Kilcrease Starter For Tide In SEC

To the surprise of no one, Alabama will go with senior right-handed pitcher Nathan Kilcrease when the Crimson Tide opens play in the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament at Regions Park in Hoover at 9:30 a.m. CDT Wednesday.



Kilcrease has been the heart of the Alabama baseball team this year with his 6-4 record and 3.25 earned run average telling only a little of the story. A former closer, the 5-6, 160-pound Phenix City native has been the big win man for Bama, including pitching the Crimson Tide into the tournament with a win over second ranked South Carolina last Thursday.

Alabama, the seventh seed in the tournament, will be going against 18th ranked Arkansas, winner of the SEC Western Division and the second seed in the tournament. The Razorbacks finished one game ahead of Alabama, Auburn, and Mississippi State in a nail-biter race.

Alabama goes into the tournament with a 33-24 overall record and 14-16 SEC mark. The Razorbacks are 36-18 and 15-15.

The Tide and Hogs will get the tournament started Wednesday with CSS televising the game. The tournament concludes Sunday. This is Bama's seventh consecutive SEC Tournament appearance.

Should the Tide capture its eighth SEC Tournament title, UA would automatically advance to the NCAA Tournament. Should Alabama fall short of a tournament victory, then the Tide will hope for an at-large bid. The national seeds (16 teams) will be announced on Sunday at 2:30 CDT, with the full 64-team field to follow on Monday at 11:30 a.m. CDT.

In his last outing Thursday, Kilcrease threw a complete game, allowing just one unearned run to the Gamecocks. He used 113 pitches and gave up just five hits (one extra base hit) to a team that averaged 10 hits per game entering the series, while striking out five. He retired 12 of the final 15 batters he faced. He was named SEC Pitcher of the Week.

Arkansas will go with left-hander Randall Fant (3-3, 3.24 ERA). Razorbacks ace D.J. Baxendale pitched a complete game and part of another last weekend and is being given an extra day of rest in the double elimination tournament.

Since the inception of the SEC Baseball Tournament in 1977, Alabama has advanced to the conference tournament 24 times, with 2011 marking the seventh straight appearance. The Crimson Tide has a 42-34 record in the tournament. UA is second among the 12 SEC schools with seven tournament titles (1983, 95, 96, 97, 99, 2002, and 03). From 1950-76, Alabama appeared in seven SEC Playoff series, posting a 9-10 record with three championships (1950, 55, and 68).

Alabama and Arkansas have met on the diamond 65 times and the Tide has a 40-25 advantage. Alabama won the series, 2-1, when the teams met in Tuscaloosa April 1-3. The last 10 games have been evenly matched with each team winning five games. Last season, the Razorbacks swept Alabama in Fayetteville. UA and Arkansas have met in the SEC Tournament six times, with Alabama holding a 4-2 advantage in the postseason. Arkansas defeated the Crimson Tide 6-0 in the most recent SEC Tournament match up in the first round in 2006.

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