Tide Baseball Opens In NCAA Regional

Alabama, the number two seed in the Tallahassee NCAA Baseball Regional, will open play at 11 a.m. today against the number three seed, Kennesaw State, winner of the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Alabama (34-22) and Kennesaw State (37-21) are joined by Florida State (43-15), the number one seed, and fourth-seeded Georgia Southern (39-21) will play Friday evening. Games in the Tallahassee Regional are played at Dick Howser Stadium on the campus of FSU.

Alabama and Florida State are at-large entries while Kennesaw State and Georgia Southern won their conference championships to make the tourney field. Georgia Southern defeated Samford to win the Southern Conference.

Bama is one of a record 10 Southeastern Conference team in the tournament field.

The Crimson Tide is expected to start junior right-handed pitcher Spencer Turnbull, who is 5-6 with a 2.28 earned run average. In 14 starts this season, Turnbull has thrown a team-high 87 innings, with 59 strikeouts while holding opponents to a .193 batting average. Kennesaw State has not made a decision on a pitcher for Friday's game, but it's likely that the Owls will start either sophomore RHP Jordan Hillyer or sophomore LHP Travis Bergen.

Alabama is making its 24th NCAA tournament appearance. The Crimson Tide has a 67-47 (.587) in 114 career NCAA tournament games. UA has been to the NCAA tournament in six of the last seven seasons. Alabama missed the 2012 NCAA tournament, snapping a four-year run. Mitch Gaspard has led the Tide to the NCAA tournament in four of his five seasons as the head coach at Alabama. This is Gaspard's sixth NCAA tournament as a head coach, having taken Northwestern State in 2005.

Bama is no stranger to Tallahassee in post-season baseball as this is the Tide's fifth trip to a Florida State-hosted NCAA Regional. Alabama played in Tallahassee in 1983, 1991, 2011 and 2013. The Tide is 9-6 in NCAA Regional games in Tallahassee. UA won the 1983 region and advanced to the championship game in 1991 and 2011.

The Crimson Tide is seventh in the SEC with a .278 batting average, while averaging 5.2 runs and 9.5 hits per game. Alabama has had 10 or more hits in 29 games this season, reaching the 10-hit mark 17 times in the last 29 games. After starting the year 4-5 with a .224 batting average through nine games, Alabama posted a .290 average with a .412 slugging percentage, with 36 of its 40 home runs and 70 of their 79 doubles coming during that stretch. The Tide ranks second in the SEC and 17th in the country with 40 home runs this season.

Alabama is eighth in the SEC with a 3.29 ERA for the season, ranking 56th nationally. UA ranks fifth in the SEC with a .228 opponent's batting average, while ranking 10th in the country, allowing 7.38 hits per nine innings. Alabama posted a 21-11 record at Sewell-Thomas Stadium and 13-11 away from home, including an 11-10 mark in road games and a 2-1 mark at neutral sites.

Kennesaw State is making its first ever NCAA tournament appearance, after winning the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament with a 7-1 win over Lipscomb. The Owls are 37-21 overall and have won 23 of their last 24 games, dating back to April 6. The only loss for KSU during that stretch was an 8-6 defeat to Western Carolina on May 13. Since the loss, KSU has won seven straight games.

The Owls are hitting .301 while averaging 6.1 runs and 10.8 hits per game. Leading the offense is junior catcher Max Pentecost, who has a .423 average with nine home runs, 55 RBI, 21 doubles and 57 runs scored. Bo Way is second on the team with a .364 average and Alex Liquori is hitting .363 with 42 RBI.

KSU has a 3.50 team ERA, while allowing 4.5 runs and 9.3 hits per game. Jordan Hillyer has a 7-3 record with a 3.36 ERA and a team-high 71 strikeouts in 93 2/3 innings and 15 starts. Travis Bergen is 7-4 with a 2.74 ERA in 14 appearances as a starter. Justin McClavin has been solid out of the bullpen, appearing in a team-high 35 games, posting a 4-3 record with 14 saves and a 2.24 ERA.

Today's game will be the first ever meeting between the two schools.

Today's losing teams will play an elimination game at noon Saturday, followed by Friday's winning teams playing at 4 p.m. Saturday.

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