Baseball Team Hosts Arkansas in Pivotal SEC Series



Alabama Game Notes (Arkansas Series) Get Acrobat Reader

Alabama Player Bios (May 8, 2009) Get Acrobat Reader

May 7, 2009


#11 Arkansas (31-14, 14-9 SEC) at #22 (32-15, 14-9 SEC)
Friday, May 8 (6:35 p.m.)
Saturday, May 9 (4:05 p.m.)
Sunday, May 10 (2:05 p.m.)

Series:  Alabama leads, 35-21
Tickets: Available at Sewell-Thomas Stadium -  $5 adults/$3 youth (13 under)

Radio:  Crimson Tide Sports Network (Chris Stewart)
  WFFN-FM (95.3) - Tuscaloosa
  WAPI-AM (1070) - Birmingham

Alabama Starting Pitchers:
1 - RHP Austin Hyatt (11 GS, 7-1, 3.38 ERA)
2 - LHP Del Howell (8 GS, 5-2, 5.44 ERA)
3 - LHP Adam Morgan (10 G, 6 GS, 3-1, 3.73 ERA)

Arkansas Starting Pitchers:
1 - LHP Dallas Keuchel (11 GS, 7-1, 4.17 ERA)
2 - RHP T.J. Forrest (10 G, 9 GS, 2-4, 4.96 ERA)
3 - RHP Brett Eibner (11 GS, 4-3, 3.80 ERA)

Weekend Promotions
Friday, May 8
“Picnic at the Park”
A full buffet will be served down the left field line through the end of the third inning. The cost is $12 per adult and $6 for children.

“Friday Night Fireworks”

Saturday, May 9
“Picnic at the Park”
A full buffet will be served down the left field line through the end of the third inning. The cost is $12 per adult and $6 for children.

“Senior Day”
Alabama’s 10 seniors will be honored in a pregame ceremony at 3:40 p.m.

“Baseball Card Set I”
The first of two UA baseball card sets will be given away on Saturday.

Sunday, May 10
“Picnic at the Park”
A full buffet will be served down the left field line through the end of the third inning.  The cost is $12 per adult and $6 for children.

“Mother’s Day”
UA players’ mom’s will be honored prior to the game and will throw out the first pitch.

“Kid’s Day”
All kids run the bases after the game

“Baseball Card Set II”
The second of two UA baseball card sets will be given away on Saturday.

FIRST PITCH: Two teams battling for the Southeastern Conference Western Division championship square off this weekend when No. 22 Alabama hosts No. 11 Arkansas in a pivotal three-game series at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.  The series opener is Friday, May 8, at 6:35 p.m. and continues Saturday, May 9, at 4:05 p.m. and Sunday, May 10, at 2:05 p.m.  The Crimson Tide and the Razorbacks are both 14-9 in SEC play this season, 1 1/2 games behind league leaders LSU, Florida and Mississippi. In fact, only two games separate the league’s top six teams, making this one of the most hotly contested races in recent memory. Alabama has won seven of its last eight and 11 of its last 14 SEC games to get back in the league race. Alabama brings in the league’s most potent offensive attack. The Crimson Tide leads the SEC in hitting, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs scored, hits, doubles, RBI and total bases this season.

RANKINGS: After three straight SEC series wins, Alabama is steadily climbing in the national rankings. In the latest polls released on Monday, May 4, the Crimson Tide is ranked in all five polls for the first time this season, including Baseball America (22nd), Rivals (23rd), Collegiate Baseball (23), ESPN Coaches (25) and NCBWA (26).  Arkansas is also ranked in all five polls, ranging from 11th (ESPN Coaches and NCBWA) to 17th (Baseball America).

HEAD COACH Jim Wells: Coach Jim Wells became the seventh coach in Southeastern Conference history to win 600 games when the Tide posted a lopsided 24-0 win over Alabama A&M on March 17. Wells joins former SEC greats Ron Polk (1,218), Skip Bertman (870), Keith Madison (735), Rod Delmonico (699), Roy Mewbourne (655) and Hal Baird (634) as the only coaches with 600 wins at an SEC school. Wells has compiled a 620-315 (.663) record in his 15th season as the Crimson Tide’s head coach. He was named the school’s 29th head baseball coach on June 4, 1995. He was inducted into the Alabama Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Jan. 16, 2009. Overall, Wells has compiled an 812-404 (.668) record in 1,216 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: Junior utility-man Brandon May (.335, 10 HR, 55 RBI) is the reigning SEC Player of the Week, after hitting .563 (9-for-16) with six runs scored, three doubles, one triple, two home runs and 12 RBI in three games last week. He averaged three hits and four RBI per game in wins over South Alabama and Mississippi State.  He also compiled a 1.250 slugging percentage and .563 on-base mark for the Tide. He also added one game-winning RBI (South Alabama) and one game-tying RBI (MSU) last week. Overall, May leads the SEC with 35 RBI in 23 conference games. Sophomore second baseman Ross Wilson (.350, 9 HR, 44 RBI) is riding a seven-game hitting streak, where he is batting .448 (13-for-29) with four doubles, eight RBI and nine runs scored.  He had four hits and scored four runs against Mississippi State on May 2.  Senior center fielder Alex Kubal (.308, 2 HR, 14 RBI) leads the team in hitting in SEC play, with a .355 (27-for-76) average.  He has six hits and seven RBI in his last two games after recording only seven RBI in his first 38 games of the season. Senior catcher Vin DiFazio (.324, 7 HR, 20 RBI) is riding a five-game hitting streak, where he is batting .412 (7-for-17) for the Tide. Junior first baseman Clay Jones (.365, 6 HR, 35 RBI) has seen steady improvement at the plate and is hitting .500 (22-for-44) with three home runs and 17 RBI in his last 13 games. Senior right fielder Kent Matthes (.368, 23 HR, 69 RBI) still leads the NCAA with 23 home runs. Alabama senior right-hander Austin Hyatt (11 GS, 7-1, 3.38) continues to be the ace of the staff.  He is fifth nationally with 1.01 walks per nine innings (80 IP, 9 BB) and leads the SEC with 80 innings pitched this season. He is 10-1 (.909) in his last 11 decisions.

SENIOR CLASS: Alabama has 10 seniors on its 2009 baseball roster, which is tied with Mississippi State for the most in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina ranks third with eight seniors, while LSU and Mississippi are tied for fourth place with seven seniors.  The 2009 senior class consists of DiFazio, Henderson, Kubal, Hyatt, Kebodeaux, Matthes, Moore, Odle, Quigley and Rhoden. DiFazio, Henderson, Hyatt, Kebodeaux and Moore are all fifth-year seniors.  Henderson and Moore were redshirted in 2005, while Hyatt and Kebodeaux redshirted the 2006 season. DiFazio played at Connecticut (2005) and Indian River Community College (2006) before transferring to Alabama. He had a medical redshirt in 2007. Matthes, Odle, Quigley and Rhoden were all freshmen during Alabama’s 2006 SEC Championship season. Kubal transferred to Alabama in 2008 after two years at Concordia University (2006) and Gulf Coast Community College (2007). UA is the only team in the nation with more baseball seniors than football seniors. The Crimson Tide football team had nine scholarship seniors on its 2008 roster, which tied Middle Tennessee for the fewest amount of seniors in Division I football last season. Middle Tennessee had nine football seniors this past fall, but has only seven baseball seniors. In addition, Central Michigan and Toledo were tied for third place with 10 football seniors last fall. CMU has only four baseball seniors, while Toledo has six seniors on its 2009 roster. Minnesota and North Carolina were tied for fifth nationally with 10 football seniors. The Golden Gophers have five baseball seniors, while the Tar Heels have three baseball seniors in 2009.

ALABAMA BOASTS ONE OF NATION’S TOP OFFENSES: Alabama is one of the best offensive clubs in college baseball with its .340 batting average and 94 home runs in 46 games this season. The Crimson Tide continues to put up staggering numbers every game. The Tide is averaging 9.6 runs and 12.4 hits per game this season. Alabama has scored double figures 21 times, including 24 runs against Alabama A&M (March 17), 22 runs against Troy (April 7) and 20 runs against Illinois-Chicago (Feb. 28).  The three 20-run games are the most by the Crimson Tide since the 1999 season, when UA posted five games of 20 or more runs. Alabama’s current .340 batting average would tie the 1997 team’s school record mark.  UA’s 94 home runs are sixth on the school’s single-season charts, while the 122 doubles are the eighth-most in school history.

“I thought their offense was outstanding. They have a solid lineup. There is no breather in that lineup. Their stats jump off the page at you.  It’s almost scary to look at their stat sheet. Very intimidating.”
” - Paul Mainieri, LSU head coach

“After watching Alabama play six games against Georgia and LSU, it is not hard seeing that they are one of the most dangerous teams in the country. Their offense has taken incredible strides the past two seasons as assistants Mitch Gaspard and Dax Norris joined the staff.” - Mark Etheridge, Editor

“The best hitting team in the nation. That’s what some say about Alabama, and if you look at the Tide’s lineup and who they’ve played, they might be right. ‘Bama is scoring 9.6 runs per game against the nation’s 46th-toughest schedule, according to, and put up 25 runs against LSU last weekend.” - Chris Lee, Publisher.

“I don’t think people around the country are giving these guys enough respect.  I think (Alabama) is a good as any team will have played all year.” - David Perno, Georgia head coach

“I thought Alabama was a very good ballclub when the weekend was all said and done. They hit the ball very, very well and jumped on us.  Kent Matthes is a great hitter. We made some great pitches and he still hit the ball out of the park.” - Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt head coach

ALABAMA OFFENSE AMONG NCAA’S TOP 10 LEADERS: The NCAA stats were released on Tuesday, May 5 and for the seventh straight week, the Crimson Tide offense is among the national leaders in a number of categories. Alabama is among the top 10 teams in the nation in slugging (4th, .591), scoring (5th, 9.6), runs scored (5th, 450), home runs (5th, 94), home runs per game (5th, 2.0), doubles (6th, 122), doubles per game (8th, 2.6) and hits (9th, 581).

MATTHES LEADS NCAA IN HOME RUNS; HOMERS PER GAME: Matthes continues to lead the NCAA with 23 home runs and 0.51 home runs per game.  Middle Tennessee center fielder Bryce Brentz is second in both categories (21 HR and 0.48 HR per game). Matthes ranks second nationally in slugging (.890), seventh in RBI (69), eighth in RBI per game (1.53) and eighth in total bases (145).

HYATT RANKS FIFTH NATIONALLY IN FEWEST WALKS PER NINE INNINGS: Senior right-hander Austin Hyatt ranks fifth nationally in fewest walks per nine inning this season, with an average of 1.01 walks per nine innings.  Hyatt, who leads the SEC with 80 innings pitched, has recorded 69 strikeouts and nine walks this year. He has made 11 starts on the mound and has not issued a walk in five of those games. Hyatt did not issue a walk from April 4-May 1, a span of 25 innings before a first-inning walk at Mississippi State on May 1. He walked a season-high four batters in the win over the Bulldogs.

UA PLAYERS AMONG NCAA LEADERS: Matthes isn’t the only Alabama player making noise in the national stats this week. The Tide has 11 players in the top 50 nationally in key offensive categories. Junior third baseman Jake Smith is 25th in home runs (16), 26th in home runs per game (0.36), 28th in slugging (.738) and 46th in total bases (124). Junior DH Brandon May is 28th in RBI (59) and 40th in RBI per game (1.31), Freshman left fielder Taylor Dugas is 22nd in doubles (19), 25th in runs scored (59), 27th in runs per game (1.31) and 37th in doubles per game (0.42). Matthes is also 41st nationally in runs scored (56), 44th nationally in runs per game (1.24).

SEC STATS UPDATE: The Crimson Tide continues to field one of the most productive offenses in the nation and leads the SEC in 11 offensive categories, including hitting (.340), slugging (.591), on-base percentage (.426), runs scored (450), hits (581), RBI (421), doubles (122), total bases (1,009), at-bats (1,708), plate appearances (2,029) and hit batters (66). The Crimson Tide ranks second in the league with 94 home runs. Alabama has three of the league’s Top 10 hitters, including Dugas (2nd, .378), Matthes (3rd, .368) and Smith (10th, .357). Three Alabama players rank among the top 6 in the league in runs scored, including Dugas (3rd, 56), Matthes (T4th, 56) and Rutledge (T6th, 54). Matthes leads the league in home runs (23) and slugging (.890).  Dugas leads the league in doubles (19) and ranks second in hits (73).  May leads the league with 35 RBI in 23 SEC games.

STARTING LINEUPS: Alabama has started 17 different players in its first 47 games this season ... Six players have made 40+ starts this season ... Eight players have made 30+ starts for the Tide ... Rutledge is the only player to start all 47 games ... Wilson (46), Matthes (44), Dugas (44), May (44) and Smith (42) have all made 40 or more starts ... UA starters are hitting .339 (550-for-1,622) with 89 home runs and 307 RBI ... In SEC play, Alabama has used 14 starters ... Six players have started all 23 games, including Dugas, Matthes, May, Rutledge, Smith and Wilson ... Kubal has added 20 starts and DiFazio has made 18 SEC starts ... In conference play, Alabama’s starters are hitting .321 (262-for-817) with 43 home runs and 175 RBI.

OFF THE BENCH: Alabama’s bench is hitting .360 (31-for-86) with five home runs and 24 RBI this season ... UA pinch-hitters are hitting .405 (15-for-37) this year with three home runs and 14 RBI ... The three pinch-hit home runs have been hit by Cody Trotter (UIC, Feb.28), Clay Jones (Alabama A&M, March 17) and Del Howell (LSU, April 12) ... Jones leads the club with four pinch-hits this season ... He is 4-for-7 (.571) with four RBI ... Trotter (2-2, HR, 2 RBI), Wes Henderson (2-3, 3 RBI) and Tyler Odle (2-5, 3 RBI) have two pinch-hits apiece ... Henderson was also 3-for-3 with one home run and six RBI off the bench in the win over Illinois-Chicago (Feb. 28), despite entering the game in the fifth inning ... Trotter slammed a pinch-hit home run in the win over UIC ... It was the first by an Alabama player since Henderson’s pinch-hit homer against East Carolina (May 30, 2008) at the 2008 NCAA Conway Regional ... In SEC play, UA’s bench is hitting even better with a .385 (5-for-13) average with one home run and two RBI ... UA pinch hitters are 3-for-6 (.500) in league play ... Jones is 2-for-4 as a pinch hitter in SEC play ... Howell ripped a pinch-hit home run against LSU on April 12.

STARTING PITCHERS: Alabama has used 11 starting pitchers this season ... UA starters are 24-5 (.828) with two complete games and a 4.46 ERA in 47 games ... The starters have worked 248 1/3 innings and allowed 145 runs (123 ER) and 261 hits with 231 strikeouts and 71 walks ... Opponents are hitting .271 against the Tide starters ... In SEC play, UA’s starters are 11-5 (.688) with a 4.87 ERA in 23 games ... The Tide’s five SEC starters have worked 146 innings and allowed 94 runs (79 ER) and 157 hits with 126 strikeouts and 46 walks ... Hyatt (11 GS, 7-1, 3.38 ERA, 1 CG) and Howell (8 GS, 5-2, 5.44 ERA, 1 CG) are a combined 12-3 (.800) with 126 strikeouts and two complete games ... Hyatt leads the staff with 11 starts, seven wins and seven quality starts ... He leads the SEC with 80 innings pitched and ranks fourth with a .226 opponents batting average ... Dating back to last year, Hyatt is 10-1 (.909) in his last 11 decisions ... Howell is second on the team with 57 strikeouts and has recorded three double-figure strikeout games against Alabama A&M (14), Tennessee (13) and Vanderbilt (10) ... He opened the season with 11 scoreless innings in wins over Alabama A&M (March 17) and Mississippi (March 22) ... He has 37 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings at the Joe this season ... Junior Adam Scott (10 G, 5 GS, 2-1, 4.08 ERA) has assumed the role as UA’s Sunday starter the last four weekends ... As a starter, Scott is 2-1 with 4.67 ERA in five starts ... His starts have come against Mississippi Valley State (April 1), Tennessee (April 5), LSU (April 12), Vanderbilt (April 18) and Kentucky (April 26) ... UA is 4-1 in those five starts ... He  earned his first career win in the series finale with  the Vols ... he took a shutout into the ninth inning in his last start against UK ... Alabama starters did not issue a walk from Feb. 21-28, a span of 21 1/3 innings this season ... UA starters opened the season by winning their first 12 decisions ... Alabama has trailed 7-0 in both of Graham’s two starts against Nicholls State (Feb. 25) and Georgia (March 15) ... UA starters worked 23 1/3 innings against Tennessee (April 3-5) and recorded 23 strikeouts in the three wins.

RELIEF PITCHERS: Alabama has used 12 relief pitchers (10 pitchers and two infielders) in 47 games ... The bullpen is 8-10 with a 6.27 ERA this season ... The Tide relievers have 10 saves, seven blown saves and eight holds ... The pen has worked 163 2/3 innings and allowed 132 runs (114 ER) and 195 hits with 167 strikeouts and 77 walks ... The Tide bullpen has held opponents to a .294 batting average ... The seven blown saves have come against SE Missouri State (Feb. 22), Auburn (March 10), Mississippi (March 20), Florida (March 27), Florida (March 28), LSU (April 10) and Samford (April 15) ... Alabama has lost ninth-inning leads against Auburn (March 10), Mississippi (March 20), Florida (March 28) and LSU (April 10) ... The blown saves have been charged to Nelson (3), Kilcrease (2), Head (1) and White (1) ...  The pen has allowed 56 of the 120 extra base hits this year ... The relievers have also stranded 64 of 115 (.556) inherited base runners ... The Tide stranded six of seven inherited runners at Vanderbilt (April 17-18) and all four relief pitchers retired the first batter they faced ... Kilcrease has stranded 14 of 20 inherited runners out of the pen to lead the staff ... In SEC play, the Tide relief corps are 3-4 with three saves and an 8.79 ERA in 23 games ... The bullpen has worked 57 1/3 innings and allowed 63 runs (56 ER) and 79 hits with 48 strikeouts and 27 walks.

FIELDING NOTES: Alabama is fifth in the league with a .969 fielding mark ... The Tide has made 53 errors in 47 games this year ... UA has played 23 errorless games and 30 games with one error or less ... Alabama has made multiple errors 16 times ... The Tide is 17-6 without an error and 15-9 when making at least one error ... Alabama has turned 31 double plays this season ... The Tide turned six double plays in its series with Kentucky, including a season-high four double plays on April 25 ... UA has turned nine double plays in its last five games ... Alabama is fielding .968 (27 errors) in SEC play and has recorded 12 errorless games in conference play ... Alabama did not make an error in its series sweep against Tennessee (April 3-5) ... The Tide has played four straight SEC games without an error ... Earlier this season (Feb. 28-March 6), the Tide played five straight errorless games, tying the longest errorless streak in the Wells era ... The Tide also had five straight errorless games from Feb. 16-23, 1996 and May 23-31, 1996 ... The 1996 team holds the school record for highest fielding percentage (.971) and fewest errors (78) in a season ... UA made a season-high six errors in a 9-8 loss at Florida on March 28 ... The six errors were the most in a game by the Tide since a six-error game at Texas-Arlington on March 2, 2008 ... Alabama added four errors in an 8-5 loss to LSU on April 10.

DEFENSE:  While the Alabama offense gets a lot of the credit the team’s success this season, the defense should get its share of accolades as well. The Tide has made only 53 errors (.969) in 47 games this season, almost half the total number of errors the Tide made in 2008. Alabama made 97 errors last season, the sixth-highest total in school history. UA played only 11 error less games last year and made at least one error in 52 of 63 games. The Tide has 23 errorless games this season and 30 games with one error or less.

ARKANSAS SERIES: Alabama leads the all-time series with Arkansas, 35-21.  The two teams never met prior to Arkansas joining the SEC in 1992. The Crimson Tide and the Razorbacks first met in 1992, with Alabama winning the series in Fayetteville. The Crimson Tide posted 11-2 and 4-3 wins in the Saturday double header, before 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 and Arkansas met three times last season with the Tide winning the series in Fayetteville. The Tide has won the last two series’, including a series win in Tuscaloosa in 2007. Prior to that, Arkansas had won three straight (2004-06) series’. Arkansas’ series win in 2004 snapped Alabama’s streak of eight straight series wins from 1996-2003. Arkansas’ series win in Fayetteville in 2004 was their first series win since 1995. The Razorbacks ended another series drought the following year by winning a series from the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa during the 2005 season. It was the Hogs first series win at Sewell-Thomas Stadium since 1995. From 1996-2003, the Crimson Tide posted a 21-3 (.875) record against the Razorbacks, including a 13-game winning streak (1998-2002). Alabama coach Jim Wells is 31-18 in his career against Arkansas.  He owns a 31-16 record at Alabama. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn is 10-11 in his career against Alabama. 

2008 ARKANSAS SERIES RECAP:  Alabama picked up its first road series win of the season, by taking two of three from Arkansas at Baum Stadium May 2-4.  The Crimson Tide hit eight home runs in the series and outscored the Hogs 22-13 in the first two games to clinch the series.  Arkansas avoided the sweep with a 5-4 win in the finale on Sunday, scoring the winning run on a throwing error in the bottom of the eighth inning.  In all, two Alabama errors led to three unearned runs in the loss.  The Crimson Tide scored six runs in the fourth inning of the series opener to erase a three-run deficit and built a 7-4 lead en route to an 11-7 win.  Kent Matthes capped the inning with a three-run home run into the Arkansas bullpen.  The Tide added three insurance runs in the eighth inning. Freshman RHP Jimmy Nelson earned his first SEC win with 4 1/3 innings of relief in the opener.  The Tide clinched the series with an 11-6 win on May 3.  Alabama hit a season-high five home runs, including back-to-back homers by Avila and May in the fourth inning and May and Matthes in the eighth inning.  May, who hit two home runs in the game, was 3 for 4 with three runs scored and four RBI.  The Tide scored nine runs in the final two innings to erase a 3-2 deficit.  Alabama hit .339 (40-118) in the series with eight home runs and 24 RBI.  Alabama also finished the series with 15 extra base hits.

WELLS-VAN HORN CONNECTION: Alabama head coach Jim Wells and Arkansas head Dave Van Horn’s ties go back to the 1995 season at Northwestern State University. Van Horn replaced Wells as the head baseball coach at Northeastern State.  Wells was the head coach at NSU from 1990-94 before taking the Alabama job following the 1994 season. The day Wells was hired at Alabama, Van Horn was leading Central Missouri State to the Division II national championship at Paterson Field in Montgomery, Ala.  Van Horn left NSU after two years and went to Nebraska before coming back to his alma mater. Wells and Van Horn have taken five teams to the College World Series.  Wells took Alabama to Omaha in 1996, 1997 and 1999, while Van Horn took Nebraska in 2001 and 2002. Both coaches have made back-to-back trips to the College World Series in their careers.

NORTHWESTERN STATE COACHING TREE: Northwestern State University has produced its fair share of college head coaches, including Alabama’s Jim Wells and Arkansas’ Dave Van Horn. Wells inherited an NSU program with 13 straight losing seasons and led the Demons to three Southland Conference titles and two NCAA Regional appearances in five years as he laid the foundation for the success. Three other former NSU coaches have gone on to be successful in the collegiate ranks, including Alabama assistant coach Mitch Gaspard, Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco and Mississippi State head coach John Cohen.  Cohen succeeded Van Horn at NSU in 1998 and he was replaced by Gaspard for the 2002 season. Bianco was an assistant coach under Wells in the early 1990s and has been an assistant coach at LSU and head coach at McNeese State prior to his successful run at Ole Miss.