Root, Root, Root For The Home Team

"Play Ball!" Jim Wells has heard that a few times. He'll hear it again at 6:35 p.m. CST Friday when Alabama baseball opens the 2009 season hosting Southeast Missouri State at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

Wells begins his 15th season as Alabama head baseball coach this weekend. In addition to the Friday opener, the Tide will play Southeast Missouri State in single games at 4:05 p.m. Saturday and 2:05 p.m. Sunday.

Alabama is beginning its 117th year of intercollegiate baseball. The Crimson Tide is ranked 21st by Baseball America and 40th by Collegiate Baseball. The Tide was picked by Southeastern Conference coaches to finish third in the SEC Western Division.

Wells has compiled a record of 588-300 at Alabama, best in Crimson Tide baseball history. He is sixth among SEC coaches on the all-time win list and needs just 12 victories to become the sixth SEC coach to reach the 600-win plateau.

Alabama has three preseason All-America players, junior Brandon May (Marietta, Ga.) and sophomores Josh Rutledge (Cullman) and Ross Wilson (Hoover). May is also a 2009 Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Award candidate and second-team All-America by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA). He hit .365 last season with nine home runs and 50 RBI. He has started 87 consecutive games for the Tide. Rutledge was named preseason All-America by the NCBWA and College Baseball Insider after hitting a team-best .369 average with 31 RBI last year. Rutledge was also tabbed as one of the SEC's best pure hitters and best base runners by College Baseball Insider. Wilson is a first-team All-America selection by Baseball America after a record-setting freshman year. He hit .295 with 15 home runs and 47 RBI in 2008. He tied the UA freshman record with 15 home runs.

Senior outfielder Kent Matthes (Orlando, Fla.) joins May, Rutledge and Wilson on the preseason All-SEC team.

On the mound, fifth-year senior Austin Hyatt will be making his first career opening day start for Alabama. He was 5-4 with 4.53 ERA in 17 games as a junior last season. Senior Miers Quigley (Roswell, Ga.) and freshman Adam Morgan (Marietta, Ga.) will complete the weekend rotation.

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