Tide Opens Tourney with LSU

Jim Wells doesn't play golf. He had planned to ponder his pitching setup for the Southeastern Conference tournament and NCAA Regional play yesterday at a charity golf tournament held for UA volunteer assistant B.J. Green, who has leukemia, but no decision was reached.

Wells said Tuesday that he is leaning toward starting Bernard Robert in Wednesday afternoon's tournament opener when the top-seeded Tide faces eighth-seeded LSU in a 5 p.m. start at the Hoover Met, but he did not make a final decision Tuesday.

LSU (34-22) will send senior Clay Dirks (4-4, 4.93 ERA) to the mound. Alabama hitters managed nine hits and five runs off Dirks in six innings in Baton Rouge earlier this year. Dirks got a no-decision in the game, but LSU prevailed 7-6 on April 15. Dirks (4-4, 4.93 ERA) issued one walk and recorded six strikeouts.

The winner of the LSU-Alabama game will meet the winner of Wednesday's 8 p.m. game between Arkansas and Ole Miss at 8 p.m. Thursday. The loser of the LSU-Alabama game plays the loser of the Arkansas-Ole Miss game at 1 p.m. Thursday. The LSU-Alabama game will be televised by Comcast Sports Southeast.

LSU won two of three games from Alabama (39-17) during the regular season series. LSU has played the last four weeks of the season without two of its top pitchers – right-handers Derik Olvey and Michael Bonura. Olvey, LSU's leader in wins, suffered an elbow injury April 23 at Ole Miss and has since undergone Tommy John surgery. Bonura, who had Tommy John surgery last season, last pitched on April 22 at Ole Miss, and he is out for the year with an elbow injury.

Alabama has won five straight games, including a three-game series sweep last weekend at Tennessee that gave the Tide a share of the SEC regular-season title with Kentucky.

Alabama is led at the plate by centerfielder Emeel Salem, who is hitting .365 with 12 doubles, six triples, two homers and 26 RBI. Catcher Kody Valverde is batting .330 on the year with 15 doubles, two triples, 10 homers and 49 RBI.

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