Tide Hosts Florida In Key SEC Series

Although Alabama baseball rebounded from a 1-3 week last week – including a 1-2 record at South Carolina – with a 9-5 win over Samford Wednesday night, the road ahead looks treacherous, beginning with a weekend series in Tuscaloosa against the nation's fifth-ranked team.

Alabama is tied for the second best record in the Southeastern Conference with a 13-8 mark in league games (the Crimson Tide is 30-15 overall) and will host the Florida Gators, the SEC leader at 15-6 and the nation's fifth ranked team with a 30-15 record for games Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

The series at Sewell-Thomas Stadium begins at 6:30 p.m. CDT Friday. Game two is at 3 p.m. Saturday and the finale at 2 p.m. Sunday.

For the fifth straight week, Alabama is ranked in all five national polls, but after a 1-3 week, the Tide dropped slightly in every national ranking. This week, the Tide is ranked No. 12 by Baseball America, No. 14 by Perfect Game USA, No. 16 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 20 by both the NBCWA and in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

With nine games remaining on the SEC schedule, the Tide is 13-8 is tied for first place in the SEC Western Division with Ole Miss. Alabama has won 15 of its last 22 games and 26 of the last 36 overall.

Alabama gets Jon Keller back for the pitching rotation this week. Keller, the normal Sunday starter, missed last weekend for disciplinary reasons.

As usual, Bama will go with junior right-hander Spencer Turnbull (5-3, 2.45 ERA) on Friday. Florida will pitch freshman right0hander Logan Short (5-2, 1.76). Saturday's match-up has Bama junior left-hander Justin Kamplain (4-2, 3.32) against the Gators' sophomore right-hander Aaron Rhodes (5-2, 2.08). On Sunday, Keller, a junior left-hander who is 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA will pitch against Florida's Karsten Whitson, a junior right-hander who is 1-0, 3.46.

The Crimson Tide is sixth in the SEC with a .281 batting average, while averaging 5.4 runs and 9.6 hits per game. Over the last 11 games, Alabama is hitting .304 with 17 doubles, two triples and 12 home runs. When the Tide scores three or more runs they are 29-5, but 1-10 when scoring fewer than three runs. Alabama has had 10 or more hits in 25 games this season, while reaching the 10-hit mark in 13 of the last 18 games. Alabama has 34 home runs in 45 games (second in the SEC and 22nd nationally) surpassing its 2013 season total of 26 home runs in 63 games. The 34 home runs are the most for Alabama since the bat change following the 2010 season.

The Alabama pitching staff has been solid this season, posting the sixth-best ERA in the SEC at 2.90, to rank 27th nationally. In 403.1 innings, Alabama has given up 156 runs (130 earned) while holding opponents to a .219 average.UA ranks fourth in the SEC in opponent's batting average, while ranking fifth in the country, allowing 6.9 hits per game. Alabama is 19-6 when playing at Sewell-Thomas Stadium and 11-9 away from home, including a 9-9 mark in road games and a 2-0 mark at neutral sites.

With a 5-for-5 performance against Samford on Wednesday, Mikey White posted the 30th five-hit game in school history, tying a school record. White had two home runs and three singles, and had career-highs with four RBI and four runs scored. Ben Moore has hit safely in the last 10 games and is hitting .463 (19-41) with four doubles, a triple, four home runs, 12 RBI and 12 runs scored over that stretch. He's had at least two hits in eight of the 10 games during the streak. He is second on the team with a .317 average, 11 doubles and 30 RBI and leads the team with seven home runs and 35 runs scored. After missing three games with a bruised wrist, Austen Smith started the last eight games, posting a .363 (8-22) average with three doubles, two home runs, five RBI and four runs scored since the injury. Smith leads the team in five offensive categories including batting average (.356), RBI (31), walks (23), slugging (.576) and on-base percentage (.468).

Following a series sweep of Missouri, the Gators have won nine of their last 11 games and are riding an eight-game winning streak in league play. Florida is ranked as high as No. 4 by Perfect Game USA, while ranking No. 5 by Baseball America, No. 8 by Collegiate Baseball, and No. 12 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 14 by the NCBWA. The Gators enter the three-game series with a .269 average for the season, while hitting .287 during SEC play. The UF pitching staff has a 3.23 ERA while holding opponents to a .250 batting average.

Taylor Gushue is hitting .335 for the season to lead the team, while his four home runs, 13 doubles and 36 RBI are all team-highs. During SEC play, Gushue leads the team with a .400 average, two home runs, six doubles and 17 RBI. Casey Turgeon is tied with Gushue for the team lead with four home runs and is second on the club with 27 RBI. Richie Martin leads the team with 35 runs scored and is second on the team with 18 walks.

Alabama and Florida have met 106 times since the series began in 1920. The Tide holds a 55-51 advantage in the series all-time, but the Gators have won last four games and nine of the last 11 overall. In the last meeting in Tuscaloosa, the Gators won two of three games during the 2010 season. UA's last series win over Florida came in 2008, when the Tide won two of three games at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

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