Tide off to A&M Regional

The University of Alabama baseball team (37-22, No. 2 seed) will travel to College Station, Texas and face the Houston Cougars (32-27, No. 3 seed) to open NCAA regional play on Friday. The tournament selections were announced on ESPN2 Monday.

"I'm just glad that we're in," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "From what I can tell it's a winnable region. Each game you play is going to be tough and it gets tougher after that."

Alabama played Houston earlier this season, losing, 7-2 at the Astros College Classic at Minute Maid Park in Houston on February 15.

"I'm ready to go," Tide reliever Brian Reed said. "We played them at Minute Maid but they are not the same team they were then and we're not the same team we were then. This time of year it's all about the team that wants it more."

Texas A&M (No. 1 seed) and Oral Roberts (No. 4 seed) are the other teams in the regional. The 2003 regional is the 16th overall appearance for the Crimson Tide, and the 8th for the Tide in Jim Wells' nine seasons.

"It will be a difficult regional but we are going to College Station ready to play," Tide senior and SEC Tournament MVP Beau Hearod said. "We have to go out and play as well as we can. We're hot right now and we will be prepared."

Alabama automatically qualified for the tournament by winning the 2003 Southeastern Conference tournament in Hoover on Sunday, beating the No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds. With a 10-3 win over LSU in the championship game, the Crimson Tide extended its record to 10-8 against SEC Western division teams this season. Combined, the SEC West teams have a higher average RPI than any conference in the nation.

"The SEC Tournament was the best four days of our season," Wells said. "It came at the best time possible. I'm really proud of what they have done and I think we can maintain this momentum."

Alabama's last five wins have come over top-20 teams and the Tide is 13-9 versus ranked opponents this season.

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