Home dominance continues

This is no ordinary Joe. <br><br>Sewell-Thomas stadium is a place where the home team hits long homers, like the one Sunday by Scott McClanahan in Sunday's 11-4 Bama win. Its a place where part-timers belt grand slams that hit the foul pole, like Grant Reading's did yesterday. It's also a place where the home team can play an ugly game, as the Tide did in Saturday's win that featured the home team hitting into four double plays, committing four errors... <br><br>And still win.

In short, its a place the visiting team does not really want to be.

Alabama (43-9, 20-7 SEC) is now 31-2 this season at park nicknamed "the Joe," with one home game left tomorrow against Mississippi Valley.

That's an amazing .939 clip, and includes a 13-2 home SEC mark, with the only two losses coming at the hands of Ole Miss.

"It can be a little intimidating at first," said McClanahan of the atmosphere at the Joe. "The fans; they're into the game, and they know baseball. They'll get on the (opposing) players a little bit. I think the toughest part is, when we do well, they really get excited, and it helps keep the other team down."

Tide head coach Jim Wells agrees with his center fielder. "You've got a crowd right on top of you," said Wells. "You've got a team that likes playing at home; responds well to the crowd. With the way the stands are fixed...(the crowd) is just right on top of you, and its intimidating.

"Plus, Wells added, "we have a better team this year."

With Sunday's win, Alabama clinched the SEC's Western Division crown, meaning no worse than a number two seed at the league tourney in Hoover, Ala May 22-26. The Tide's magic number to clinch the overall regular season SEC crown and top tourney seed is now two after South Carolina's 5-3 win over Tennessee. UA's lead over the Gamecocks is a game and a half with three to play. Alabama wraps its regular season up in Baton Rouge next weekend, while Carolina visits Athens, Ga.

Any combination of two Bama wins and/or Gamecock losses gets the Tide the title.

"They're very aware of that," said Wells of his team. "There's a chance to win the whole thing, and it comes down to the last weekend. That's the way it usually does."

Wells said the game plan is to "rest up, get some injured guys healthy, hopefully, go to Baton Rouge and do our best to win the league."

Catcher Jeremy Brown likes the idea of winning the regular season SEC title.

"We haven't done that since we've been here," said Brown of his senior class. "Its a big accomplishment. Its a tough conference. That's one of our goals. We want to win the whole conference. We're really going to have to step up next weekend."

The Tide is ranked fourth in America by Collegiate Baseball, which uses college coaches and sports information directors as its voters. Unless something drastic happens, like zero more SEC wins, UA is very likely to host an NCAA Regional the first week of June, and if successful, stands a good chance at getting a Super Regional.

The way things have gone this year, if those two things happen, Bama will be considered a favorite to return to Omaha, site of the College World Series, for the first time since 1999, and the fourth time under Wells.


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