Baseball goes on road for first time

After winning its first home series of the year, the Alabama Crimson Tide hits the road Wednesday, Feb 19 for a 6:30 p.m. game with the Jacksonville State Gamecocks at Rudy Abbott Field. The game marks the 2004 season opener for JSU.

The Jax State game is the earliest midweek non-conference game for Alabama since Feb. 00, 1992 when the Crimson Tide played Samford in Birmingham. The Bulldogs won that 10-inning game, 5-4.

Alabama opened the season this past weekend, taking two of three from the New Orleans Privateers in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide won its 11th straight season opener with a 4-1 victory last Friday night. Bama dropped a 2-1 pitchers duel on Saturday, before bouncing back to claim a bizarre 12-11 come-from-behind win on Sunday afternoon.

The Records

Alabama (2-1) opened the season by winning its 26th consecutive non-conference home series last weekend. The Jax State game is Alabama's first road game of the 2004 season. The Crimson Tide posted a 0-0 road record last year, including 0-0 non-conference road record. Jacksonville State (0-0) is playing its 2004 season opener tonight.

The Coaches

Alabama's Jim Wells is in his 10th season with the Crimson Tide program. He has compiled a 411-177 (.699) record at the helm of the Crimson Tide. Overall, Wells is 603-266 (.695) in 15 seasons at Northwestern State and Alabama. Jax State head coach Jim Case has compiled a 55-57 (.491) record in his first two years with the Gamecocks. Prior to taking over at JSU, he served as assistant coach at UAB and Miss. State.

The Series

Alabama holds a 17-6 (.739) series lead over Jax State, but has had its share of trouble with the Gamecocks in recent years. JSU posted a 5-3 win last year in Tuscaloosa and has won three of the last six meetings overall with Alabama.

Homecoming

Two Alabama players return to their hometown area for Wednesday night's game. Junior first baseman Zac Welch hails from Wellington and played at Alexandria High School, about 10 miles from the JSU campus. Sophomore left fielder Evan Bush is from Southside HS in nearby Etowah County.

Next Game

Alabama will return to the Joe on Friday night to open a three-game series with the Cincinnati Bearcats. The series opener is Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m. Jax State hits the road this weekend by playing at LSU in its first-ever visit to Alex Box Stadium.

Scouting Report: Jax State

The Gamecocks were 32-26 last year, their final season in the Atlantic Sun Conference. JSU posted a 19-14 record in the A-Sun, good for a third place finish.

JSU is a first-year member of the Ohio Valley Conference and the preseason favorite to win the league, according to the league's head coaches.

Coach Jim Case brings a veteran team into the 2004 season, hoping to build off last year's success.

Five position players return, including two infielders, two outfielders and one catcher.

Senior Matt Ruckdeschel (.328, 0 HR, 30 RBI) and sophomore Shundell Russaw (.269, HR, 15 RBI) are back in the outfield.

JSU also returns corner infielders Clint Carroll (.344, 0 HR, 17 RBI) and Brian Haskins (.309, 3 HR, 21 RBI) as well as catcher Richard Turner (.243, HR, 12 RBI).

On the mound, JSU brings back 14 wins and 11 saves from last year's staff, including seniors C.R. Palmer (7-5, 4.67 ERA) and Bobby Wynns (2-2, 5.56 ERA, 5 SV) and sophomores Josh Forrest (3-1, 2.39, 6 SV) and Clark Jinks (2-2, 7.31 ERA).

Two transfers should see immediate playing time for the Gamecocks. Robby Goodson (1B/RHP) and Winston Pearson (OF) both joined JSU this summer after leaving Miss. State, where they saw substantial playing time last season under Ron Polk.

JSU is expected to send Palmer to the mound in the Alabama game. Last year, he appeared in 19 games (16 GS) and posted a 7-5 record and 4.67 ERA. The Douglasville, Ga., native worked 79 innings and allowed 90 hits, 41 earned runs, 21 walks and struck out 60 batters.


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