In an unusual season in which Alabama has played its home games in every major state city – Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile, and Huntsville – as well as Auburn, the Crimson Tide has played most of its games at the Hoover Met in suburban Birmingham. The Met is the home of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament and Bama certainly wants to be one of the 12 (of 14) SEC teams making that field.
The final regular season series for the Tide makes for a tough task as seventh-ranked Vanderbilt, the defending national champions, come to the Met for games Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The first two games will be at 7 p.m. CDT and available on the SEC Network+. Saturday’s finale will begin at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on the SEC Network.
Bama has improved its record to 29-24 with its six-game winning streak. The Tide is 11-16 in SEC games. Vanderbilt is 37-16 overall and 18-9 in the conference.
In what may be considered a bit of a surprise, Vandy is Alabama’s most common baseball opponent. The Crimson Tide met the Commodores for the first time in 1893 and the teams have played 148 games. Bama holds a 91-55-2 advantage in the series.
Vanderbilt is loaded offensively and on the mound. The Commodores have a team batting average of .294 and average 6.7 runs per game compared to Bama’s .283 average and 5.6 runs per game. Vandy batters have smashed 48 home runs this year compared to Alabama’s 26. Vanderbilt is also good on the bases with 82 steals in 113 attempts compared to Alabama 58-80. The Commodores pitching staff has a 3.01 earned run average, Alabama 4.04. Fielding is even, both teams at .975 with 51 errors. Bama has turned 51 double plays, Vandy 50.
Alabama, as usual, will open the series with senior left-hander Taylor Gilbeau (2-5, 3.73 ERA) pitching. Freshman right-hander Jake Walters (4-3, 2.17) will be the starting Tide pitcher on Friday. Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard has not yet decided on a Saturday starting pitcher.
Vanderbilt will counter with junior right-hander Carson Fulmer (10-1, 1.56) on Thursday, redshirt junior left-hander Philip Pfeifer (3-4, 4.35) on Friday, and junior right-hander Walker Buehler (3-1, 3.14) Saturday.
Alabama center fielder Georgie Salem not only had the defensive play of the week with a diving catch to save at least three runs against Auburn last week, he also continued his recent hot hitting. Salem started the season batting .218 through the first 27 games, but has since raised his average by 62 points thanks to a .333 (39-117) tear over the last 26 games. The junior has also put together 12 extra-base hits to go with his seven stolen bases.