Tide Baseball Contends For Title
In a sense, all baseball wins are equal. But something feels good about Alabama winning in the second half. At the midway point of the season, Alabama had a record of 7-8, and expectations were low, Crimson Tide Coach Jim Wells on a bit of a hot seat.
Following Bama's 6-5 Sunday win over Arkansas, completing a sweep of the previously No. 1 ranked Razorbacks, Alabama is gaining in national attention, Wells is a solid candidate for SEC Coach of the Year, and Bama is flirting with the regular season conference championship. The Tide has top candidates for Player of the Year in outfielder Kent Matthes and Pitcher of the Year in Austin Hyatt.
Alabama has one more week of games, and then plays in the SEC Tournament at Hoover. An NCAA invitation seems a sure thing, and a regional berth begins to loom as a possibility.
Here are some Alabama baseball notes:
Alabama (35-15, 17-9 SEC) is in thick of the SEC Championship race. The Crimson Tide is one-half game behind SEC-leading LSU (39-13, 18-9 SEC) with three games to play. Alabama is also one-half game ahead of third-place Ole Miss (37-15, 17-10) and Florida (35-17, 17-10). Alabama closes out the season next weekend Auburn, while LSU plays at Mississippi State. Ole Miss travels to Arkansas, and Florida hosts Kentucky.
Alabama has won seven straight games and six straight SEC games. Since April 1, Alabama is 18-5 in its last 23 games and has won 10 of its last 11 and 14 of its last 17 SEC games.
Senior right fielder Kent Matthes of Orlando, Fla., hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the third inning, his 25th home run of the season to tie Dustan Mohr (1997) for second place on the school's single-season home run list. Mohr, who was one of an NCAA-record four UA players to hit 20 home runs in one season, hit 25 home runs in 1997.
Alabama hit five home runs on Sunday, including four solo shots, and now has 100 home runs this season. The 2009 team is the fourth team in school history to hit 100 or more home runs, joining the 1997 (160), 1998 (122) and 1999 (120) squads.
Sophomore second baseman Ross Wilson (Hoover) extended his hitting streak to a season-high 10 games with a clutch; two-out hit in the seventh inning and later scored what proved to be the decisive run.
Junior first baseman Clay Jones (Centerville) extended his hitting streak to eight games with a solo home run in the fourth inning.
Senior catcher Vin DiFazio (Hampton, N.J.) extended his hitting streak to eight games with an eighth-inning single. He has reached base safely in 13 consecutive games. DiFazio was being given the day off, but was inserted into the game late for defensive purposes and got the hit in his only at-bat.
There are seven teams that have clinched SEC Tournament berths, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi and South Carolina. Vanderbilt and Kentucky are the only two teams in contention for the final spot. Auburn, Mississippi State and Tennessee have been eliminated.