Last Laugh

Tommy Hunter, who will start on the mound for Alabama Sunday in the series finale against LSU, appreciates a good joke – even one made at his expense.

"I'm not the smallest guy," Hunter said.

The 6-3, 255-pound freshman was the butt of jokes and offers of cheeseburgers during Bama's Sunday double header in Columbia, South Carolina last weekend. He might have taken them up on their offers had any of them been genuine.

"I think it's pretty entertaining and pretty funny to see how creative they can get," Hunter said.

So he laughed along with the Gamecock fans.

Then he pitched a complete game, giving up just one run and three hits in the series-deciding game Sunday afternoon to the nation's top-ranked team and the SEC's best hitting squad entering the weekend.

"Last week they were asking me something about eating biscuits," Hunter said. "Later, each inning as we were coming off the field our fans were chanting ‘biscuit, biscuit.' I thought that was pretty funny."

Hunter won his second SEC game and earned the league's freshman of the week honors for the third time.

For the season, Hunter has appeared in 11 games and made seven starts. He has compiled a 5-2 record and 2.95 ERA, with two complete games and five quality starts. His early success hasn't come as a surprise to other members of the Crimson Tide squad.

"He pretty much dominated us in the fall in inter-squad games," senior Alabama catcher Kody Valverde said. "He showed signs in the fall that he could pitch against anybody in the nation and he's done that the past couple of weekends."

Said Alabama Coach Jim Wells, "Yeah, he has pitched good. It was a question of if he would be able to handle this SEC stuff."

The rookie has worked 55 innings and allowed 46 hits, 21 runs and 18 earned runs, with 10 walks and 41 strikeouts. In SEC play, Hunter is 2-1 with 3.67 ERA in four starts, with two complete games. He still shows rookie tendencies.

"Tommy gets really nervous out there," Valverde said. "As the game goes along he gets more powerful and dominating."

Hunter will be on the hill in Sunday's 1 p.m. start against LSU in Baton Rouge in yet another hostile environment. Add to that a lineup of LSU hitters that look more like SEC linebackers than baseball players, and Hunter will have his hands full in attempting to avoid a weekend sweep by LSU.

"When I was up north everybody was trying to get me ready for that coming down here," Hunter said. "A lot of people didn't think I could make an impact my first year. I just go out there and throw strikes. They make plays behind me."

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