Alabama Baseball On The Road Again

GAINESVILLE, Ala. – Playing its sixth road game in the last seven games, the 24th ranked Alabama baseball team arrived in Gainesville early Thursday morning for a three-game series with the 23rd-ranked Florida Gators at McKethan Stadium this weekend.

The series opener is set for today at 5:30 p.m. (CDT). The two teams will also meet on Saturday at 3:07 p.m. (CDT) and Sunday at noon (CDT). The Saturday game will be televised live by FSN Florida with Mic Hubert and Nick Belmonte calling the action.

Alabama (16-7, 3-3) drove through the night to Gainesville, arriving at the hotel at 6:15 a.m. (CDT) Thursday morning, after its game with UAB at Regions Park in Hoover was suspended Wednesday night in the sixth inning. The NCAA officially ruled it a suspended game on Thursday and the two teams will resume the game at a later date. The Crimson Tide and Blazers were tied 2-2 when the game was finally suspended.

The Crimson Tide is in the midst of playing six-of-seven games away from Tuscaloosa. Alabama played at 12th-ranked Mississippi last weekend and is playing its second straight SEC road series this weekend.

So is Alabama Coach Jim Wells worried that his team might road weary in Gainesville?

"I might be more concerned had we not driven all night and had today (Thursday) to recover," Wells said. "Plus, it's still early in the season. It might be a problem if it was later in the year, but this is a veteran team, so I think we are fine."

Wells spent most his day Thursday looking over a Gators' roster that steals a lot of bases and has some quality arms on the mound.

"They like to run and we've got to do a better job in the running game," Wells said. "They seem to be very aggressive on the bases and put the ball in play a lot. Pitching-wise, there are a lot of familiar names. The word is they pitch very well and don't score a lot of runs."

Florida is hitting .278 with 12 home runs and 121 RBI this season. The offense is led by infielder Josh Adams (.367, 2 HR, 13 RBI) and All-SEC centerfielder Matt den Dekker (.348, 4 HR, 15 RBI). The Gators have 19 stolen bases, with den Dekker leading the way with five steals. The pitching staff has compiled a 3.37 staff ERA in 23 games. Lefty Nick Maronde (5 GS, 1-1, 1.88 ERA) and right-hander Patrick Keating (7 G, 4 GS, 2-3, 4.68 ERA) are potential weekend starters, while Billy Bullock (13 G, 0-2, 2.25 ERA, 5 SV) has locked up the closer role for Kevin O'Sullivan's team.

Alabama will send senior right-hander Austin Hyatt (5 GS, 4-0, 2.57 ERA), freshman left-hander Adam Morgan (5 GS, 3-1, 3.10 ERA) and junior left-hander Del Howell (2 GS, 2-0, 0.00 ERA) to the mound this weekend.

"I am happy that we have three starters for this weekend," Wells said. "We are just going to have to keep rotating in relievers. With (sophomore right-hander Nathan) Kilcrease doing well, then his role goes up. We don't have a set guy, but hopefully that will develop. We may have to use five guys to get three outs in the ninth inning."

Kilcrease earned his first save of the season on Tuesday against UAB and has allowed only one run in his last 11 innings on the mound.

Senior right fielder Kent Matthes (.424, 15 HR, 41 RBI) continues to lead the nation with 15 home runs this season.

The Orlando, Fla., native, has homered in 13 of his 22 games this season, with three multi-homer games against Southeast Missouri (Feb. 22), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (March 7) and Mississippi (March 22). He has at least one home run against nine of UA's 11 opponents.

Freshman left fielder Taylor Dugas (.420, 2 HR, 17 RBI) is riding a 13-game hitting streak, where he is batting .475 (28-for-59) with two home runs and 13 RBI. He is second in the SEC with nine doubles.

Junior third baseman Jake Smith (.342, 6 HR, 19 RBI) has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games, including a five-game hitting streak. Since Feb. 28, Smith is batting ..418 (23-for-55) with six home runs and 17 RBI. He was 3-for-21 (.143) in his first six games.

Sophomore shortstop Josh Rutledge (.344, 3 HR, 21 RBI) is 6-for-9 with three home runs and nine RBI in his last two games.

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