsend, worked a perfect fifth inning, for the win.
SOUTH CAROLINA SERIES: Alabama leads the all-time series with South Carolina, 23-22. The teams have not met in the regular season since 2007. This is Alabama's first trip to Columbia, S.C., since 2006 when UA took two of three games from the No. 1 ranked Gamecocks. Alabama and South Carolina did not play during the 2008 and 2009 regular season, but the two teams did meet in the first round of the 2009 SEC Tournament in Hoover. The Gamecocks won the game 9-5 in 11 innings after overcoming a 4-0 deficit in the fifth inning. The two teams first met at the 1973 Joe Sewell Classic in Tuscaloosa, with the Crimson Tide and Gamecocks splitting a pair of meetings. Alabama won the first-ever meeting between the two teams, 1-0. South Carolina rebounded for a 6-0 win in day two of the tournament. The two teams would not meet again until the 1986 NCAA Atlantic Regional in Coral Gables, Fla. South Carolina posted an 8-2 in first-round action, while UA eliminated USC two days later with an 8-7 win. Alabama defeated South Carolina 12-5 in Tuscaloosa during the 1989 season and 6-4 at USF Invitational at Red McEwen Field in Tampa, Fla., in 1990. The Tide held a 4-2 series lead before the teams hooked up as SEC members for the first time in 1994. Since then, the Gamecocks own a 20-19 series lead, including last year's SEC Tournament win. South Carolina won the very first regular season SEC series between the two schools in 1994. Alabama has won three straight regular-season series (2005-07) over South Carolina, including thrilling series win in Tuscaloosa in 2007. The Crimson Tide overcame a 10-4 deficit to post an 11-10 win, capped by Alex Avila's three-run home run in the seventh inning in the series finale. The last time Alabama came to Columbia, the Gamecocks were ranked No. 1 in the nation and the Crimson Tide took the series two games to one. South Carolina won the opener and after Saturday's game was rained out; Alabama posted a double-header sweep on Sunday for the series win. Bernard Robert and Tommy Hunter (now with Texas Rangers) pitched back-to-back complete game wins for the Tide. The 2006 USC series marked the second straight week the Tide had knocked off the No. 1 ranked team in 2006. The week prior to the series in Columbia, Alabama won two of three from No. 1 Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa. Alabama and USC have met five times in the postseason, with UA winning three games. The two teams split a pair of NCAA Regional meetings in 1986. Alabama owns a 2-1 series lead in SEC Tournament games. The Tide and Gamecocks have split 12 regular-season series since 1994. Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard has never faced South Carolina. USC head coach Ray Tanner is 17-16 in his career against the Tide.
NEXT GAME: Alabama will have the week off for final exams before returning to action next weekend against the Florida Gators at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa.