Wells Has Bright Outlook for Baseball Season

There was good food served and good fortunes predicted for the Alabama baseball team at the annual GrandSlammers pre-season barbecue Sunday afternoon in the scholarship room of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The always-candid Jim Wells, in his twelfth season as Alabama's head coach addressed around 300 supporters.

"I couldn't be more proud of a team," Wells said. "They're going do tremendously better than people think."

"We have improved dramatically since we got out here September 11 or whenever it was [for fall practice], and the team has continued to improve," he said. "The attitude for the team has been really good 99.9 percent of the time. Leadership is evolving on the team."

Alabama is scheduled to open the season against Winthrop Friday night. Winthrop started this past weekend, taking two out of three games from Miami (Florida). Miami won Friday night's game 16-4, and lost both games of a double-header Saturday, 8-3 and 4-3 respectively.

Wells will go to junior lefty Wade LeBlanc on the mound Friday night. LeBlanc is a third-team preseason All-American selection by Baseball America.

The Saturday and Sunday starters have yet to be determined, but likely will be one of five newcomers: either freshmen Austin Graham, Austin Hyatt, Miers Quigley, Tommy Hunter or junior transfer Bernard Robert [silent "T"].

Quigley, a 6-4 lefty from Roswell, Ga., entered the picture more over the past weekend, when Wells said he, "has made a move to move into a weekend type starter."

"They're going to be real good," Wells said of his young pitchers. "The thing is we need to be real good now."

Tide hitters were grumbling Sunday that they would be glad to face someone besides their own pitching staff. LeBlanc threw very well in six innings of a scrimmage on Sunday, and sophomore closer David Roberts threw two good innings. Robertson was in the low 90s with his fastball.

When a guy gets in there and does well, he's going to stay in there. Competition is good and we've got that a lot of places.

Friday's game starts at 6:30 p.m., Saturday's game is at 4 p.m., and Sunday's at 2 p.m.

UA Media Relations baseball notebook:

*Alabama baseball is the oldest sport on the UA campus. The Crimson Tide played its first game on July 1, 1892 and posted a 6-3 win over Sewanee at Birmingham's Lakeview Park. The game was the only appearance for head coach Shelby Fletcher. Alabama football did not begin until later that year when the Crimson Tide beat the Birmingham Athletic Club 55-0 on Nov. 11, 1892. The UA baseball team has compiled a 2,180-1,279-23 (.629) all-time record in 3,482 games. Alabama and LSU (13) have won more SEC Championships that any other school. Also, Alabama has had 54 Major League Baseball players, second only to LSU (58) in league history.

*Alabama head coach Jim Wells enters his 12th season at the Capstone and has compiled a 478-225 (.679) record in 704 games. He enters the season just 10 wins shy of becoming the school's all-time winningest baseball coach. Dr. Barry Shollenberger (1980-94) currently holds the record with 487 wins. Overall, Wells begins his 17th year as a Division I head coach. He has compiled a 670-314 (.681) all-time record in 984 games. He will also coach his 1,000th all-time game this spring.

*The Crimson Tide posted a 40-23 record last season and finished second to No. 1 Tulane at the NCAA New Orleans regional played at Turchin Stadium on the Tulane campus. Alabama went 17-13 in SEC play last season and finished third in the SEC Western Division behind co-champions LSU and Ole Miss.

*Alabama is 73-38-1 (.656) all-time in season openers. The Crimson Tide saw its 12-game opening-day winning streak snapped last year with a 4-1 loss at Hawai'i on Feb. 10, 2005. Coach Wells is 14-2 (.875) in season openers, including an 11-1 (.917) at Alabama. Winthrop will be Alabama's 61st different opening day opponent.

*Alabama senior Evan Bush (Rainbow City) will make his fourth consecutive opening day start for Alabama this Friday against Winthrop. After starting the last three years at third base, Bush will move to second base for the 2006 season, a position he has not played since high school.

*Sophomore David Robertson was a 2005 Freshman All-American last season as he compiled a 7-5 record with eight saves and a 2.92 ERA in a team-high 32 games. He set the UA single-season freshman record with 105 strikeouts, which ranked eighth in the SEC. Robertson also set the UA single-season record with 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings, breaking the previous record of 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings held by Alan Dunn (44 IP, 62 K) in 1981.

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