Ready in New Orleans

A few weeks ago Alabama Baseball Head Coach Jim Wells said his squad's best overall performance - with good pitching, timely hitting AND good defense all in the same game - came in the Crimson Tide's April Fool's Day 4-0 shutout of LSU.

Alabama will face Louisiana-Lafayette in the first round of the 2005 NCAA New Orleans Regional beginning Friday, June 3 at 6:36 p.m. (CT).

Wells can hope that being grouped with three teams from the state of Lousiana can usher the return of the same type of performance this weekend. And why shouldn't it?

Alabama has seven players on its roster from the stae, including sophomore pitcher/outfielder Brandon Belcher (Ruston), junior Kenneth Brown (Lafayette), freshman Casey Kebodeaux (Mandeville), sophomore Wade LeBlanc (Lake Charles), senior infielder Rocky Scelfo (Youngsville), senior outfielder Gabe Scott (Lake Charles) and junior catcher Kody Valverde (Baton Rouge).

"I am excited about playing in Louisiana," Scelfo said earlier this week. "ULL plays hard and they have a very good baseball coach."

"I know a lot of the guys from UL. I hate having to play them," he said. "They are really good, they play hard, plus I am friends with most all of them."

The Crimson Tide is the No. 2 seed in the New Orleans Regional, while the Raign Cajuns are the No. 3 seed. In game one, No. 1 seed Tulane plays host to No. 4 seed Southern at 2:36 p.m. The Tulane Green Wave (50-9) are the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

"We are happy to be here in the NCAA Regionals," Wells said. "We played a lot better early in the year than we have of late. We too are an older club, just not as old as their team. This is a really good regional field and we are playing a very strong team. UL Lafayette could easily be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

The New Orleans Regional is one of three NCAA Regionals with three teams ranked in the latest Top 25 baseball polls.

Tulane is the consensus No. 1 team in the nation, while Alabama and UL Lafayette are also ranked in the various polls. Alabama is a consensus Top 20 team, while ULL is ranked 13th by the NCBWA and 23rd by Collegiate Baseball.

The Fullerton (California) Regional and Lincoln (Nebraska) Regional also have three Top 25 teams competing this weekend. At Fullerton, CS Fullerton, Arizona and Missouri are all Top 15 teams, while Nebraska, NC State and Creighton are all ranked in the Top 25.

"When you look at the other sites, this is a very tough regional, along with Cal State Fullerton, Arizona State and Nebraska," Wells said

Alabama will send the 2004 National Freshman of the Year Wade LeBlanc (Lake Charles, La.) to the mound.

ULL will counter with senior right-hander Kevin Ardoin.

LeBlanc is 4-5 with a 3.76 ERA in 12 starts this season. He suffered a complete game loss to No. 16 Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament last week in Hoover.

Ardoin, a senior is 10-4 with a 3.42 ERA in 16 starts this season. He has struggled of late and has posted an 11-plus ERA in his last four starts.

The New Orleans Regional will be televised on the JUMBO Sports Network in the state of Louisiana and the Alabama Cable Network in Alabama. In Tuscaloosa, the game will be aired on WVUA Newschannel 7 (Comcast Channel 3).

Alabama and ULL Lafayette have 21 seniors on their post-season roster - Alabama has seven senior, while ULL has 14 seniors on its 25-man roster.


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