Numbers Game

There are only three weekend series left in the Southeastern Conference regular baseball season, making it harder and harder for observers not to play the numbers game.

Alabama (34-13 overall, 15-6 SEC), ranked as high as fifth in latest polls, has a two game lead over Ole Miss (13-8 SEC) in the Western Division and over Ole Miss, South Carolina (13-8 SEC) and Kentucky (13-8 SEC) in the overall division race.

Alabama swept Ole Miss and took two of three games from South Carolina, meaning that Alabama would win a tiebreaker scenario with either of those teams.

Alabama does not play Kentucky this year. In case of a tie between the Tide and the Wildcats, Alabama would get the number one seed in the SEC tournament if Ole Miss finishes third, and Kentucky would be the tournament's top seed if South Carolina finished higher than Ole Miss. Ole Miss and Kentucky play in Lexington this weekend.

The scenarios are fun to ponder, but there is enough baseball left that they are also not a practical exercise. No team has been eliminated from the SEC tourney, and no team has officially locked up a spot.

"If you want to be a championship team, you still have to go take care of business," Alabama catcher Kody Valverde said.

Matt Downs, the senior pitcher-turned-third-baseman, has been on a month-long hot streak that rivals Alabama's SEC Player of the Year candidate Emeel Salem and has keyed Alabama's offense. The Centreville senior hit .373 (25 for 67) for the month of April with four home runs and 24 RBI. After the Nebraska series, in which the Tide lost three low-scoring close contests, Downs was hitting .224.

Downs plans on making sure he and his teammates keep the focus on one opponent at a time.

"We're only two thirds of the way through," he said. "When you get one weekend left you can start thinking about what you have to do to win the SEC. All we're thinking about right now is winning the series with Arkansas. Getting swept this weekend could put you from first to fourth or fifth in the SEC, so you can't look ahead."

Entering the weekend road series with Arkansas, the Crimson Tide is a season-high batting .299 (483-for-1617) with 38 home runs and 204 RBIs, and has raised that average 26 points in its last 10 games.

Another Honor for Salem

Alabama junior outfielder Emeel Salem was named the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Pro-Line Cap National National Hitter of the Week, adding to his SEC and Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball.

Salem batted .765 (13-for-17) with 12 runs scored, 12 extra base hits, three stolen bases and two RBI in four games. He compiled a whopping 1.294 slugging percentage (22 total bases) last week and an .818 on-base mark (reached base 18 time in 22 plate appearances).

Regional Projections

Mark Etheridge's latest NCAA Regional projections from SEBaseball.com lists Alabama as a national 4th-seed, hosting Oklahoma State, South Alabama and Bethune-Cookman in an NCAA Regional in Tuscaloosa.


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