Coach Understands Low Expectations
"I don't think with what we lost that it's a surprise to anyone to see us picked fifth," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said Tuesday.
In some seasons, being predicted to finish fifth in the SEC Western Division would not be so bad, but this year the Eastern Division is considered the stronger side. Defending champion Florida was the pick to repeat as SEC titlist in 2011. With eight position players and 11 pitchers back from its College World Series team, Florida is also the preseason pick to win the national championship.
LSU was picked to win the Western Division, followed by Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama, and Mississippi State. Florida was followed by Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, and Tennessee.
Alabama will show how well it has replaced its entire infield and a top pitcher when the Crimson Tide opens the 2011 season Friday against Alcorn State. First pitch Friday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium will be at 6 p.m. The teams will also play at 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
Gov. Robert Bentley, a Tuscaloosa native and Alabama graduate, will throw out the first ball. There will also be a presentation to Tide outfielder David Kindred, who missed the end of last season after being diagnosed with cancer, and who has made a full recovery. As a starting outfielder last year he batted .314 with three home runs and 18 runs batted in.
Gaspard said that Alcorn State has about half its position players "and a couple of pitchers" back from last year, but said the emphasis is not on the opponent, but on Alabama.
Gaspard said that junior Adam Morgan will be the starting pitcher in Friday's game and senior Nathan Kilcrease would start Saturday. He said that "Tucker Hawley and Taylor Wolfe are about even," and expects Hawley to start Sunday's game.
Gaspard said "We're excited about playing. The weather has started to cooperate. The pitchers got their innings and we got some good work over the weekend. Opening weekend is exciting, and especially with a young team.
"We're anxious to see how they are going to play when the lights come on.
"I've been plased with the improvement."
Gaspard said the Tide would use several pitchers and position players early in the year. "My philosophy is to play a lot of guys early," he said. "I'll look for the opportunity to use a lot of pitchers and we still have competition at several spots."
One thing that won't be a surprise is that All-America center fielder Taylor Dugas will again be Bama's leadoff hitter.
The subject of new NCAA aluminum bats, which have been altered to make them less potent, has been discussed for months. Tuesday Gaspard said Bama now has the final edition of the bats "and they have a little more pop than the ones we had in the fall." Still, he said, the Alabama offense will be primarily about getting on base and then trying to create runs.
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