Will It Be Lucky 13 For Tide Baseball?
For the season, Alabama is just 3-16 away from Sewell-Tomas Stadium. A poor record in road games isn't the only reason the Tide is last in SEC baseball play this year. Bama comes into the week with an 18-30 overall record following a series loss to Mississippi State last weekend. The Tide won the final game of the series, 8-7, thanks to a two-run, walk-off double by Austen Smith.
Kentucky (38-11, 15-9 SEC) comes into the week ranked No. 7 in the Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball polls and No. 9 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches and NCBWA polls. Coming off a 6-5 12-inning road win over Indiana on Wednesday night, the Kentucky Wildcats are 38-11 overall and are in second place in the SEC Eastern Division with a 15-9 record. Heading into the ninth week of conference play, Kentucky has a .303 team batting average, which is third best in the SEC. The Wildcats rank second in the conference and 10th in the country with 50 home runs. The Kentucky pitching staff has a 3.57 ERA while allowing opponents to hit .260 against them.
Alabama's three-game series at Kentucky's Cliff Hagen Stadium gets underway at 6 p.m. CDT Friday and will be televised on CSS. On Saturday the teams will meet at 1 p.m. CDT (television by Fox Sports South) and the series ends with a Sunday game starting at noon central.
Alabama starting pitching of late has been adequate, but relief pitching and offense have been spotty for the Crimson Tide. True freshmen have been the core of the Bama pitching rotation and two are scheduled to start this weekend. Although Spencer Turnbull, a freshman right-hander, has a 2-4 record and 4.56 earned run average, he has pitched well in recent weeks. He'll go up against Taylor Rogers, a junior left-hander for the Wildcats who is 5-3 with a 4.81 ERA. Bama will go with another freshman Saturday, left-hander Jon Keller, who is 1-5 with a 4.14 ERA. Kentucky will pitch left-handed junior Jerad Grundy (4-2, 4.08). On Sunday, it will be Bama junior right-hander Charley Sullivan (2-2, 5.03) against Kentucky sophomore left-hander Corey Littrell (7-0, 2.30).
Ben Moore is hitting .352 for the season to lead the Tide, which ranks fifth overall in the SEC. He is hitting .366 during conference games, to rank fourth in the SEC. Moore is tied with Taylor Dugas for the team-lead with 62 hits, and he's second with 10 doubles, 28 runs scored and third with 28 RBI. Dugas is second on the team with a .343 average and he leads the team with 21 walks and 18 HBP for a team-high .457 on-base percentage. Dugas now holds the school record for career hits with 327, after he broke Andy Phillips' 13-year old record on May 5, against Mississippi State. Jared Reaves and Brett Booth are tied for the team lead with four home runs and 29 RBI. Reaves is third on the team with a .305 average this season. James Tullidge has started the last 22 games, is fourth on the team with a .293 average, and is second on the team with 17 walks and a .463 on-base percentage.
For Kentucky, Austin Cousino has a .345 batting average and is third on the squad with eight home runs. Luke Maile leads the team with 11 home runs and 45 RBI, while hitting .320 for the season. Cameron Flynn is second on the team with nine homers and A.J. Reed is second with 39 RBI.
In a series that dates back to the 1925 season, this year's series between Alabama and Kentucky will mark games 90-92 all-time. After sweeping the series in Tuscaloosa last season, 4-0, 6-5, and 8-3, the Tide leads the series 56-33. When the teams last played in Lexington in 2010, Kentucky won the first two games, 7-6 and 8-2, before the Tide won the finale, 11-9. Alabama is 21-15 all-time in games played at Kentucky. The Wildcats have won the last two series played in Lexington, and are 5-1 in those six games. UA has posed four three-game sweeps in Lexington, while the Wildcats have swept the Tide twice in three games series' at home. UA head coach Mitch Gaspard is 4-2 all-time as a head coach against Kentucky.
Alabama will play its final non-conference mid-week game on Tuesday when it hosts Troy at 6:05 p.m., at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Crimson Tide returns to SEC play on Thursday, May 17, with game one of a three-game series against Georgia at 6:35 p.m. CT. The series continues with game two on Friday at 6:35 p.m. and wraps up on Saturday with a 1:05 p.m. game. Prior to the start of the Friday night game against Georgia, Alabama will honor eight senior student-athletes: Taylor Dugas, Hunter Gregory, Jon Kelton, Nathan Kennedy, Jared Reaves, Josh Rosecrans, James Tullidge, and Jason Zylstra.
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