Tide Faces Top-Ranked Dores

The Alabama baseball team (19-12, 4-5 SEC) will face a pitcher many people in college baseball consider to be the best in the country Friday night at 7:05 p.m. in Vanderbilt's David Price.

Alabama will play the number one ranked Commodores on 3:05 p.m. on Saturday and 1:05 p.m. on Sunday.

The match-up with Vanderbilt (27-4, 5-4 SEC) comes in a stretch where Alabama can't seem to buy a timely hit in close games, and can't find an offensive outburst even against mediocre Sunday or mid-week pitching. Alabama only managed five hits and two runs against eight different UAB pitchers on Wednesday night.

"We're trying to build a team and learn how to win," Alabama Head Coach Jim Wells said. "Thankfully we won Wednesday. We didn't swing the bats too well. We're trying to find the consistency."

The junior left-hander Price, from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is 5-0 with a 2.88 ERA in eight starts and leads the SEC with 89 strikeouts. He's projected by some experts to be the top overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft this summer, which could make him an instant multi-millionaire.

All this begs the question of who for the Crimson Tide, if anyone, will be able to come up with a big hit tonight. Alabama did it last year against Price, roughing up the Vandy starter eight runs and 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Sophomore lefty Miers Quigly (4-0, 2.63 ERA) will start the first game for Alabama, with senior righty Bernard Robert (4-3, 2.93 ERA) on the hill for Saturday's game. Sunday's starter for Alabama has not been announced, but is most likely to be sophomore right-hander Austin Hyatt.

Brandon Belcher's return to the mound last weekend for 39 pitches against LSU seemed to be a slight setback in his recovery. He left the game with soreness in the arm and was not able to throw a curveball.

"Brandon saw the doctor on Tuesday and cannot be written in as a starter" for this Sunday's game, Wells said. "Maybe he can be used in some form throughout weekend, but still not at full strength."

Hyatt's appearance on Sunday was a step forward, however, and he appears back to full health. Freshman Austin Graham has not pitched since injuring his arm in the opening games of last season, but he could see his return to the mound against Vanderbilt.

"So we've added two ," Wells said, "and really haven't lost anything because it's really been a season without Brandon except for a couple of innings and opening day."

Lefty Mike Minor (4-0, 2.15 ERA) is scheduled to start for Vandy on Saturday while Nick Christiani (5-2, 3.92 ERA) is scheduled for Sunday.


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