Bama Hosts LSU In Big SEC Series

Just looking at the records, it doesn't seem that LSU should be ranked so much higher than Alabama. But there it is. LSU with a 24-8 record is second in the nation. Bama with a 21-10 mark isn't ranked. The teams meet in three games this weekend beginning at 6:35 p.m. CDT Friday. Games on Saturday (6 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.) will be televised regionally.

Alabama has been very good in Sewell-Thomas Stadium and the Crimson Tide needs a good series against LSU for Southeastern Conference ranking. The Tigers are second (to Arkansas) in the SEC Western Division with a record of 8-4, while the Tide is tied for fifth in the division at 6-6. Earlier this year Bama took two of three from Georgia in Tuscaloosa when the Bulldogs were ranked first in the nation.

One thing that stands out in Alabama baseball this year is power hitting, and particularly the home run hitting of Kent Matthes.

Alabama ranks among the national leaders in a number of categories. Alabama is third in slugging percentage (.595), fourth in home runs (62), fourth in home runs per game (2.07), eighth in hits (364), 12th in runs scored (274), 14th in doubles (74) and 18th in hitting (.340) and scoring (9.1). The pitching staff is 12th in strikeouts per nine innings (9.4), 25th in walks per nine innings (2.97) and 44th in earned run average (4.32). The Crimson Tide ranks 21st nationally with a .972 fielding percentage.

Crimson Tide senior right fielder Kent Matthes leads the nation in home runs (19), home runs per game (0.63) and total bases (115). He is second in slugging percentage (1.036), fifth in RBI (52) and fifth in RBI per game (1.62).

Matthes has homered in 15 of his 30 games this season and he has homered against 11 of the Tide's first 15 opponents. Matthes has four multi-homer games against Southeast Missouri State (Feb. 22), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (March 7), Mississippi (March 22) and Troy (April 7). Matthes' 19 home runs this season is one less than he had in his first three years at Alabama. He hit 11 home runs in 61 games last year. Matthes also ranks seventh on the school's all-time list with 39 career home runs. He surpassed Brent Boyd (1999-2002) and Matt Frick (1997-98) with his two home run game against Troy on April 7.

Some other Matthes home run fun facts:

*Homered in eight different innings, including season-best four home runs in the fourth inning

*Hit 15 of 19 home runs against right-handers (4 vs. LHP)

*Hit 12 of 19 home runs at home (6 HR on road; 1 HR at neutral site)

*Hit 12 of 19 home runs during the day (7 HR at night)

*Hit eight HRs with no outs; seven HRs with one out; four HRs with two outs

*Nine of his 19 home runs have tied the game or given Alabama the lead

*Has two-game winning home runs against Nicholls State (Feb. 25) and UIC (Feb. 28)

*Hit walk-off home run in 10th inning vs. NSU; one night after hitting for cycle

Alabama's starting pitcher in the opener Friday will be right-hander Austin Hyatt, who has a 5-1 record in his seven starts and who has a 3.02 earned run average. Saturday's scheduled starter is left-hander Del Howell (3-1, 3.27) and on Sunday it will be right-hander Adam Scott (1-0, 3.38).

LSU will go with all right-handers: Anthony Ranaudo (3-2, 2.66) on Friday, Austin Ross (4-3, 3.66) on Saturday and Louis Coleman (7-1, 2.11) on Sunday.

Alabama brings a season-high five-game winning streak into the LSU series.

Alabama leads the all-time series with LSU, 190-145-3 (.567) in a series that dates back to the 1906 season. The Tigers have the upper-hand of late wininng eight of the last nine series, including three in a row. Alabama has not won a series from LSU since taking two of three from the Tigers in Tuscaloosa in 2005. LSU has also won three of the last four series in Tuscaloosa. The series opener with LSU will represent Alabama's 3,700th all-time college baseball game and 1,500th all-time SEC baseball game. Alabama is the winningest program in SEC history with 2,311 wins and 14 SEC Championships.

Other SEC series this weekend are Vanderbilt at Arkansas, Florida at Auburn, Georgia at Kentucky, South Carolina at Ole Miss, and Mississippi State at Tennessee.

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