Tide Baseball Faces More Difficult Games

When the Southeastern Conference baseball schedule was announced this year, it was reasonable to think that Alabama could be off to a tough start. With three-game series against the three best teams in the league on the first three weekends, the challenge was huge.



The Alabama baseball team managed to right the ship in its last two games of this past weekend against Vanderbilt. Bama had started the season with an 0-3 SEC worksheet when the Tide opened the season at fourth-ranked Kentucky. This past weekend Bama lost its first game despite its best pitching performance of the year. Vanderbilt had a slightly better performance in a 2-1 win.

Both Kentucky and Vanderbilt had been ranked fourth in the nation at the time Alabama opened those series.

Alabama rebounded to take the Saturday and Sunday games against Vanderbilt in Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Tide of Coach Jim Wells evened its overall record at 11-11 and improved to 2-4 in SEC games.

The Saturday victory ended a six-game Alabama losing streak that included two non-conference losses last week against New Orleans.

After losing the series opener to Vanderbilt, Bama rebounded for 9-7 and 10-3 victories over the Commodores.

This week Alabama has a midweek home-and-home event. Bama will host Jacksonville State at 6:35 p.m. CDT Tuesday, then go to Jacksonville to play the Gamecocks at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

It's back to SEC play this weekend as Alabama will host the Ole Miss Rebels in games at 6:35 p.m. Friday, 4:05 p.m. Saturday, and 2:05 p.m. Sunday.

The highlight of the weekend against Vanderbilt was junior right-handed pitcher Robert Phares of Tuscaloosa in the rubber game performance on Sunday. He made his first SEC start and only his third start of the year and evened his record at 1-1. For his performance he was nominated by Alabama as the SEC Pitcher of the Week.

After allowing a two-out home run in the first inning, Phares retired the next 13 Commodore batters en route to his first collegiate win. The Tuscaloosa native and product of Shelton State Community College faced one over the minimum through six innings.

Phares held Vanderbilt to three runs and four hits in 7 2/3 innings, with five strikeouts and only one walk.

Alabama also nominated a player for SEC Freshman of the Week. Shortstop Josh Rutledge of Cullman was the Tide's second-leading hitter with a .444 (8-for-18) batting average. In four games he also had five runs scored, one double and one run batted in.

He went 7-for-13 (.538) with four runs scored and one double in the Vanderbilt series to extend his hitting streak to four games. He concluded the Vanderbilt series with three hits and scored two runs in the Tide's series-clinching win.

Overall, Rutledge has hit safely in 17 of 21 games this season.

ALABAMA NOTES:

The Crimson Tide hit .314 (33-for-105) against the Commodores with nine extra base hits, four home runs and 17 RBI. Sophomore left fielder Brandon May (6-for-10, 2 R, RBI), freshman shortstop Josh Rutledge (7-for-13, 4 R) and freshman second baseman Ross Wilson (5-for-13, R, 2B, 2 RBI) were a combined 18-for-33 (.545) in the series with seven runs scored and three RBI.

Alabama had a fabulous weekend on the mound after struggling in seven of its last eight starts. The Crimson Tide posted a 2.33 ERA in the three-game series and held the Commodores to a .202 (20-for-92) batting average. All three starters pitched into the eighth inning in the series as the Tide used only four total pitchers on the weekend.

Junior right-hander Austin Hyatt (9 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K) recorded his first career complete game in the series opener with Vanderbilt.

Sophomore right-hander Austin Graham (7 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 8 K) recorded his first career SEC win and added eight strikeouts in a career-high seven innings in game two of the Vanderbilt series.

Junior Robert Phares (7.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K), making his first SEC start, notched his first collegiate win in the Tide's series-clinching victory. Senior right-hander Josh Copeland made two relief appearances and retired 10 of the 11 batters he faced with seven strikeouts.

Freshman Ross Wilson posted five straight multi-hit games from March 16-22. He batted .455 (10-for-22) in those five games.

Sophomore left fielder Brandon May was the Tide's leading hitter against Vanderbilt, going 6-for-10 (.600) with two runs scored and two RBI. May is the Tide's leading hitter in SEC with a whopping .550 (11-for-20) average with one home run and three RBI in six games. He has four multi-hit SEC games this season.

Junior outfielder Tyler Odle is riding a five-game hitting streak, where he is batting .500 (7-for-14) with three runs scored and three RBI.

Junior infielder Jeff Texada made his first career start at third base on Saturday, March 22 and went 2-for-3 with a solo home run in the sixth inning. It was his first career SEC home run in 150 at-bats.

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