Alabama Has Used Home Runs To Win

Playing the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament at Regions Park in Hoover, means that it will be pointed out that the home field of the Birmingham Barons AA team is more spacious than the ball parks of the eight college teams playing this week.

That usually means good news for pitchers and bad news for teams that live by the home run. That makes it a mixed bag for Alabama, which has had poor pitching and has been a very good home run team.

Alabama opens play in the SEC Tournament at 8 p.m. CDT Wednesday against Kentucky. The Wildcats swept Bama in the opening series of the season, but Alabama was one of the league's hottest teams going into the tournament with victories in its final five regular season SEC series. Bama and Kentucky both finished SEC play with records of 16-14.

The secret to Bama success has been the long ball. Alabama has cracked 76 home runs in 56 games this season, an average of 1.36 home runs per game. The 76 home runs surpasses last year's total of 58 homers in 57 games. Alabama is in the top 20 nationally in home runs and home runs per game this season. The Crimson Tide is fourth in the SEC with those 76 home runs. In SEC play, Alabama led the league with 48 home runs in 30 conference games. A total of 14 different players have hit at least one home run for the Crimson Tide this season. A total of 11 different players have hit at least one home run in SEC play. Alex Avila (16), Ross Wilson (12), Matt Bentley (10) and Kent Matthes (10) have hit double figure home runs, marking the first time since 2000 the Tide has had four players with 10 or more home runs. The 2008 season marks the eighth time under Coach Jim Wells the Crimson Tide has had at least three players hit double-digit home runs in a season. It is the first time since the 2003 season.

The benchmark season for Alabama having a home run lineup is 1987. In that year Dustan Mohr had 25 home runs, Roberto Vaz 22, G.W. Keller 21, Robbie Tucker 20, Matt Frick 16, Andy Phillips 15, Joe Caruso 15 and David Tidwell 10. That team set an NCAA record with four players having 20 or more home runs.

The Tide has homered in 38 of 56 games this season, including 22 of 30 SEC games.

Alabama is 27-11 (.711) when hitting at least one home run and 7-13 (.360) without a home run.

Alabama hit a season high 10 home runs in its three-game series at Georgia, including five home runs in the series opener. The 10 home runs at Georgia are the most by Alabama in an SEC series since hitting 11 home runs against Ole Miss in the 2000 season. Bama goes into the SEC Tournament off that impressive performance against Georgia in Athens.

The Crimson Tide also hit five home runs in an 11-6 win at Arkansas this year. Prior to that, Bama had not had five homers in a game since 2004 against Cincinnati and had not had five home runs in an SEC game since 2000 against Ole Miss.

Alabama hit 30 home runs in its 15 SEC road games, including 18 home runs in its last two road series at Arkansas (8) and Georgia (10).

The Crimson Tide hit two home runs in the series finale at LSU (April 6) to snap its longest home run drought of the season. Brandon May's second inning home run against LSU was Alabama's first home run since March 28, covering a span of six games, 56 1/3 innings and 192 at-bats.

Alabama has hit 39 solo home runs, 22 two-run home runs, 12 three-run home runs and three grand slams this season.

The Crimson Tide has 21 home runs with no outs, 32 home runs with one out and 23 home runs with two outs.

Alabama has hit 16 home runs in the seventh inning, the most of any inning this season. In fact, 37 of the 76 home runs have come in the sixth (8), seventh (15), eighth (10) and ninth (4) innings.

The Tide has hit 23 home runs this season with two strikes in the count.

Alabama players have eight multi-home run games this season, including three by Jeff Bentley, two by Ross Wilson and one by Alex Avila, Brandon May and Jake Smith. Bentley hit two home runs against Samford, Ole Miss and Auburn. Wilson has multi-home run games against Mississippi State and South Alabama. Avila hit two home runs at North Alabama. May hit two home runs against Arkansas. Smith added a pair of homers in the Tide's 17-13 win a No. 7 Georgia.

The Crimson Tide has hit three home runs in an inning three times this season against Youngstown State (Wilson, Avila and Kent Matthes), Mississippi State (Wilson, 2 and Del Howell) and Auburn (Bentley, Tyler Odle and Smith). Prior to the YSU game, the last time UA swatted three home runs in an inning came against Mississippi State's Paul Maholm (Jeremy Brown, Aaron Clark and Beau Hearod) on May 4, 2001.

A total of five players have hit their first career home run this season. May homered in the 2008 season opener against Cal Poly for his first career home run and then hit his first SEC home run at Kentucky. May now has five home runs this season, including three dingers in a four-game SEC stretch from April 6-12. Wilson slugged his first career home run against UT Arlington . Junior CF Alex Kubal hit his first home run against Nevada. Junior 1B Wes Henderson hit his first career home run against New Orleans. Junior Jeff Texada hit his first career SEC home run (150 at-bats) against Vanderbilt. Junior catcher Mike Sharp hit is first career home run at Tennessee.

Avila has homered against 10 of the 11 SEC teams in his UA career, including Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. He added Georgia to the list on the final weekend of the 2008 regular season as he hit three home runs in three straight games against the Bulldogs. He has never homered in his career against Auburn (9 games), and won't get a chance to homer against the Tigers since AU failed to make the SEC Tournament field.

Avila has homered in his last at-bat in each of the last two seasons against North Carolina (3-run HR) and Florida (solo HR).

Bentley has homered against eight of the 11 SEC teams in his UA career, including Auburn, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Tennessee. He has not homered against Georgia , LSU or Vanderbilt.

Alabama has hit back-to-back home runs six time this season, including four times in its last three SEC games. The Tide hit back-to-back home runs twice in its win at Arkansas. Alabama hit three straight home runs in the seventh inning against Auburn, which is believed to a be a first in the modern era of Crimson Tide baseball. Bentley cracked a three-run, opposite field home run to left field and Odle followed with an opposite field blast to left center field. Smith capped the home run streak with a shot down the left field line. All three home runs came off Auburn bullpen ace Bryan Woodall.

Among current players, Avila is the Tide's career leading home run hitter with 35 (20 solo, seven two-run, six three-run and two grand slam). Bentley has 23, Mathes 19, and Smith and Wilson 12 each.

Wilson tied an Alabama single game record with two home runs in the seventh inning against Mississippi State on April 19. Wilson led the Crimson Tide's eight-run seventh inning with a solo home run off MSU reliever Forrest Moore. After the Tide batted around, Wilson hit a two-run home run off a second MSU relief pitcher Greg Houston, a former teammate of Wilson's at Hoover High School, to cap the eight-run inning. Wilson become the fourth player in school history to swat two home runs in an inning, joining Frank Velleggia , Joe Caruso, and G.W. Keller.

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