Baseball team showing improvement

The Alabama baseball team wrapped up its second week of preseason camp with three intrasquad games this weekend at the Joe.

While the pitching staff dominated Thursday's 12-inning scrimmage, the offense stole the show in the final two games on Friday and Saturday.

The Crimson Tide offense generated little offense against junior LHP Brent Carter (4 IP, H, 4 K), junior LHP Taylor Tankersley (4 IP, 3 H, 2 K), freshman LHP Brandon Belcher (4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 K), freshman RHP Greg Paiml (4 IP, 3 H, R, 2 K) and sophomore RHP Matt Downs (4 IP, 2 H, 2 K).

Sophomore infielder Chris McIlwain (Tuscaloosa) had a two-run single for the White team off senior LHP Jeffrey Norris in a three-run sixth inning.

Freshman Michael McCallister added and RBI single in the eighth as the White team posted a 5-1 win.

The Red Team collected only six hits on Thursday, with three coming from sophomore catcher Bo Hannah (Tuscaloosa).

"On Thursday, I thought all the guys pitched well," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "We are still trying to get that rotation down, but at this point I really like (Wade) LeBlanc and Carter.

"It's up for grabs right now for (the) Sunday (starter). I thought Belcher really pitched well for the second week in a row. He was the one guy on the pitching staff that has improved. He has helped his stock quite a bit."

After struggling at the plate on Thursday, the offense put together its best two days of the preseason on Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, the White Team posted a 6-4 win over the Red Team in the second of three scrimmages on the weekend.

Sophomore catcher David Ferazza collected two hits and one RBI for the White team, while McCallister provided the big blow on offense with a three-run home run in the fourth inning.

Senior Ryan Beagle collected two hits and sophomore Aaron Tennyson added two RBI for the Red team in the loss.

"We certainly swung the bats better the last two days," Wells added. "Guys are starting to get it down a little better. Bush has come into it as a third baseman and is becoming a guy that we are looking at to play third base.

"There are guys that have solidified their positions and other guys still battling for some other spots. I thought we swung the bats better."

The highlight on the mound was sophomore right-hander Allen Ponder and junior right-hander Eric Mennen.

Ponder allowed only one hit and struck out six in four innings of work, while Mennen allowed only two hits and added two strikeouts in four scoreless innings.

In the finale of the weekend, the Red team scored a 7-3 win on Saturday by scoring four runs in the first inning.

Sophomore Evan Bush tallied an RBI single and freshman Greg Paiml ripped a three-run double that gave his team an early 4-0 lead. Junior Zac Welch added an RBI double in the sixth and freshman Matt Bentley picked up and RBI single in the seventh.

Senior Carlos Sosa capped the scoring for the day with a two-run home run in the eighth inning for the White team.

The highlight of Saturday's eight-inning scrimmage came on defense as freshman Emeel Salem scaled the center field wall to take away a home run from McCallister in the fourth inning.

"I thought last week Bush really came on and Belcher came on this week.

Salem of course shows improvement. We know he is the best guy at running down a ball; it's just a matter of doing the little things. He made a great catch in centerfield. It was a great, great play."

After two weeks and five scrimmages, Wells seems to be pleased with the progress of his team as the season nears.

"Physically we are getting better," Wells said. "We are hitting the ball much better. There are a lot of little things you don't pick up on like missing a signal or a bad play on defense. Our infield defense is behind right now and that concerns me. I think the outfield is better. The hitting has improved.

And, for the most part, the pitching has been solid."

Alabama will have one more round of intrasquad games, likely next weekend at the Joe.

The Crimson Tide will host its annual "Fan Day" next Sunday, Feb. 8 at the annual Grand Slammers preseason barbecue. This year's event will be held in the scholarship room at Bryant-Denny Stadium from Noon until 2 p.m. The event is free to all Grand Slammer members. Non members are welcomed at a cost of $10 per plate.

Free posters, schedule cards and door prizes will be available. Coach Wells and the 2004 Crimson Tide will be on hand for autographs, plus Wells will address the crowd about the upcoming season.

Alabama opens the 2004 season on Friday, Feb. 13 against the New Orleans Privateers at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The season opener begins at 6:30 p.m.

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