Tide Baseball Faces No. 14 Missouri

Some things remain the same for Alabama baseball. It seems the Crimson Tide meets a nationally-ranked team almost every weekend in Southeastern Conference play, and that is the case as Bama begins a three-game series at Missouri today. But there will be something new for Bama this weekend as the Tide has a new Saturday starting pitcher.

Alabama begins its road trip at 6 p.m. CDT today (Friday) against a Missouri Tigers team that is ranked 14th in the nation. Although both teams are SEC members, this will be Bama’s first baseball trip to Columbia. The Crimson Tide and Tigers have met only three times (2013 in Tuscaloosa) with Alabama holding a 2-1 edge.

Alabama is 19-16 overall and 6-9 in SEC games. Missouri is 24-13 overall, 10-5 in conference play. First pitch today is at 6 p.m. CDT with the game airing on SECN+. The SEC Network will carry the final two contests, Saturday at 7 p.m. CDT and Sunday at noon.

Alabama will insert a new Saturday pitcher but remains with the usual starters in games one and three. The Crimson Tide will begin the weekend with senior left-hander Taylor Guilbeau (2-2, 3.11 earned run average). Saturday’s new starter will be freshman righty Jake Walters (3-1, 1.75), making his first career start in conference play. He replaces junior Will Carter in the rotation. On Sunday, the Tide will pitch the team leader in wins, sophomore right-hander Geoffrey Bramblett (5-1, 3.86).

Missouri will send its usual lineup of three right-handed starters. The Tigers will kick off the weekend with junior Reggie McClain (4-4, 3.20) and then use freshman Tanner Houck (6-1, 2.92) in game two on Saturday. Sunday will see junior Peter Fairbanks (4-3, 2.17).

The Crimson Tide is 1-1 in SEC road series this season, and 3-3 overall in games played. Alabama took two of three from then-No. 15 Mississippi State in Starkville from March 14-15. The Tide was able to win games one and three on the weekend to clinch the series victory. Alabama went 1-2 at then-fourth-ranked Florida, claiming the first game of a Saturday doubleheader, 12-9, in 10 innings of play, before falling in the final two contests.

Bama enters this weekend after a midweek victory over UAB. Prior to the Tuesday game with the Blazers, Alabama took two of three games from Georgia in SEC action last weekend.

Alabama is led offensively by Mikey White and Casey Hughston, both team leaders in a combined 10 statistical categories. In recognition of their efforts this season, both were named to the Golden Spikes Award Midseason Watch List last week,. The two Tide players make up the national list of 60 players.

White ranks second in the SEC in triples (5), third in doubles (13) seventh in slugging percentage (.636), eighth in total bases (84), tied for eighth in runs (34), and ninth in average (.371). He leads the Crimson Tide in average, doubles, triples, total bases, slugging percentage, and runs scored, while also collecting a team-high 18 multi-hit games.

Hughston leads the Tide in hits (51) and is tied for the team lead in RBI (27), walks (15), and home runs (4). The sophomore has also added a team-high five outfield assists from right field.

Freshman Cody Henry has heated up as of late. For his efforts last week, the first-year player was named SEC Freshman of the Week. He has an eight-game hitting streak and has started the last 11 games at first.

Ray Castillo is the ace in the Bama bullpen, making 16 relief appearances with a team-high 33 1/3 innings. He leads relievers in wins with a 3-0 record and has a 2.16 ERA.

For Missouri, its pitching and defense. The Tigers rank near the bottom of the conference in hitting, batting .256 to rank 12th in the SEC. They feature two starters batting above .275 on the year. The offense is highlighted by freshman Brett Bond and sophomore Jake Ring. Bond is batting a team-leading .315 (35-111) with a team-high four home runs. Ring ranks second in average at .293 (41-140), but leads in hits, doubles (12), total bases (61), slugging (.436), and on-base percentage (.400). Senior Brett Peel leads the team in stolen bases with 17, which ranks him third in the conference.

The Tiger pitching staff is Missouri’s strength, ranking second in the conference with a 2.76 ERA (101 ER/329.0 IP) and has limited opposing hitters to a .227 average against. Junior lefty Austin Tribby leads the conference in appearances with 22. Tiger closer Breckin Williams ranks second in the conference in saves with eight, and sports a 2.08 ERA (5 ER/21.2 IP) with 25 strikeouts compared to four walks in 15 appearances. Andrew Schwaab ranks second in appearances with 16 (two starts), and has a 2.84 ERA (10 ER/21.2 IP) with 28 strikeouts.

Mizzou’s defense ranks second in the conference with a .980 fielding percentage and 29 errors.

The Tigers have been hot in conference play with their only series loss coming at Texas A&M from March 27-29. MU fell in two of three games, but have claimed at least two wins in every other SEC series

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