Top Freshman

There was an individual honor for Alabama freshman baseball player Alex Avila Monday, and the Crimson Tide baseball team moved up to sixth in the nation following a three-game sweep of Vanderbilt. And this week Bama takes on UAB at the Hoover Met before hosting Auburn in televised games this weekend.

Alabama freshman designated hitter Alex Avila of Hialeah, Florida, was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week after his four-game performance against Mississippi Valley State and Vanderbilt last week, the league office announced Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Alabama moved to sixth in the nation in both the Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball polls on Monday. The sixth-place ranking is the highest for Alabama since being ranked fourth and sixth heading into the 2002 NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional.

In the four games, Avila hit .471 (8-17) with five runs scored, four runs and seven RBI. He went 2-for-3 with two RBI in UA's 5-0 win over MVSU last Wednesday night. His two-run single in the seventh inning broke open the game as UA took a 5-0 lead.

He was 2-for-4 with one run and one RBI in series opener against Vanderbilt and then had the best game of his career by going 4-for-6 with four runs scored, three doubles and four RBI in UA's 14-7 win un the nightcap. Avila recorded a career-high three doubles in the win and he scored the tying run in the 4th inning of the win.

For the season, Avila is batting .310 (40-for-129) in 39 games with three home runs and 25 RBI. He is third on the team in hitting and fifth in RBI. In SEC play, he is hitting .348 (23-for-66) with one home run and 16 RBI in 17 games. The 16 RBI ranks third on the team in league play.

Since March 19, Avila has hit safely in 15 of 20 games and raised his season average 86 points. He is 20-for-52 (.385) in his last 12 games, with two home runs and 14 RBI.

Alabama has had four SEC Freshman of the Week winners this season. In addition to Avila, pitcher Tommy Hunter is a three-time SEC Freshman of the Week winner.

Alabama is now 31-12 overall and 13-5 in SEC games. (That's 72.1 overall and 72.2 SEC winning percentage.) Bama is first in both the SEC Western Division and overall standings with 12 games remaining in conference play.

This week the Crimson Tide will go to the Hoover Met – site of this year's SEC Tournament – to play Alabama-Birmingham in the final non-conference game of the year for Bama. Alabama and UAB will meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

This weekend Alabama will host Auburn in games scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday, 6 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, all three games scheduled for regional telecast on CSS.

Alabama holds a two-game lead over Eastern Division leaders Kentucky (11-7) and South Carolina (11-7) for the overall SEC championship. The Crimson Tide owns a three-game lead over Ole Miss (10-8) and Arkansas (10-8) in the SEC Western Division standings.

Alabama's 13-5 record in SEC play equals the best start under Coach Jim Wells. The 2002 team also posted a 13-5 record through 18 SEC games en route to the Western Division championship. The 13-5 record is the second best 18-game SEC record in school history. The 1955 SEC Championship team was 16-2 through 18 games (which was their full season) for the best 18-game mark at Bama.

The Crimson Tide is 8-1 in SEC home games and 5-4 in SEC road games this season. Also, Bama is 6-3 against Western Division teams and 7-2 against Eastern Division foes. Alabama has won five of its six SEC series this season, including two sweeps (Ole Miss and Vanderbilt).

Alabama is riding a five-game winning streak and four-game SEC winning streak. The Crimson Tide is coming off its first sweep against Vanderbilt since the 2000 season.

The Crimson Tide owns an 11-8 (.579) record this season against Top 25 clubs. Alabama has won four of the six series with ranked opponents. The Crimson Tide beat No. 1 Miss. State (March 31-April 2) and No. 1 South Carolina (April 7-9) in consecutive weeks.

As a team, Alabama is batting .292 (429-for-1,467) through 43 games, with 36 home runs and 181 RBI. Alabama has at least one double in 31 consecutive games.

The Crimson Tide boasts the SEC's best ERA (3.33 ERA) through 43 games. Alabama has four pitchers with six or more wins, including Wade LeBlanc (7-0, 2.88 ERA), Jake McCarter (6-0, 2.01 ERA), Tommy Hunter (6-2, 3.54 ERA) and Bernard Robert (6-2, 3.88 ERA). Bama's weekend starters are 19-4 (.826) on the mound, including an 11-2 (.846) mark in SEC play.

Alabama is fourth in the SEC with a .969 fielding percentage. Bama has played 14 errorless games this season and played 12 games with two or more errors.

While Avila was Alabama's lone honoree by the SEC this week, the Crimson Tide also nominated a Player of the Week and a Pitcher of the Week with outstanding credentials.

For Player of the Week, Bama nominated senior catcher Kody Valderde, who batted .583 (7-12) with six runs, two doubles, a home run, and four runs batted in. He was Bama's leading hitter against the SEC's top-rated pitching staff. He went 2-4 in the series finale and scored three of Bama's six runs, including the tying run in the eighth inning. Valverde went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, one home run and three RBI in UA's 14-7 series-clinching win. He smacked a two-run home run in the fourth inning that gave Bama the lead for good. Seven of his 10 home runs this season have either tied the game or given Alabama the lead. He was 2-for-3 with a run and RBI double in the series opener against Vandy.

For Pitcher of the Week, Bama nominated junior left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who out-dueled Vanderbilt lefty Davide Price in the Crimson Tide's 9-3 win in the series opener. He recorded his 20th career win and 10th career SEC win with eight shutout innings. He allowed only four hits and added three walks and three strikeouts. LeBlanc has won all seven decisions this season, which ranks the fifth longest winning streak by an Alabama pitcher. Dating back to the 2005 season, LeBlanc has won his last eight decisions.

Miscellaneous Tide baseball notes:

Alabama has outscored the opposition 41-7 in the second inning this year.

The Crimson Tide is a perfect 27-0 when leading after eight innings.

Alabama has 13 come-from-behind wins this season.

Alabama is 9-4 in one-run games, including a 3-2 mark in SEC play.

Senior second baseman Evan Bush is the school's all-time leader with 20 career sacrifice flies. He broke Beau Hearod's (2001-03) previous school record of 18 sacrifice flies in the first inning against Mississippi Valley State on April 19. He added another sacrifice fly in the Vandy series.

Freshman right fielder Ryan Rhoden tied the UA single-game record with two sacrifice bunts in the Tide's 6-5 win over Vandy in the series finale. Both of Rhoden's sacrifice bunts moved two runners into scoring and all four eventually scored.

Junior LF Brandon Belcher hit home runs in back-to-back games against Vandy on April 22. He slugged a three-run home run in game one and added a solo shot in game two. He has three home runs in his last four SEC games.


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