Bama's Final Home Stand

When your normal Friday night starter is out, it's nice to have a former national and Southeastern Conference freshman of the year to fall back on. That will be 13th-ranked Alabama's situation in its final home series of the year this weekend against No. 18 Arkansas.

Actually, sophomore lefty Wade LeBlanc would undoubtedly be the regular Friday night starter if not for bruising his throwing shoulder at the bottom of a dogpile after a come-from-behind win over Miami of Ohio.

That injury cost LeBlanc to miss a month of action, and bumped T.J. Large up to the Friday night spot where he has stayed until this weekend.

LeBlanc has improved each week since returning to the mound a month ago.

"He's gotten a little bit better, mainly with his command," Tide Head Coach Jim Wells said. "He's never been a real velocity guy. Last week he was able to make pitches when they mattered the most."

LeBlanc will be making his 10th start of the season. He is 4-3 with a 3.92 ERA.

Starting for Arkansas will be lefty Nick Schmidt, who is 7-1 with a 2.45 ERA.

"You may see several guys from Arkansas, the starter they are good and their ERA's are good, but you will see a lot of guys out of their bullpen," Wells said.

Alabama (33-16 overall, 14-10 SEC) is three games ahead of the Razorbacks (35-14 overall, 11-13 SEC) in the SEC Western Division standings.

A sign of the equity in the SEC - Alabama is tied for the division lead while Arkansas is tied with Auburn at the bottom of the division standings.

The Crimson Tide has been good at home this year, posting a league-best 27-5 (.844) home record. Alabama (4-0) and Miss. State (4-0) are the only two SEC teams not to lose a home conference series.

That is a reverse of last year when Alabama (0-5) and Auburn (0-5) were the only two SEC teams not to win an SEC home series. Arkansas, on the other hand, is a league-best 15-8 (.653) on the road, including a 5-7 mark in SEC play.

Alabama has seven seniors playing their final regular season home games this weekend: Brent Carter, Matt Grooms, Allen Rice, Gabe Scott, Rocky Scelfo, Morrow Thomley and Zac Welch. The seniors will be honored in a pregame ceremony Saturday, May 14 at 3:40 p.m.

Alabama has won the last four series in Tuscaloosa with Arkansas. The Razorbacks have not won a road series with the Crimson Tide since 1995.

Alabama swept Arkansas in 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2003 and enters the 2005 season having won the last 12 meetings here Tuscaloosa with the Razorbacks. The winning streak dates back to the final game of the 1995 series. The 1997 series was a rain-shortened two-game series won by Alabama.

Arkansas is coming off a home series win over the No. 8 Florida Gators last weekend in Fayetteville. The Hogs have played most of the SEC season without two of its best players. Senior outfielder Casey Rowlett (.473, HR, 24 RBI) and senior infielder Scott Bridges (.410, 3 HR, 15 RBI) were suspended in late March for a violation of team rules and are not expected to return.

In SEC play, Arkansas is batting .263 (215-for-817) with 19 home runs and 109 RBI.

The teams will also play Saturday, May 14 at 4 p.m. and Sunday, May 15 a t 11:02 a.m., in a game time set by the league office to accommodate Arkansas' travel plans. The series finale will be televised live by CSS-TV.

Tickets for Sunday's "Fan Appreciation Day" will be $3 and all ticket holders will receive a free hot dog, small drink and small popcorn.

Scott and Salem Named To Academic All District Squad

University of Alabama senior left-fielder Gabe Scott (Lake Charles, La.) and sophomore centerfielder Emeel Salem (Mountain Brook) were named to the 2005 ESPN The Magazine Academic All District IV University Division Baseball team as selected by members of CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) on Thursday.

Scott was a first-team Academic All District IV selection, while Salem was a second-team pick. Scott, who graduated with honors from The University of Alabama last weekend, carried a 3.6 grade-point-average in Finance. Salem carries a 4.0 grade-point-average in Business at the Capstone.

Scott, who the second-leading hitter in the SEC, is batting .411 in 43 games with 11 home runs and 30 RBI for the SEC Western Division-leading Crimson Tide. All 11 of his home runs have come since April 1.

Salem is batting .303 in 46 games, with 13 RBI and 13 stolen bases. He ranks second on the team with 13 multiple hit games and leads Alabama with 14 infield hits.

Members of the first team will advance to the national ballot for Academic All-America consideration. University Division District IV consists of all NCAA Division I universities in Alabama, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

To be nominated for the Academic All-America program, a student-athlete must be at least a sophomore with a 3.2 cumulative grade-point-averse and a starter or significant reserve on the team.

The members of the first-team include pitchers Burke Badenhop (Bowling Green) and Seth Kuwik (Lipscomb), catcher Henry Gutierrez (Troy), infielders Kyle Bohm (Michigan), Chase Headley (Tennessee), Andy Hudak (Bowling Green) and Kurtis Wells (Central Michigan), outfielders Matthew Butler (Michigan), Jeff Warnock (Bowling Green) and Scott (Alabama) and the designated hitter Cody Caughenbaugh (Ohio State).

The members of the second-team include pitchers Mark Rasmussen (Western Michigan) and Keith Wesier (Miami-Ohio), catcher Will Vasquez (Kent State), infielders Brian Canada (Miami-Ohio), Ryan Mitchell (Lipscomb), Mark Muscenti (Cincinnati) and Matt Ransdell (Western Kentucky), outfielders Rob Fitzgerald (Tennessee), Joe Tucker (Kent State) and Salem (Alabama) and the designated hitter Kurt Elchorn (Kent State).


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