Bama/AU series notes

The baseball version of bragging rights takes place this weekend in Tuscaloosa, as the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide (35-7, 13-5 SEC) hosts No. 30 Auburn Tigers (27-15, 9-9 SEC) in a three-game Southeastern Conference series at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Alabama has won five of the last seven series and has not lost a series to Auburn in Tuscaloosa since 1994.

Auburn swept Alabama on the Plains last year, essentially knocking UA out of the post-season for the first time under Jim Wells. The Crimson Tide and Tigers were both 15-15 in league play last year, tying for the eighth and final spot in the SEC Tournament, but the Tigers series sweep over the Tide gave them the tie-breaker and the last spot in the eight-team SEC Tournament.

Alabama is coming off its first home series loss of the season, dropping two games to Ole Miss last weekend here at the Joe. The Rebels 4-3 win in the series opener snapped UA's school-record 27-game winning streak. The Crimson Tide is 24-2 at the Joe this season.

Auburn has lost seven of its last 11 games overall, but took two of three last weekend at home with Miss. State.

Bama's probable starting lineup:

  1. # 24 Scott McClanahan, CF .335, 5 HR, 40 RBI 2nd in SEC with 18 doubles
  2. # 4 Adam Pavkovich, SS .288, 5 HR, 21 RBI Eight-game hitting strk (.302)
  3. # 1 Peter Stonard, RF .394, 4 HR, 29 RBI 4th in SEC with .394 batting avg.
  4. # 14 Jeremy Brown, C .353, 10 HR, 50 RBI Reached base 8 times in last 2 gms
  5. # 6 Brent Boyd, 1B .290, 4 HR, 29 RBI 5 hits, 6 RBI last three games
  6. # 5 Beau Hearod, DH .325, 8 HR, 39 RBI Batting .398 (37-for-93) at home
  7. # 26 Allen Rice, 3B .267, 0 HR, 13 RBI One hit in last 17 at-bats (.056)
  8. # 27 Grant Redding, LF .491, 1 HR, 1 RBI Seven-game hitting strk (.591)
  9. # 11 Travis Garner, RF .338, 4 HR, 19 RBI Seven-game htsk snapped 4/24

Probable pitching matchups:

Alabama: 18 Lance Cormier, RH 10 GS, 8-1, 2.29 Making school record 82nd appearance
9 Jeffrey Norris, LH 7 G, 4-0, 1.93 Leads SEC with 2.05 ERA in league play
To Be Announced

Auburn: 3 Eric Brandon, RH 17 G, 3-2, 4.50 Almost a 5 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio
19 Colby Paxton, RH 11 GS, 8-3, 4.57 Earned a decision in all 11 starts this year
16 Levale Speigner, RH 13 G, 7-4, 3.67 Yielded a team-high nine home runs

Bama rallies past Jax State

Alabama scored six runs in the top of the seventh inning Wednesday night to post an 11-10 come-from-behind win over Jacksonville State at Rudy Abbott Field in Jacksonville, Ala. Gabe Scott's two-run double finally got the offense on track in the inning and walkon catcher John Marshall's sacrifice fly capped the rally and gave the Crimson Tide the lead. Marshall, starting in place of Jeremy Browm, who was battling a stomach virus, tied an Alabama record with two sacrifice flies. Marshall's first sac fly came in the sixth inning as UA cut a six-run deficit to 9-5. Eric Mennen (2-0) earned the win in relief, while Brian Reed notched his eighth save. Scott McClanahan (2 doubles) and Brent Boyd had two hits each for Alabama. McClanahan also scored three times.

THE OPPOSITION

Auburn -- The Tigers won two of three last weekend at home from Miss. State, including Sunday's resounding 19-7 win on the Plains. The Tigers have completed their non-conference schedule and will play only SEC games the remainder of the season. Auburn has lost seven of its last 11 games entering its weekend set in Tuscaloosa. Like Alabama, Auburn has dropped a home series this year, losing two games to LSU (April 5-7).

The Tigers are batting .303 (443-for-1,460) as a team this season with 88 doubles, 31 home runs and 262 RBI. Catcher/DH Bobby Huddleston leads the way offensively with a .386 (51-for-132) average. He has added 13 doubles, six home runs and 32 RBI. Jonathan Schuerholz is the team's second-leading hitter with a .351 (40-for-114) clip. He is second on the team with 37 runs scored and has added 13 RBI. He has two game-winning RBI in his career against Alabama, a grand slam against Bryce Heath (2000) and an 11th inning double vs. Heath last year. Schuerholz is also perfect in 16 stolen base attempts. Outfielder Javon Moran is batting .326 (60-for-184) with two home runs and 31 RBI. Moran is 12-for-15 on the base paths this year. Catcher/DH Trent Pratt is hitting under .300 (.299, 44-for-147), but has supplied the power to the AU offense, leading the team with seven home run and 38 RBI.

The Tigers pitching staff ranks among the best in the SEC, compiling a 4.02 ERA this season. AU pitchers have allowed 165 earned runs and 359 hits in 367 innings this year. The staff gives up less than one hit per inning. The trio of weekend starters have compiled an 18-9 (.667) record on the mound. Levale Speigner (13 G, 11 GS, 7-4, 3.67 ERA), Eric Brandon (17 G, 9 GS, 3-2, .450 ERA) and Colby Paxton (11 GS, 8-3, 4.57 ERA) are expected to start this weekend against Alabama. Arnold Hughey (14 G, 1-1, 3.04 ERA, 1 SV), Andrew Skinner (18 G, 1-1, 3.69 ERA) and Cory Dueitt (19 G, 3-0, 4.73 ERA, 4 SV) are the Tigers main horses out of the bullpen.

Auburn has a perfect game, a no-hitter and a one-hitter to its credit this season. Brandon tossed a perfect game against Murray State on Mar. 2 and Paxton threw a one-hit shutout against Kentucky on Mar. 17. Nine AU pitchers combined to no-hit UAB on Mar. 19.

Defensively, Auburn ranks among the best in the league with a .972 fielding clip (45 errors, 42 games). In SEC play, Auburn is hitting .282 (176-for-621) with 10 home runs and 87 RBI. AU averages 5.4 runs and 9.8 hits per game in SEC play.

Scott Schade leads the troops against SEC arms with a .333 (23-for-69) average in 18 games. He also has two home runs and 11 RBI. The pitching staff has a 4.47 ERA in 18 league games, allowing 78 earned runs and 166 hits in 157 innings of work. Speigner (6 GS, 3-3, 3.69), Brandon (7 G, 5 GS, 1-2, 7.67 ERA) and Paxton (6 GS, 4-2, 4.34 ERA) are just 8-7 in six SEC weekends. The Tigers have made only 16 errors (.976) in 18 SEC games.

ALABAMA-AUBURN SERIES

Alabama and Auburn first met on the diamond in 1896 and have staged some classic battles in the series 226-game history. Since that first meeting, Alabama has posted a 123-103 (.544) series edge and has won five of the last seven series with Auburn. The Crimson Tide has won the last three series here in Tuscaloosa, with the Tigers last taking a series at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in 1994. The two teams have battled on even terms the last five years, splitting the previous 20 meetings.

Auburn has won four of the last five meetings with Alabama, including last year's sweep at Plainsman Park.

The home team has won five of the last six regular-season series.

Alabama's last sweep over Auburn here in Tuscaloosa was 1996. The Crimson Tide won all four games with Auburn that season, including a non-conference game at Montgomery's Paterson Field. Alabama out scored Auburn, 14-1 in the four-game series in 1996, posting three shutouts.

Auburn has not swept Alabama here in Tuscaloosa since 1976.

Alabama senior centerfielder Scott McClanahan's father, Mark, was a three-year baseball letterman (1974-76) at Auburn University. The elder McClanahan helped the Tigers to the 1976 SEC Championship and a berth in the College World Series, losing both games to Clemson (9-4) and Maine (9-8).

Mr. McClanahan was a senior on the last Auburn team to sweep Alabama here in Tuscaloosa.

FOX Sports Net South will air Saturday's game as the "SEC Game of the Week". This is the third straight year, and fourth time in six years, the Alabama-Auburn game has been televised as the "SEC Game of the Week."

The series opener on Friday will be televised by Comcast Sports Southeast.

Alabama-Auburn Series File at Tuscaloosa: UA leads, 65-37 (.637)
at Auburn: AU leads, 50-37 (.575)
Neutral Sites: UA leads, 21-16 (.568)

Like father, like son

For the McClanahan's baseball is a way of life. Mark McClanahan, father of UA centerfielder Brent McClanahan, was a collegiate pitcher and played in the 1976 College World Series. His son got a taste of Omaha as a freshman in 1999, making him a second-generation CWS participant. Now the story gets better. The elder McClanahan pitched at Auburn University (1974-76) for three season, helping the Tigers win the SEC Championship (37-15) in 1976 and advance to the College World Series. Mr. McClanahan's first pitching victory at Auburn was against Alabama. The two became divisional rivals in 1976 (Auburn played in the Eastern Division through the 1975 season) when Mr. McClanahan was a senior and Auburn came to Tuscaloosa and swept a three-game series. That is the last time Auburn has swept Alabama here in Tuscaloosa.

In 1999, Scott signed with Alabama and not his parents alma mater (his mother went to Auburn, too). His sister, Emily, also graduated from Auburn and played on their club soccer team. Now, the McClanahan's are at every Alabama game, wearing Crimson and White, cheering for Scott and the Crimson Tide. "We are Alabama baseball fans," Mr. McClanahan once said. It is not known where his allegiance lies during the fall, but once has to think he still leans towards the Orange and Blue on the gridiron.

Scott will play his final regular-season series against the arch-rival Tigers this weekend in Tuscaloosa. He is hoping to much of the same success his father had back in 1976, too.

Pitching staff ranks among league leaders

Alabama has turned in one of the most impressive seasons on the mound in school history. The pitching staff was third in the conference last season with a 3.81 ERA. Alabama has improved those numbers this season and ranks among the league leaders in a number of pitching categories.

Overall, Alabama ranks first in the SEC in earned run average (3.38), wins (35), saves (16), fewest runs allowed (173), fewest earned runs allowed (141) and fewest walks (92).

The Crimson Tide also ranks in the upper echelon of the league in opponents batting average (4th, .263), innings pitched (4th, 376.0) and strikeouts (4th, 302).

In SEC games, Alabama ranks first among the league pitching staffs in seven categories, including ERA (3.61), opponents batting average (.269), innings pitched (162.0), wins (13), fewest runs allowed (74), fewest earned runs allowed (65) and fewest walks (44).

Alabama has the leader in earned run average in all games and SEC games. Cormier is the league's overall ERA leader with a 2.24 ERA. Norris is the leader in SEC games only with a 2.05 ERA.

Overall, Alabama has three of the league's Top 12 ERA leaders. Cormier leads the pack (2.24) while Tankersley is 6th (3.02) and Sanders is 12th (3.63).

In conference games only, Alabama has four of the Top 10 ERA leaders, including Norris (1st, 2.05), Sanders (5th, 3.38), Cormier (T7th, 3.54) and Tankersley (T7th, 3.54 ERA).


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