Tide baseball prepares for season

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- University of Alabama head baseball coach Jim Wells will welcome back six everyday starters and 23 newcomers as the Crimson Tide opens fall practice next week.

The team will practice daily from Tuesday, Sept. 18 through Sunday, Oct. 14. The team will not practice on Monday, an NCAA-mandated off day. The Crimson Tide will conduct scrimmages on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of each week. All practices and scrimmages are free and open to the general public.

"We are doing a lot of individual work right now and that will help us when practice begins (Sept. 18)," Wells said. "We are spending a lot of time on fundamentals, hitting and pitching."

Senior pitcher Lance Cormier is expected to be the ace of Bama's staff.

Alabama finished the 2001 season with a 32-23 overall record, including a 15-15 mark in league play. The Crimson Tide did not make the SEC Tournament for the first time since 1994, so the mix of veterans and talented newcomers should help the Crimson Tide reestablish itself among the post-season elite this year.

The Crimson Tide got great news this fall when seniors Jeremy Brown (C, .363, 10 HR, 48 RBI) and Lance Cormier (RHP, 9-5, 2.30 ERA, 6 CG) turned down professional baseball offers to return for their final year at Alabama. Cormier was a 10th round draft pick by the Houston Astros, but turned down offers from the Astros and returned to the Capstone for his senior year. Brown was selected in the 19th round by the Boston Red Sox, but turned down their offer and came back to Alabama.

Other everyday starters returning include seniors Brent Boyd (2B, .336, 9 HR, 49 RBI) and Scott McClanahan (CF, .341, 4 HR, 35 RBI), junior Beau Hearod (DH, .295, 8 HR, 55 RBI) and sophomore Peter Stonard (RF, .320, 0 HR, 32 RBI).

Other part-time starters returning for the 2001-02 season are Adam Pavkovich (3B, .259, 0 HR, 150 RBI), Grant Redding (OF, .250, 2 HR, 18 RBI) and Chad White (DH, .302, 1 HR, 10 RBI).

Senior Brent Boyd hit .336 for the Tide last season.

The Crimson Tide has 23 newcomers to the team this fall, including several top draft picks. Among the 23 newcomers, the Crimson Tide survived the major league draft with two of its top prospects. Freshman Josh Baker (RHP, Houston, Texas) and freshman Taylor Tankersley (LHP, Vicksburg, Miss.) turned down offers from the professional ranks to attend Alabama. Baker was a fourth-round pick by the Texas Rangers, but opted for a collegiate career at Alabama. His brother-in-law Lance Berkman, current starter for the Astros, was an All-American at Rice and played in the 1997 College World Series. Tankersley was a 39th round pick by the Kansas City Royals, but opted to enroll at Alabama.

In addition, the Crimson Tide landed some of the state's top prospects including freshmen Coley Blakeney (RHP, Fayette), Brent Carter (LHP, Americus, Ga.), Jacob Legg (LHP, Huntsville), Eric Mennen (RHP, Decatur), Allen Rice (INF, Pelham) and Zac Welch (OF/LHP, Alexandria).

"We have more new guys this year than we have ever had and that's good," Wells, who begins his eighth year at Alabama, added. "We also have a lot of good players. In the individual workouts, we have been able to look at a lot of guys at some different positions. Allen Rice is playing three positions. Josh Baker is pitching and hitting right now. We are playing Peter Stonard in right field and second base. We have a lot of options that we did not have last year."

Senior Scott McClanahan should anchor Bama's outfield.

Several key junior college additions will battle for jobs this spring, including Allen Brown (RHP, Central Alabama CC),Travis Garner (OF, Meridian CC), Martin LaRocca (LHP, Meridian CC), Brian Reed (RHP, Meridian CC), Carlos Sosa (SS, Pensacola JC) and Gary Sullivan (RHP, Lurleen B. Wallace CC).

Sosa is recovering from an injury and will not be able to participate full speed in the fall. Also, Alabama freshman quarterback Spencer Pennington (INF, Fayette) will not participate in fall baseball practice due to his football obligations, but he will join the team this spring as he juggles both sports. "We have a lot of outfielders and catchers," Wells said. "I think the infield will be unsettled until we come back in the spring because we won't have Sosa or Pennington."

The Crimson Tide will open the 2002 season on Tuesday, Feb. 12 against Louisiana Tech at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Alabama will play home series with Georgia Southern (Feb. 15-17), Arkansas State (Feb. 22-24), Southeastern Louisiana (March 8-10), Tennessee (March 13-15), Florida (April 5-7), Ole Miss (April 19-21), Auburn (April 26-28) and Miss. State (May 10-12). Alabama will also play single games with Louisiana Tech (Feb. 12), Georgia State (Feb. 20), Miss. Valley State (Mar. 12), Birmingham Southern (Mar. 13), Jacksonville State (Mar. 20), Southern Miss (April 2), Austin Peay (April 3), Samford (April 17) and UAB (May 1).


All-Star catcher Jeremy Brown turned down a Major League contract to play for Alabama.

*The Crimson Tide finished second in the nation in attendance last year for the second straight year. It was also the third consecutive top finish under Wells. In 32 home dates, Alabama drew 180,310 fans for an average of 5,635 per game. LSU won its sixth straight NCAA attendance championship with 276,622 fans (7,476 avg.) in 37 home dates. The remainder of the Top 10 included Texas (150,901), Texas A&M (147,400), South Carolina (145,616), Tulane (127,670), Miami, Fla. (123,680), Fresno State (105,162), Rice (99,574) and Wichita State (96,158). Alabama finished second nationally in attendance in 2000 and fifth in 1999.

*Senior catcher Jeremy Brown was named to Baseball America's Summer League All-American team for the second year in a row. The Hueytown, Ala., native batted .389 (44-for-133) with eight home runs and 30 RBI for Northern Ohio of the Great Lakes League. He led Northern Ohio to its second consecutive league championship, defeating the Delaware Cows in the best-of-three championship series. Brown, who shared the regular-season MVP award, was named playoff MVP thanks to three home runs.

*The Alabama GrandSlammers will hold their annual golf tournament on Friday, Sept. 28 at Ol' Colony Golf Course. Coach Jim Wells and assistant coaches Jim Gatewood and Danny Watkins will participate in the tournament. The format is a four-person scramble with low gross and low net divisions. Valid handicaps are required. The cost of $85 per player includes a round of golf, lunch and prizes. Registration begins at noon with a shotgun start at 1:30 p.m. For more information, please call (205) 333-9943 or (205) 752-3428.

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