Jake Smith A Man Of Several Roles

Coaches sometimes talk about "role" players. Jake Smith will have the opportunity to help the Alabama Crimson Tide baseball team in more than one role this weekend. Bama is in Starkville for an important Southeastern Conference series against the Bulldogs and Smith will be counted on as a hitter, fielder, and, perhaps, pitcher.

Alabama and Mississippi State are scheduled to play at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and finish the series Sunday afternoon. Coach Jim Wells' Crimson Tide team is battling for a spot in the SEC Tournament and, hopefully, the NCAA Tournament. Bama is currently ranked among the nation's top 25 teams.

Mississippi State, in its first season under Coach John Cohen (a Tuscaloosa native), is having a struggle. Still, the Bulldogs have formidable weapons.

Alabama has been primarily a team that wins by offense. Although starting pitching has been good, the bullpen has been suspect for much of the season. In recent weeks the relief pitching has become a plus in great part because of Jake Smith.

Alabama junior third baseman-turned-closer Jake Smith has become a real two-way threat for the Crimson Tide this season. The Hueytown native is having a career year at the plate, hitting .365 (58-for-159) with 16 home runs and 45 RBI in 40 games. He is the team's third-leading hitter, while his career-high 16 homers rank second on the team. Smith has a .767 slugging percentage, .391 on-base percentage and a 1.158 OPS this season.

He has 30 career home runs and has doubled his output from last season, when he had eight.

Two of his home runs this season have been grand slam homers.

He is one of three Alabama batters who has hit for the cycle this year (meaning he had a single, a double, a triple and a home run in the same game).

He made his debut on the mound in a win over Alabama A&M on March 17 and now has six appearances. Jake Smith is 0-1 with two saves and 2.13 ERA and now assumes the role as the Tide's closer. He has both of UA's saves in SEC games this season, closing out wins over Vanderbilt (April 18) and Kentucky (April 26).

He has worked 12 2/3 innings and allowed three runs and 10 hits with 13 strikeouts and three walks. UA opponents are hitting .213 against him this season.

Smith was standout pitcher and hitter during his prep career at Hueytown High School. As a senior, he finished the season 12-1 as a pitcher with four saves. He had 132 strikeouts in 96 innings with just 27 walks. His 1.17 ERA was among the best in the state, as were his six shutouts.

Here, courtesy of Alabama Associate Media Relations Director Barry Allen, are some of the notable two-way stars in Alabama baseball history:

Paul Phillips (1998) - started 63 games ... saw action as outfielder, catcher and pitcher in 1998 ... hit .344 with 10 home runs and 38 RBI ... tallied 94 hits ... made seven appearances on the mound ... posted 1-1 record with two saves and 3.65 ERA ... struck out 12 batters in 12 innings ... earned win over Florida in 1998 SEC Tournament elimination game..

Roberto Vaz (1997) - started 63 games in lone season at UA in 1997 ... played left field and used as Tide's closer .... also made four starts on the mound ... hit .400 with 22 home runs and 74 RBI .... recorded 102 hits and nine triples ... led team with 87 runs scored ... went 4-1 with eight saves and 3.40 ERA in 22 games on the mound ... added 52 strikeouts and 50 innings.

Corey Spiers (1996) - played 49 games for the Tide ... hit .297 with eight home runs and 39 RBI in 42 games as starting outfielder ... also made 16 appearances on the mound with eight starts ... compiled 4-2 record with two saves and 3.36 ERA ... pitched 48 2/3 innings.

Al Drumheller (1991-93) - a two-way player in all three years of his UA career ... best season came in 1993 when he won UA's triple crown by hitting .323 with eight home runs and 38 RBI in 52 starts ... compiled 9-4 record and 4.22 ERA in 18 games on the mound ... made 16 starts ... led UA in games, wins, innings pitched (98) and strikeouts (82) in 1993.

Joe Vitiello (1989-91) - a two-way player for the Tide in 1990 and 1991 ... hit .364 with 11 home runs and 53 RBI in 1990 as sophomore ... also posted 4-3 record and 3.25 ERA on the mound ... added one complete game ... he hit two home runs and was the winning pitcher in 9-0 win over Ohio State helped him earn Collegiate Baseball newspaper National Player of the Week honors in 1990 ... hit .395 as a junior (1991) with 15 home runs and 67 RBI ... went 4-5 with 5.13 ERA in 14 games on the mound ... closed out the 1991 regular season by hitting four home runs in double header sweep of Vanderbilt and picking win on the mound in game one as UA clinched SEC Tournament berth in the final day of the regular season.

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