Tide Tries To Rebound

For the first time since leaving Northwestern State after the 1994 season to become head baseball coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Jim Wells returns to coach in Natchitoches, Louisiana, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, when Bama meets Northwestern at Brown-Stroud Field. Wells (1990-94) turned a down-trodden NSU program into a contender and became the school's all-time winningest baseball coach during his four-year stay.

Wells was a proven commodity before taking over at Alabama. Wells has taken both schools to the NCAA Tournament and won conference regular-season titles at both stops.

Also for the second time in his coaching career, Wells will square off against one of his former assistant coaches. The Demons are coached by Mitch Gaspard, who spent 10 years under Wells, including the 1995-2001 seasons at Alabama. Wells has also faced former grad assistant coach Mike Bianco, who is now the head coach at Ole Miss. To add one more twist, NSU will retire Wells jersey (No. 17) in a pregame ceremony to honor the school's all-time winningest coach.

THE RECORDS

Alabama (21-10, 6-6 SEC) has struggled of late, losing seven of its last 10 games since March 22. In SEC play, Alabama has lost six of eight, including three straight league series. Northwestern State (21-13, 6-6 Southland) has also struggled of late, losing four of its last six games, including three straight losses this past weekend at Lamar.

THE COACHES

Alabama's Jim Wells is in his ninth season at The Capstone, compiling a 392-162 (.707) record at the helm of the Crimson Tide. Overall, Wells is 584-251 (.699) in his 14th season as a Division I head coach. NSU Coach Mitch Gaspard is 64-30 (.681) in just his second year as a head coach. Prior to the NSU job, Gaspard spent the 1995-2001 seasons as an assistant coach at Alabama.

LAST TIME OUT

Alabama (L 10-2, W 3-2, L 7-6) dropped two out of three at No. 6 Auburn this past weekend in another epic three-game series by the two in-state rivals. The two teams played two one-run games in front of the largest three-game series attendance in Plainsman Park history. Seth Johnson (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K), making his first SEC start, was the winning pitcher in the Crimson Tide's 3-2 win in game two of the series.

NEXT GAME

Alabama plays Centenary on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Shehee Stadium in Shreveport.

NSU TO RETIRE NO. 17 IN HONOR OR WELLS

Former Northwestern State and current Alabama head baseball coach Jim Wells will be honored before Tuesday's game between the Crimson Tide and the Demons at Brown-Stroud Field.

Wells, who headed the Demon baseball program from 1990-1994, will have his number 17 jersey retired in a pre-game ceremony before the 7 p.m. match up of Wells' Crimson Tide and the Demons.

In five seasons at Northwestern, Wells compiled a 192-89 record, three Southland Conference Championships, two trips to the NCAA Tournament, three SLC Coach of the Year honors and one Louisiana Coach of the Year honor.

Wells inherited a Demon program in 1990 that had not posted a winning record in its previous 13 seasons and in just five seasons, he began a new Tradition in Demon baseball that is still present today.

At Alabama, the Wells' coached Crimson Tide have averaged 46 wins a season, advanced to the College World Series three times, appeared in eight NCAA Regionals and have claimed five SEC Tournament Championships.

Current Demon skipper Mitch Gaspard was an assistant for Wells both at Northwestern and Alabama before becoming Northwestern's newest head coach Prior to the 2002 season.

"Jim built the tradition of NSU Baseball from ground zero," Gaspard said. "He is as loyal and hardworking as any coach I have ever been around. He does a masterful job of getting his players and coaches to follow his lead and his record at both Northwestern and Alabama have proved that. I have the utmost respect and admiration for him as both a coach and person and am certainly glad I was able to spend nine years as a member of his staff."

Tickets for Tuesday's 7 p.m. game are still available and can be purchased at the NSU Athletic Ticket Office or by calling (318) 357-4268.

ALABAMA VS. NSU

Alabama has won the only two meetings with Northwestern State, winning 8-6 in 1999 and 19-4 in 2000.

*This will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools in Natchitoches. Alabama and Northwestern State were scheduled to meet here at Brown-Stroud Field during the 2001 season, but that game was cancelled early in the day due to rain.

*Alabama head coach Jim Wells spent five years as head coach at Northwestern State (1990-94), compiling a 192-89 (.683) record. He took over a program that had experienced 13 consecutive losing seasons and in one year led the Demons to a 38-13 record, which included a school-record 20-game winning streak to open his collegiate coaching career.

*In five years, Wells led NSU to three Southland Conference Championships (1991, 1993, and 1994) and was twice named SLC "Coach of the Year" (1992 & 1994).

*Wells also guided the Demons to two NCAA Regional appearances (1991 & 1994) before leaving for Alabama after the 1994 season.

*Wells is a 1980 graduate of Northwestern State and native of Bossier City, La. The Crimson Tide will play in Shreveport on Wednesday, April 8 against Centenary at Shehee Stadium. It will mark the first game in Shreveport for Wells since becoming UA's head coach nine years ago.

*Alabama assistant coach Jim Gatewood was a member of Wells' first coaching staff at Northwestern State. Gatewood was an assistant coach for the Demons for three years re (1988-90) before taking the head coaching job at Richardson High School in Dallas, Texas.

*Gatewood's brother, Reggie, was a standout player for the Demons under Wells, earning second team NCBWA All-America honors in 1994. An All-Southland Conference selection, Reggie Gatewood went 11-3 for Wells in 1994 with 10 complete games and a 2.14 ERA.

*Alabama Athletic Trainer Ginger Gilmore served in the same capacity at Northwestern State from 1994-96, where she worked with the baseball team. She earned her master's degree from NSU in 1994.

*Senior backup catcher John Marshall played for Gatewood at Richardson High School and began his career here at Northwestern State before moving to Brookhaven Community College after a red shirt season in 1999.

*All three coaches at NSU since Wells departure have some ties to the state of Alabama.

*Wells immediate successor Dave Van Horn, now the coach at Arkansas, was the head coach at Central Missouri State (Division II) before taking over at NSU. The day Wells was hired to be the head coach at Alabama, Van Horn guided the Mules to a win over Florida Southern in the Division II National Championship game at Paterson Field in Montgomery, Ala.

*John Cohen, a Tuscaloosa native and graduate of Tuscaloosa Academy, replaced Van Horn at Northwestern State when Van Horn left for Nebraska after the 1997 season. Cohen served four years as head coach at NSU before hooking up with Pat McMahon as an assistant coach at Florida after the 2001 season.

*Former Alabama assistant coach Mitch Gaspard, who was offered the job when Wells left in 1994, was named head coach of the Demons after the 2001 season. In his first year, Gaspard led the Demons to a 43-17 record and the 2002 Southland Conference championship, but was snubbed by the NCAA Selection Committee.

*Two former Alabama assistant coaches are now head coaches in the SLC. Todd Butler (1995-99) is in his third year at McNeese State, while Gaspard (1995-2001) is in his second season with Northwestern State.

ALABAMA BASEBALL NOTEBOOK

*The Crimson Tide has now lost three straight SEC series for the first time since 2001 when losing three in a row at Tennessee, at Auburn and LSU.

*Alabama has completed a tough stretch in its schedule as the last nine SEC games have come against Top 25 teams and six of those games have been on the road. Alabama went 3-6 (.333) in those nine games, winning one game each against No. 21 Florida, No. 12 LSU and No. 6 Auburn.

*Alabama is 4-7 (.364) against Top 30 clubs this season and is still the only team to beat No. 1 ranked Rice (32-1), winners of 29 straight games. The 29-game winning streak by the Owls is five off the NCAA record.

*Following Sunday's loss at Auburn, Alabama is now 5-5 (.500) in one-run games this season. The Crimson Tide has lost three straight one-run games on Sunday in SEC play. Overall, Alabama has played four one-run games in SEC play.

SETH JOHNSON

*Pitcher Seth Johnson appeared in two games this past week for the Crimson Tide, compiling a 1-0 record and a 0.97 ERA against West Alabama and Auburn. In 9 1/3 innings, Johnson allowed one earned run and six hits, and added 10 strikeouts and one walk.

The junior right-hander took the mound on Saturday, making his first Southeastern Conference start of the season and just his second start of the year. Johnson's only other start was a win over Miss. Valley State (6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K) on Feb. 27 at Tuscaloosa.

In his first career SEC start, Johnson allowed one run and five hits in seven innings in a 3-2 win at arch-rival and No. 6 ranked Auburn on April 5, 2003.

In his SEC debut against the Tigers, Johnson worked seven plus innings and allowed one run and five hits in the longest outing of his UA career. The right-hander also added a career high nine strikeouts and walked only two batters. He left the game after allowing a leadoff double to Chuck Jeroloman in the eighth inning.

In his two starts this season, Johnson is 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA. The right-hander has worked 13 innings in his two starts and allowed one earned run and seven hits. He also added 15 strikeouts and two walks.

For the season, Johnson is 4-0 with a 1.34 ERA in 11 appearances. The right-hander has worked 33.2 innings and allowed 22 hits, six runs, five earned runs, 12 walks and 37 strikeouts.

Including his high school and junior college career, Johnson is 88-10 in his 98 career decisions.

*Freshman outfielder Brandon Avalos extended his hitting streak to eight games with a two-out double in the second inning on April 6th at Plainsman Park.

Avalos, playing 10 days removed from an emergency appendectomy (Mar. 26), returned to the Alabama lineup on April 5th at Auburn and drove home the winning run in the fourth inning with a sacrifice fly, his first career GW RBI.

*In the series opener at Auburn, UA starter Taylor Tankersley allowed a career-high seven runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings before exiting the game after Sean Gamble's home run. Tankersley added seven strikeouts, three walks and hit two batters in the shortest outing of his career.

Tankersley has 66 strikeouts which ranks second in the SEC to Vanderbilt left-hander Jeremy Sowers (70).

*Senior center fielder Travis Garner went 0-for-4 in the series opener at Auburn, snapping his career long 18-game hitting streak. The 18-game hitting streak was the second-longest in the SEC this year.

*Senior Beau Hearod homered in the final two games of the Auburn series, increasing his SEC-leading home run total to 13 home runs this season. Hearod also has an SEC-best 51 RBI this season.

Hearod's 13 home runs are the most in his college career. Last year as a junior, Hearod his 12 home runs for the Crimson Tide. The 51 RBI this season are four shy of his single-season high set in 2001 (55 RBI).

Hearod was the Crimson Tide's leading hitter at Auburn, going 5-for-11 (.455) with two home runs and three RBI. He also scored three runs.

*Alabama returns home this weekend to host the Kentucky Wildcats in a three-game series. Games will begin at 6:30 p.m. CDT Friday and at 2 p.m. CDT on both Saturday and Sunday.


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