More Tough Work For Tide Baseball

It didn't take a genius to see that Alabama's early lead in the Southeastern Conference standings would be challenged by the schedule that had Bama playing tough cookies down the stretch. Games at South Carolina and at home against Florida have dropped the Crimson Tide down in the standings. Now comes another difficult task.

After posting a 6-1 victory over Jacksonville State in the last non-conference home game of the season on Tuesday night, the No. 19 Alabama Crimson Tide (31-18, 13-11) travels to Baton Rouge, La., for a three-game Southeastern Conference series against the No. 6-ranked LSU Tigers (35-13-1, 13-3-1 SEC) this weekend.

The series against the Tigers begins on Friday, with first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. CDT from Alex Box Stadium. Game two begins at noon Saturday and game three starts at 1 p.m. Sunday. The final two games of the series will be televised on CSS.

Alabama is ranked in all five national polls this week, as the Tide is ranked No. 19 by Baseball America, No. 20 by Collegiate Baseball and Perfect Game USA, No. 22 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 23 in the NCBWA poll.

With six games remaining on the SEC schedule, the Crimson Tide is 13-11 in conference play and sits in sixth place overall and in fourth place in the SEC West Division, two games behind Ole Miss. Alabama has dropped seven of its last 10 games overall and six of its last seven against conference opponents.

Alabama is going with its regular Friday and Saturday pitchers, but neither the Tide nor Tigers has tipped its hand as to the Sunday starter.

On Friday Alabama will go with right-handed junior Spencer Turnbull (5-4 with a 2.38 ERA) and LSU will pitch junior right-hander Aaron Nola (7-1, 1.58). Saturday it will be Tide junior left-hander Justin Kamplain (4-3, 3.59) and he'll go against the Tigers' freshman left-hander Jared Poche (6-3, 2.58).

The Crimson Tide is sixth in the SEC with a .282 batting average, while averaging 5.3 runs and 9.7 hits per game. Over the last 15 games, Alabama is hitting .302 with 21 doubles, three triples and 14 home runs. Alabama has had 10 or more hits in 28 games this season, while reaching the 10-hit mark in 16 of the last 22 games. Alabama has 36 home runs (second in the SEC and 15th nationally) in 49 games, surpassing its 2013 season total of 26 home runs in 63 games. The 36 home runs are the most for Alabama since the bat change following the 2010 season. After starting the year 4-5 with a .224 batting average through nine games, Alabama is 27-13 in its last 40 games, while hitting .296 with a .422 slugging percentage, with 32 of its 36 home runs and 65 of their 74 doubles coming during that stretch.

In the last nine games, Alabama is 3-7 while posting a .280 average and averaging 4.4 runs and 9.5 hits per game. On the pitching side, Alabama has a 5.87 ERA whole allowing the opponents to hit .301 against them. Despite the recent troubles on the mound, Alabama is eighth in the SEC with a 3.11 ERA for the season, ranking 49th nationally.UA ranks fourth in the SEC with a .224 opponent's batting average, while ranking 10th in the country, allowing 7.2 hits per nine innings.

Austen Smith continues to lead the Tide with a .343 average and 33 RBI. His six home runs are second on the team and his 10 doubles are third on the squad. Wade Wass has the longest active hitting streak on the team at five games and is fourth on the team with a .300 average. Over the last five games, Mikey White is hitting .524 (11-21) and is now hitting .302 for the season, which ranks third on the team.

LSU is not on a hot streak. The Tigers dropped two of three games at Texas A&M last weekend.

LSU ranks ninth in the SEC with a .274 batting average, while averaging 5.7 runs and 8.7 hits per game. The Tigers' pitching staff is fourth in the conference with a 2.63 ERA, while holding opponents to a .224 average this season.

The Tigers are ranked as high as No. 6 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, while ranking eighth in the NCBWA poll, 10th by Perfect Game USA and No. 15 by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball.

Andrew Stevenson enters the series with a .351 average to rank sixth in the SEC in hitting. Stephenson leads the team with 34 runs scored and ranks second in the SEC with five triples this year. Sophomore shortstop Alex Bregman leads the team with 31 RBI, and is hitting .292 with 10 doubles and three home runs. Connor Hale is second on the team with a .312 average and 29 runs scored. Kade Scivicque and Sean McMullen are tied for the team lead four home runs each.

Nola highlights the pitching staff with a 7-1 record and a 1.58 ERA. Nola leads the SEC with 102 strikeouts in 85.2 innings, while holding opponents to a .173 batting average. Joe Broussard has been the anchor to the LSU bullpen as he leads the team with 27 appearances, posting a 3-1 record with eight saves in 27.1 innings. Jared Poche is 6-3 with a 2.58 ERA in 12 starts. Poche has 43 strikeouts in 69.2 innings this season.

In a series that dates back to the 1906 season, Alabama and LSU have played 358 games all-time. Alabama holds a 195-160-3 record against the Tigers, but have dropped seven of the last 10 games overall. When these teams met in Baton Rouge in 2012, the third-ranked Tigers posted a series sweep over the Tide. LSU has won seven straight home games over the Tide.


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