Tide Has Difficult SEC Baseball Start

Alabama will start no pitcher with a winning record when the Crimson Tide opens Southeastern Conference play at Arkansas this weekend. The Razorbacks, on the other hand, will not start a pitcher with a losing record against Bama.

Alabama baseball begins SEC competition with a three-game series at No. 4 Arkansas this weekend. First pitch for the series opener at Baum Stadium is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. CDT Friday. Game two of the series will begin at 3 p.m. CDT, on Saturday, and the series finale is slated to start at 1 p.m. CDT Sunday.

Alabama pitching has not been bad, but it pales in comparison to the job of the Razorbacks' pitchers. Bama will start game one on Friday with junior right-hander Charley Sullivan pitching. Sullivan is 2-2 with a 3.38 earned run average. Arkansas will start junior righty D.J. Baxendale, who is 5-0 with a 2.45 ERA.

On Saturday, Alabama will go with freshman left-hander Taylor Guilbeau, who is 1-1 with a 3.98 ERA. He'll go up against the Hogs' Ryne Stanek, a sophomore right-hander who is 4-0 with a 1.12 ERA.

On Sunday, it will be Bama junior right-hander Trey Pilkington who is 0-1 with a 5.91 ERA against Arkansas sophomore lefthander Randall Fant, who is 101 with a 4.40 ERA.

Saturday's game will be televised by CSS.

The Crimson Tide has won three of its last four games, and enters the series against the Razorbacks with an 8-9 overall record. UA posted an 8-3 win over Southern Mississippi on Tuesday, then recorded a thrilling, 6-5, come-from-behind win over Samford on Wednesday. UA posted a five-run seventh inning en route to the win over the Golden Eagles, then tallied a five-run ninth to defeat the Bulldogs.

Arkansas enters the series ranked in the top-10 in all college baseball polls, which includes a No. 4 ranking by Baseball America and a No. 7 national ranking in the coaches' poll.

The Tide has played five games away from Sewell-Thomas Stadium this season, and is 1-4 in those games. UA is hitting .250 and has a 4.59 team ERA in 2012. Alabama opened SEC play last season with a series win on the road over Mississippi. After dropping the opening game to the Rebels, UA won the last two games of the series.

Arkansas enters the opening weekend of SEC play with a 16-2 record and has won nine of its last 10 games. The Razorbacks are ranked No. 4 by Baseball America, No. 5 by the NCBWA and Collegiate Baseball and No. 7 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. Arkansas is coming off a three-game sweep over Binghamton (Mar. 9-10) and a two-game sweep of Gonzaga (Mar. 13-14). The Razorbacks are hitting .292 as a team, while averaging 6.6 runs and 9.3 hits per game. The pitching staff has been dominate early, holding opponents to a .207 batting average with a 2.18 ERA. The Razorbacks are allowing 2.6 runs and 6.7 hits per outing.

Senior shortstop Tim Carver leads the team with a .389 batting average. Matt Reynolds is hitting .386 with 14 RBI, three home runs and 16 runs scored, all second on the club. Sophomore first baseman Dominic Ficociello is hitting .362 and leads the team with 18 runs scored. Sam Bates leads the club with five home runs and 16 RBI.

In five starts this season, Friday starter, RHP DJ Baxendale is 5-0 with a 2.45 ERA. Opponents are hitting .214 against him. Saturday starter, RHP Ryne Stanek has a 1.12 ERA and is 4-0 in four starts. Stanek has a team-high 21 strikeouts and is holding opponents to a .205 average. Sunday starter, LHP Randall Fant is 1-1 in three starts with a 4.40 ERA. Fant has 12 strikeouts in 14.1 innings pitched.

In a series that dates back to 1992, the three-game series between Alabama and Arkansas will mark games 58-60. After winning 3-of-5 meetings last season, Alabama holds a 31-26 lead in the all-time series. During the 2011 regular season, Alabama won 2-of-3 games in Tuscaloosa to win the season series. In the SEC tournament, UA won the opening game against the Razorbacks, 7-4, before falling to Arkansas, 4-1, two days later. In the last series played in Fayetteville, No. 15 Arkansas swept the season series in 2010. UA is 3-2 in the last five meetings with Arkansas, 5-5 in the last 10 and 11-9 in the last 20. Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard is 3-5 all-time against Arkansas, with all three wins coming in 2011.

In its most recent game, Alabama posted a 6-5 come-from-behind win over Samford on Wednesday night. Trailing 5-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Tide scored five runs in the inning to walk-off with the win.UA loaded the bases with no outs and got an RBI HBP from Taylor Dugas, a pinch-hit RBI walk from Austen Smith, an RBI on an error on the Samford third baseman, and an RBI on a fielder's choice by Josh Rosecrans to tie the game. The winning run crossed when pinch-runner Andrew Miller made a great slide at home to beat the throw from the Samford shortstop on a Ben Moore ground ball. UA had just five hits in the game, two coming in the ninth, and benefitted from two walks, a HBP, and an error in the frame. Chazz Otwell threw the final 1.2 innings for Alabama to get his first career win. Dugas was 1-for-3, extending his hit streak to 10 games, with two RBI and a run scored to lead the Tide.

The Crimson Tide will return to the state of Alabama to play a mid-week road game against the Troy Trojans on Tuesday. First pitch for the game at Riddle-Pace Field is scheduled for 6 p.m. Alabama returns to Sewell-Thomas Stadium on March 23, to begin a three-game SEC series against Mississippi. First pitch for the SEC home opener for the Tide is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. (CST). Game two will start at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday, and the series finale is slated for 1:05 on Sunday.

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