The series opener is set for Friday, Mar. 29 at 7 p.m. (ET). The series continues Saturday (4 p.m.) and Sunday (1:30 p.m.). The last time Alabama faced a team ranked among the top five teams in the nation was Mar. 30-April 1, 2001 as the Crimson Tide swept a three-game series from the No. 3 ranked USC Gamecocks.
This weekend's series is the first for Alabama matching two top five clubs since No. 2 Alabama met No.1 LSU at Tuscaloosa to close out the 1997 regular season. Alabama won the series, including a 28-2 win in the game two, but LSU took the series finale and the outright SEC Championship. Both teams advanced to the national championship game at the College World Series, with LSU winning 13-6.
Alabama's probable starting lineup:
- # 24 Scott McClanahan, CF .326, 1 HR, 21 RBI
- # 10 Carlos Sosa, 3B .267, 1 HR, 13 RBI Hitless in his last 20 at-bats
- # 1 Peter Stonard, RF .439, 3 HR, 13 RBI
- # 14 Jeremy Brown, C .325, 7 HR, 29 RBI Six game hitting streak
- # 5 Beau Hearod, DH .348, 4 HR, 27 RBI Hit safely in 21 of 25 games
- # 6 Brent Boyd, 2B .277, 1 HR, 20 RBI Making his 200th career start
- # 11 Travis Garner, LF .307, 1 HR, 7 RBI
- # 13 Spencer Pennington, 1B .189, 0 HR, 2 RBI Started last four games at 1B
- # 4 Adam Pavkovich, SS .315, 3 HR, 12 RBI Homered in back-to-back games
Probable Pitchers18 Lance Cormier, RH 7 GS, 7-0, 0.98 Seeks UA record 28th career win
16 Shane Sanders, RH 6 GS, 3-0, 3.08 UA 6-1 in Sanders' seven career starts
Bama claims best start in school historyAlabama has posted a 22-3 record in its first 25 games, making this the best start in school history. The previous best was 21-4 record after 25 games compiled by the 1997, 1983 and 1955 teams. All three teams advanced to the NCAA Regionals and the 1983 and 1997 teams reached the national championship game at the College World Series.
The 1955 team was anchored by strong pitching from right-hander Al Lary and lefty Frank Roland, who combined to form a deadly one-two punch. Lary was one of three brothers to pitch for the Crimson Tide, with brother Frank Lary enjoying a fine career the majors. He was dubbed the "Yankee Killer" while pitching with Detroit for his mastery over the Yankees. Roland, a native of Charlotte, NC, won the first 14 games of his UA career on the mound.
The 1983 Alabama team lost to Texas in the national championship game. In fact, both losses came to the Longhorns while in Omaha, suffering losses to Roger Clemens and Calvin Schraldi in the series. Alabama first baseman David Magadan, won the Golden Spikes Award, after leading the nation with a .525 batting average after his junior season. Mags just recently completed a 16-year major league career and now serves as the San Diego Padres minor league hitting instructor.
The 1997 team is the winningest team in school history, posting 56 wins en route to a runner up finish at the CWS. The 1997 team set nearly every school batting record, including runs scored, hits, home runs and slugging percentage. The 1997 team is also the only team in NCAA history with four players with 20 more home runs. Roberto Vaz (27), Dustan Mohr (25), Robbie Tucker (22) and G.W. Keller (20) hit 94 of the team's school record 161 home runs that season.
Bama off to 5-1 SEC startAlabama has won five of its first six SEC games this season for only the third time under Jim Wells. The 1995 and 1999 Alabama teams also opened 5-1 in league play. The Crimson Tide holds a one-game lead over SEC Western Division rival Auburn (4-2) after the first two weekends. The Crimson Tide also holds a two-game lead over Miss. State (3-3) and a three-game cushion over Arkansas (2-4), LSU (2-4) and Ole Miss (2-4). UA took two out of three this past weekend at Arkansas, its seventh straight series win over the Razorbacks dating back to 1995. Alabama opened league play with a three-game sweep at home against Tennessee, its first opening weekend sweep of an SEC opponent since 1989, when the Tide also swept the Vols in Tuscaloosa.
Bama opens tough stretch against Top 25 foesAlabama will play all four games this week against teams ranked in the various Top 25 polls. In addition, eight of its next nine games will be against nationally ranked clubs. This week began with an easy 17-3 win over No. 17 Oklahoma at the Southwestern Bell Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City. Alabama will play at No. 3 South Carolina this weekend here in Columbia. Next week, Alabama will host Austin Peay and No. 32 Southern Miss (NCBWA) before taking on the No. 7 ranked Florida Gators at Sewell-Thomas Stadium the following weekend.
Alabama is 127-88 (.000) against ranked teams under Jim Wells.
Last year, Alabama suffered through a 12-13 (.480) season against teams ranked in the Top 25.
Over the last two years (2000-01), Alabama was 24-29 (.453) against ranked teams.
This is a key week for the Alabama baseball team as it plays all four games against ranked foes. In addition, eight of the next nine games will be against nationally ranked teams.
Alabama entered the week having lost seven of its last eight games to teams ranked in the Top 25, but that streak was snapped with a resounding 17-3 win over the Sooners.
From 1996-99, Alabama posted four consecutive seasons of 20 or more wins against ranked teams, winning 85 total games against nationally ranked clubs. UA's best season under Wells was 1996, when the Tide went 20-8 (.714) against ranked teams.
Cormier looks for career wins recordSenior right-hander Lance Cormier (Lafayette, La.) seeks his 28th career victory this Friday night at South Carolina, which surpass the school record for all-time victories. Cormier is currently tied with Mike Innes (1968-71) for first place on the all-time win list at Alabama. Innes posted a 27-9 (.750) all-time record under former NY Yankee great and Hall of Famer Joe Sewell and Hayden Riley. The record for all-time wins is the oldest existing career mark in the UA record books.
Innes appeared in 49 career games for Alabama, making 37 career starts He worked 250 innings and allowed 181 hits, 75 runs (57 ER), 107 walks and 214 career strikeouts.
In addition, Innes posted a school record 16 career complete games, including seven CGs in 1969.
He is also among the Alabama leaders for career wins (1st), starts (5th), complete games (1st), innings pitched (8th) and strikeouts (8th).
Innes' best season was 1969, when he posted a 9-1 (.900) record and school-record 1.08 ERA in 14 starts for the Crimson Tide. He allowed only 10 earned runs and fired two shutouts.
Cormier is 27-13 (.675) in 77 career appearances for the Crimson Tide, including 32 career starts. He has added eight complete games, two shutouts and 17 saves.
In 310.2 innings pitched, Cormier has allowed 305 hits, 129 earned runs, 129 walks and 250 strikeouts in his four-year career.
He became the school's all-time leader for career innings pitched on Friday, Mar. 9, surpassing Al Drumheller's school-record total of 285 career innings pitched.
Cormier also has his sights set on Alabama career records for appearances (2nd) and strikeouts (3rd).
Home winning streak reaches 21 gamesAlabama has won all 17 home games this season and 21 in-a-row dating back to last year. The current 21-game winning streak began with a 17-0 victory over Jacksonville State on May 1, 2001. In addition, the 21-game winning streak is the second-longest home winning streak in the modern era of Alabama baseball. The school record is a 24-game winning streak set from April 21, 1996 through March 8, 1997.
THE OPPOSITIONThe No. 3 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks bring a 21-5 overall record and 4-2 SEC mark into this weekend's series with Alabama. USC dropped a 5-1 decision on Wednesday night against The Citadel in Charleston. The Gamecocks have won both conference series this season, winning at Miss. State in the weekend opener and then taking two from No. 8 ranked Florida last weekend at Sarge Frye Field. Florida, the SEC's top offensive team in hitting and home runs, were held to one run in the opener by left-hander Gary Bell (Sr., 6 GS, 5-1, 3.89 ERA), who will get the ball in the opener opposite Lance Cormier on Friday night. The Crimson Tide roughed up the lefty last year in Tuscaloosa, posting a 13-2 win en route to a series sweep. Heading into the third weekend of conference play, Bell ranks among the top arms in the league. He is just one of many talented arms on the USC staff.
The Crimson Tide will see all left-handers in the USC rotation this weekend. David Marchbanks (7 GS, 5-2, 3.00) will get the ball on Saturday and leads the clubs with 42 innings pitched this season. On Sunday, lefty Steven Boundurant (3 GS, 3-0, 1.91 ERA), who made his first SEC start of the season last weekend against Florida, will make his second straight for the Gamecocks. Bounduarnt replaces right-hander Brett Spigner (6 GS, 1-0, 6.27 ERA) in the rotation. Spigner has struggled most of the season but has responded out of the pen with back-to-back impressive outings agianst Florida and The Citadel (2.1 IP, H, 2 K).
The Gamecocks also rely on closerBlake Taylor (RH, 10 G, 3-0, 1.52 ERA, 6 Saves), who is the SEC co-leader with six saves. The offense has also been solid, led by Yaron Peters (1B, .394, 9 HR, 39 RBI), Garris Gonce (LF, .305, 9 HR, 29 RBI) and Drew Meyer (SS, .393, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 15-17 SB), who might be the first SEC player selected in the 2002 MLB draft. The Gamecocks also play solid defense, ranking among the league leaders once again in fielding marks (20 errors, .979 fielding pct.).
ALABAMA-USC SERIESAfter sweeping the Gamecocks last year in Tuscaloosa, Alabama now leads the all-time series, 13-11 (.542). The Crimson Tide owns a 9-3 record against the Gamecocks in Tuscaloosa. Coach Wells owns a 8-7 (.533) record against the Gamecocks, winning the last three games. The Gamecocks won all three games with Alabama at Sarge Frye Field in 2000, winning three low-scoring games. USC's 2-0 win in game two of the series, snapped Alabama's SEC record streak of 278 games without being shutout.
The road team has lost six straight games and eight of the last nine in this series. USC posted a 12-4 win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa during the 1999 season for the only road win in then last 10 meetings.