Big Series Ahead

It's not really so lonely at the top, at least if you're talking about Southeastern Conference baseball statistics. Alabama's come-from-behind 10-8 victory over Vanderbilt Sunday kept the Crimson Tide tied for first place in the SEC Western Division. Four SEC West teams have 4-2 records, one game ahead of the other two division teams, which have 3-3 records.

Among the other 4-2 teams is LSU, the runaway winner as the pre-season favorite to win both the division and the SEC championship this year. Ole Miss and Mississippi State are also at 4-2, while Arkansas and Auburn are at 3-3.

The 3-3 record is good enough to lead the SEC Eastern Division where Vanderbilt, Florda, and Tennessee all are at .500. Georgia is 2-3, South Carolina 2-4, and Kentucky 0-5.

Alabama will play at Southern Miss at 6:30 p.m. CST Tuesday. The Tide will host LSU in three games this weekend–at 6:30 p.m. CST Friday, 6 p.m. CST Saturday, and 2 p.m. CDT Sunday. The Crimson Tide has lost five straight series against LSU, dating back to the 1999 NCAA Super Regionals.

Alabama is 20-7 overall. Last week the Tide beat Jacksonville State in a midweek game, then lost two one-run games to 25th-ranked Vanderbilt in Nashville before coming back to salvage the final game in the series at Vandy on Sunday. Bama has won 19 of its last 24 games and seven of its last 10. The Tide is 17-2 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

Sunday's win was the 650th head coaching victory for Tide Coach Jim Wells.

LSU is 19-6 overall. The Bengal Tigers, ranked third in the nation, are coming off a Sunday home loss to Auburn. Auburn won two games at Baton Rouge last weekend.

Alabama is ahead of last year's pace in wins. The Tide's Sunday win was Bama's 20th of the year. Last year the Tide did not win its 20th until the 31st game of the year on April 6. Still, it was disappointing to lose the series to Vandy for the third straight year. Bama lost 1-0 on Friday despite a two-hit pitching performance by T.J. Large and lost 4-3 in 13 innings Saturday.

After trailing 6-0 after two innings on Sunday, Bama came back to take a 10-8 victory. Bama has trailed in 17 of 27 games this season and has 10 come-from-behind wins. Overcoming a six-run deficit was the largest comeback of this season. The difference was hitting. After going 2-for-23 with runners in scoring position in the first two games of the series, Alabama was 7-for-16 with men in scoring position Sunday. Alabama had only two extra base hits in the first two games of the series and collected five in Sunday's win, including four doubles and one home run.

The Crimson Tide suffered its first shutout loss of the season in the opener at Vanderbilt on Friday night, losing 1-0. It was the 24th time in school history that Alabama has suffered a 1-0 shutout loss and the first since a 1-0, 10-inning loss at South Carolina last year.

The 13-inning game on Saturday is the longest game for Alabama since a 10-6 win in 13 innings at South Carolina in 2002. The time of the game was 3:54, second-longest in school history.

Alabama has lost five straight extra inning games. The Crimson Tide's last extra inning win was a 10-6 victory at South Carolina in 2002. Alabama is 3-5 in one-run games this year.

Senior OF Gabe Scott batted .545 (6-for-11) in four games last week to lead the Crimson Tide offense. At Vanderbilt, Scott led UA with a .625 (5-for-8) average at the plate. Scott enters the week with a career-best 14-game hitting streak. During the streak, he is batting .400 (18-for-45) and has raised his season batting average 164 points. For the year, Scott has played in 20 games and is hitting .364 (20-for-55) with four RBI. In six SEC games, Scott is Alabama's leading hitter with a .474 (9-for-19) average.

Senior OF Morrow Thomley was 6-for-12 at Vanderbilt with three doubles and two RBI. He had three hits in the series finale and two RBI, including the game-winning two-run double in the eighth inning.

Junior Evan Bush had three hits and three RBI in the series finale at Vandy. He slammed a three-run home run in the sixth inning to pull Alabama to within a run at 8-7. He doubled and scored the winning run in the eighth inning. Bush hit his eighth home run of the season on Sunday, matching his career home run total entering the 2005 season. Bush hit eight home runs in 55 games last season to lead the Tide. In 26 games, Bush is batting .310 with eight home runs and 31 RBI.

Alabama freshman right-hander David Robertson vaulted to second in the SEC with his 0.68 ERA. For the season, the Tuscaloosa native has appeared in 12 games and compiled a 4-2 record. He has worked 26 1/3 innings and allowed eight hits, three runs and two earned runs, with 14 walks and 40 strikeouts. Robertson leads the SEC with the lowest opponents' batting average. He has allowed only eight hits in 83 at-bats this season (.098).

Alabama has three of the SEC's top five strikeout pitchers this season. Junior RHP T.J. Large is second with 54 strikeouts, senior LHP Brent Carter is third with 53 strikeouts and sophomore LHP Wade LeBlanc is fourth with 48 strikeouts. Robertson is 11th with 40 strikeouts this season.

LeBlanc has not pitched since suffering a shoulder injury in a "celebration pile-on" following a victory over Miami of Ohio in mid-March. He may be able to pitch against LSU.


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