Alabama Opens SEC Tourney Wednesday
Alabama finished second in the SEC Western Division and tied for fourth with Kentucky in the overall SEC standings. The Crimson Tide won its last five SEC series, including series wins over Mississippi State, Auburn, Arkansas, No. 22 Florida and No. 7 Georgia to reach the tournament field. The Crimson Tide is playing in its fourth straight SEC Tournament, dating back the 2005 season. Only South Carolina and Ole Miss have longer streaks. The Gamecocks are making their 12th straight appearance, while the Rebels are in for the sixth straight year.
Alabama won seven of 10 conference series, the second-best record in the league this season. Georgia won eight of 10 series en route to the SEC Championship, but lost a home series to Alabama to end the regular season. Alabama started the season with an 0-4 conference record, but rebounded to post a 16-10 (.615) record in the last 26 league games. The Tide's record was the third best in the league over the final 26 games behind LSU (17-8-1) and Georgia (16-9-1).
Alabama's recent success as not gone unnoticed on the national scene. The Crimson Tide made its 2008 debut in the national polls this week. Alabama is ranked 29th by Collegiate Baseball newspaper, its first ranking since the 2007 season.
Alabama's 0-4 start in SEC play included opening 0-3 against Kentucky in Lexington in the first league series of the year. Kentucky was ranked fourth in the nation at the time. UK head coach John Cohen is a native of Tuscaloosa and played for Coach Don McNabb at Tuscaloosa Academy before playing at collegiality at Birmingham Southern (1986) and Mississippi State (1987-89). Cohen is 4-7 (.364) in his career against the Tide, including a 4-5 (.444) mark at Kentucky. Cohen lost SEC series against Alabama in 2004 and 2005.
Alabama leads the all-time series with Kentucky, 49-29 (.628) in a series that dates back to the 1925 season.
The 2008 SEC Tournament will be televised live by CSS Sports HD and FSN South HD. CSS will televise all four games on Wednesday and Thursday, plus the if necessary games on Saturday. FSN South will carry the games on Friday, Saturday, and the SEC Championship game on Sunday. All 15 games will be aired XM satellite radio (channel 199).
Alabama is making its fourth straight SEC Tournament appearance, which is the third-longest active streak behind South Carolina (12) and Ole Miss (6). Alabama has made the tournament every year since 2005. The last time UA did not make the tournament was 2004. Overall, Alabama has qualified for the SEC Tournament 12 times in Coach Wells 14 seasons at UA. The Tide also failed to make the tourney in 2001 despite a 15-15 record. The 2001 Alabama team is the only .500 under the current tournament format not to make the SEC Tournament.
Alabama will be making its 28th SEC post-season appearance at the 2008 SEC Tournament at Regions Park. The Crimson Tide has compiled a 47-40 (.540) all-time record in SEC post-season games. The 28 post-season appearances includes six SEC Championship series, a best-of-three series between the Eastern Division and Western Division champions, and 21 SEC Tournament berths. Alabama's six championship series appearances came in 1950, 1955, 1957, 1968, 1973 and 1974. The 2008 SEC Tournament will be Alabama's 21st appearance under the current tournament setting. The Crimson Tide has compiled a 37-33 (.529) record since the tournament's inception in 1977, including seven championships. Alabama took home SEC Tournament crowns in 1983, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2002 and 2003. Alabama owns a winning record against seven of the 11 league teams in SEC Tournament play. The Crimson Tide has a losing record against both LSU (5-6) and Ole Miss (1-5) in SEC Tournament play. The Tide has split two meetings with Georgia and has never faced Vanderbilt under the current format. Alabama has lost its last three SEC Tournament games, including an 0-2 finish last season against Arkansas and Florida. Ole Miss eliminated Alabama in both 2005 and 2006.
Alabama may as well call Regions Park (formerly known as the Hoover Met), its home away from home. The Crimson Tide has had a tremendous amount of success at the ballpark since its opening in 1988. Alabama has compiled a 31-16 (.660) record at Regions Park since its initial game during the 1989 season. Alabama beat UAB, 14-3, on April 27, 1989 in its in initial game in Hoover and has enjoyed much success ever since. The Crimson Tide has captured four SEC Tournament titles (1996, 1999, 2002 and 2003) in Hoover under Coach Jim Wells. Alabama is 6-4 (.600) in 10 regular-season games at Regions Park. Alabama is 25-12 (.676) in SEC Tournament games at Regions Park.
Alabama put together an amazing run to end the 2008 regular season. The Crimson Tide posted a 16-10 (.615) record in its final 26 SEC games, the third-best mark in the league during that span. Only LSU (17-8-1) and Georgia (16-9-1) had better conference records since March 22. In its last 26 SEC games, Alabama batted .312 (297 for 951) with 45 home runs and 178 RBI. UA averaged 7.6 runs and 11.2 hits per game in league play.
Alabama won seven of its 10 SEC series this season, the second-most series wins among the 12 conference teams. Georgia won eight conference series en route to the 2008 SEC Championship. Alabama and South Carolina were the only two SEC teams to win all five home conference series this season.
The Tide also won seven one-run games in league play since March 22.
Freshman shortstop Josh Rutledge led the team with a .422 (49 for 116) average in 26 games, with 27 runs and 12 RBI. Sophomore left fielder Brandon May hit .349 (38 for 109) with six home runs and 17 RBI in 26 games.
Sophomore RHP Austin Graham was 5-0 with three saves and 5.79 ERA in 14 appearances since March 22. Senior LHP Will Stroup was 3-2 with a 2.12 ERA (29.2 IP, 7 ER) in 14 appearances for the Tide.
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