Tide Baseball Home To Powerful Cats

There's no place like home, at least in the early part of this baseball season for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Bama is in the middle of an unusual nine-game homestand as Alabama opens Southeastern Conference competition this weekend.

Alabama (10-5) will host Kentucky (13-4 and nationally ranked) in games Friday and Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon in the first SEC action of the year. Bama has a six-game winning streak, including four in a row at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, and is 8-2 in Tuscaloosa this year.

One of those home wins came last Saturday against Mississippi Valley State and it was a nine-inning no-hitter. The three men who combined to pitch the first nine-inning no-hitter by Bama since 1942 – Justin Kamplain, Jay Shaw, and Geoffrey Bramblett – will be recognized prior to Friday's game.

In Friday's game, which begins at 6:30 p.m. CDT, the Tide will pitch junior right-hander Spencer Turnbull, who has a 1-1 record and a 0.42 earned run average, against Kentucky junior left-hander A.J. Reed (3-0, 1.38).

The Saturday matchup at 6 p.m. it will be Bama junior left-hander Kamplain (2-1, 2.45) vs. Kentucky junior right-hander Kent-Chandler Shepherd (3-0, 2.42). Alabama has announced that junior lefty Jon Keller (4-0, 0.83) will pitch the 1 p.m. Sunday game, while Kentucky has not yet named a starter.

Turnbull earned his first win of the season last Friday after throwing seven shutout innings against Mississippi Valley State. Kamplain is coming off seven no-hit innings against the Delta Devils where he struck out a career-high 12 batters. Keller, who is tied for the SEC lead with four wins this season, will make his second start of the season on Sunday. Last week, Keller threw six scoreless innings against MVSU, allowing one hit with seven strikeouts in his first start of the year.

The Alabama pitching staff has been outstanding this season, posting the fourth best ERA in the SEC and ninth best ERA in the country at 1.71. In 137 innings, Alabama has given up 32 runs (26 earned) on 78 hits with 123 strikeouts and 51 walks. Opponents are hitting just .174 against the Tide this season, which ranks second in the SEC. Alabama is second in the country, allowing 5.2 hits per game. In 60 innings this season, the Tide bullpen has allowed just 11 runs (9 earned) for a 1.35 ERA, while allowing a .218 batting average.

The Crimson Tide is hitting .267 as a team, while averaging 4.8 runs and 9.3 hits per game. When the Tide scores three or more runs in a game they are 10-0.

Offensively, Alabama is paced by senior first baseman Austen Smith, who has team-highs with a .362 average and 11 RBI this season. Georgie Salem is riding an eight-game hitting streak and is second on the team with a .318 average. Ben Moore is hitting .300 and leads the team with five double, a .433 slugging percentage and 12 runs scored. Freshman catcher Will Haynie has been on a tear of late, posting a .526 average over his last five games. He is now hitting .297 this season with two doubles and a home run.

Kentucky is ranked No. 20 by Baseball America and No. 21 by the NCWBA, in the USA Today Coaches Poll and by Collegiate Baseball, and No. 18 by Perfect Game USA. The Wildcats are one of the most prolific hitting teams in the country, ranking first in batting average (.337), scoring (184/10.8 rpg), hits (205) and on base percentage (.449), while ranking second in slugging percentage (.499). On the mound, Kentucky has a 2.74 ERA while allowing the opposition to hit .219 against them. UK is allowing 3.9 runs and 7.3 hits per game.

A.J. Reed has been a star on the mound and at the plate for the Wildcats. The Friday night starter has a 3-0 record with a 1.38 ERA in four starts this season. Offensively, Reed is hitting .414 with a nation-leading eight home runs. He also leads the country with 28 RBI and is third with a .897 slugging percentage. Junior outfielder Austin Cousino leads the team with a .432 batting average to go along with nine doubles and 25 runs scored, ranking second in the SEC in all three categories. In addition to Reed and Cousino, Michael Thomas is hitting .400, Ka'al Thom has a .362 average, Max Kuhn is hitting .361 and Kyle Barrett has a .324 average. Kuhn leads the country with 26 runs scored.

In a series that dates back to the 1925 season, this weekend's series will mark games 93-95 of the all-time series. Alabama holds a 56-36 advantage in the series. In the last series, the Wildcats swept all three games when the teams met in Lexington during the 2012 campaign. In the last series played in Tuscaloosa, the Tide swept the Wildcats during the 2011 season.

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