Tide Baseball Hopes To Surprise Vols

If you like surprises, watch the Alabama baseball team. In some games, the Crimson Tide comes up with great pitching and defense. In some games, Bama comes up with fine hitting. What would be a pleasant surprise would be for the team to put them together on a consistent basis.

Alabama has been struggling, to say the least. The Crimson Tide of Coach Mitch Gaspard is coming off a 1-0 12-inning loss to UAB. Bama was also shut out by Troy a little over a week ago. The Tide is in last place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division with a 1-5 record. Alabama is 9-16 overall.

This weekend, Bama takes its troubles to Knoxville to meet Tennessee in a three-game series.

Although by comparison almost every SEC team looks formidable to Bama, the Vols haven't been overpowering, either. Tennessee is 15-10 overall and 2-4 in SEC games.

The series begins at 6 p.m. EDT (5 p.m. central time) Friday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The teams will play at 1 p.m. EDT/noon CDT Saturday and close out at 2 p.m. EDT/1 p.m. CDT Sunday. The Saturday game will be telecast by CSS and ESPN3.

Charley Sullivan, a junior right-hander who is 2-2 with a 3.57 earned run average, will be Bama's Friday night starter. Justin Kamplain, a freshman left-hander with a 1-1 record and 2.54 ERA, is scheduled for Saturday. On Sunday, Bama will go with Jon Keller, a freshman left-hander with a 3.18 ERA. He does not have a decision in pitching in 11 games with two starts.

Kamplain was named the SEC Freshman of the Week last week as he ptiched a career-high seven innings against 17th ranked Ole Miss on Saturday. Kamplain carried a no-hitter into the seventh, before allowing a leadoff single to start the inning. He retired the first 14 batters he faced in the game, before allowing one of his two walks with two outs in the fifth. In his 7.0 innings, Kamplain allowed two runs on three hits with a career-high tying six strikeouts as Bama took a 3-2 decision.

Friday night Tennessee will start reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week, right-hander Zack Godley. Godley is 4-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 37 innings. Godley is tied for the team lead with 30 strikeouts, while allowing just six walks. Opponents are hitting .221 against him. Senior lefty T.J. Thornton is slated to start on Saturday. Thornton has appeared in seven games with one start and has a 0-0 record with a 5.25 ERA in 12.0 innings. For the series finale, Tennessee will throw sophomore righty Nick Williams (2-2, 1.71 ERA). Sunday will mark the 12th appearance and third start of the season for Williams. He has given up six runs (five earned) on 21 hits in 26.1 innings this season.

Alabama freshman catcher/outfielder Ben Moore continues to lead the team with a .326 batting average. He is second on the team with 15 runs, six doubles, and 29 hits, and is third on the squad with 12 RBI. Taylor Dugas hit .417 last weekend against Mississippi, and is currently second on the team with a .312 average. Dugas had one hit against UAB on Tuesday and has now reached base in all 25 games this season. Including the last 12 of the 2011 season, he's reached base in the last 37 games. Tennessee is hitting .262 as a team, while averaging 4.9 runs and 8.4 hits per game. The pitching staff is holding opponents to a .249 average with a 3.64 ERA. The Vols are allowing 4.4 runs and 8.6 hits per game.

First baseman Davis Morgan leads the Vols with a .328 average. Outfielder Chris Fritts leads the team with 20 RBI, two triples and is tied for second on the team with five doubles. Drew Steckenrider has team-highs with three home runs, 20 runs scored and six doubles. Steckenrider also leads the team with 21 walks for a team best.442 on-base percentage. Chris Pierce is third on the team with 11 RBI and has one of the squad's eight home runs this season.

In a series that dates back to 1897, the three-game series between Alabama and Tennessee will mark games 100-102 all-time. Alabama holds a 69-30 advantage in the series. When the teams met in Tuscaloosa last season, Tennessee won two of the three games. Alabama won the opening game of the series 8-2, and after game two was rained out, Tennessee won both seven-inning games of a doubleheader, 2-1 and 1-0. The last time UA and Tennessee played in Knoxville, Alabama swept the series with an 11-3 win in the opener, a 4-2 win in 11 innings in game two, and a 9-7 victory to complete the sweep.

Following the series at Tennessee, the Crimson Ride will remain on the road for a mid-week game at South Alabama on Tuesday. First pitch for the game at Stanky Field is scheduled for 6 p.m. Alabama returns home on Friday, April 6 to host Auburn for the first game of the three-game SEC series at Sewell Thomas Stadium.

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