Journey To SEC Begins In Arkansas

You have to play them one at a time. That's a familiar sports axiom, and it's also the truth. Looking ahead usually has unfortunate short-term consequences. With three weekends of regular season Southeastern Conference baseball play remaining, one must resist the temptation to look beyond the first game.

With nine games remaining in regular season play, Alabama trails SEC Western Division leader Ole Miss by just one game. Bama is 10-11 while the Rebels are 11-10. Just behind the leaders, a half game back of the Crimson Tide, is fourth place Arkansas. (Third place LSU is percentage points behind Bama and ahead of the Razorbacks after reeling off six straight wins.)

Without making a guess at how many games Alabama has to win in each of its remaining series (three games at Arkansas this weekend, then three games at home against Florida, and finishing with three games at Georgia), it is safe to say that this is an important weekend as the Tide goes to Fayetteville and Baum Stadium.

The series opener is Friday at 6:35 p.m. (CDT. The teams also play, Saturday at 2:05 p.m. (CDT) and Sunday at 1:05 p.m. (CDT).

Alabama is on a three-game winning streak after having won two games last weekend against Auburn and a midweek game against Samford. The Tide has won its last two SEC series, against Mississippi State and Auburn, but those games were in Tuscaloosa. Alabama is looking for its first SEC road series win after losing efforts at Kentucky, LSU and Tennessee.

Arkansas swept Ole Miss in Oxford last weekend and the Hogs are hot, having won nine of their last 11 games.

Alabama leads the all-time series with Arkansas, 33-20. The two teams never met prior to Arkansas joining the SEC in 1992. Last year the teams split four games, Bama winning the regular season series, two games to one, and the Razorbacks winning in the SEC Tournament. Alabama Coach Jim Wells is 29-17 (.630) in his career against Arkansas. He owns a 29-15 (.659) record as Alabama coach. Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn is 9-9 (.500) in his career against Alabama.

Alabama's starting pitchers for the weekend series are expected to be left-hander Miers Quigley (4-4, 4.38 ERA) on Friday, right-hander Austin Wyatt (3-3, 4.87) on Saturday, and right-hander Robert Phares (2-3, 6.22) on Sunday.

Alabama shortstop Josh Rutledge was named SEC Freshman of the Week last week as he batted .524 (11 for 21) with four runs scored, two runs batted in. He had an .800 on-base percentage and 1.000 slugging percentage.

Rutledge is hitting .396 (76 for 192) this season in 44 games with 22 RBI and 44 runs scored. He leads the SEC with 76 hits and 192 at-bats this season. Rutledge also ranks third in hitting (.396), fourth in plate appearances (217), fifth in runs scored (46) and 10th in stolen bases (11). He is currently riding a 22-game hitting streak, the sixth longest in Tide history. He is the freshman leader in the SEC in hitting, total hits and multi-hit games

Alabama (26-21) is five games over the .500 mark for the first time this season. The Crimson Tide's previous best record was 9-5 (.642) following a six-game winning streak from March 5-12.

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