Bama Baseball Goes To Penthouse

Alabama finished regular season play on a real downer, at Auburn and losing two of three games. But things pick up this week as the Crimson Tide makes a return appearance to the Southeastern Conference Tournament at Region Park in suburban Birmingham.

Things were bad for Alabama baseball last week. The Crimson Tide finished regular season play on the road for the sixth consecutive season. Bama was in Auburn, and the weather was terrible. Worst of all, Alabama didn't look anything like a team playing for the SEC Championship.

Alabama's bats didn't wake up until late Sunday, after Bama had already lost two low-scoring games in the series. The Tide finally torched the Tigers, 13-3 in the Sunday game.

Alabama would have been regular season champion with a sweep of Auburn. Instead, the Tide finished third in the SEC Western Division and is the number four seed heading into the SEC Tournament, which begins Wednesday and concludes Sunday.

Alabama finished regular season play with a 37-17 record and 18-11 SEC mark. The Crimson Tide finished third in the SEC Western Division behind league co-champions LSU and Mississippi. Alabama also finished one-half game behind SEC Eastern Division champion and the third-place team Florida.

Alabama is scheduled to meet South Carolina, the number five seed, at 8:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday. If history is an example, the game will begin much later.

Number two seed Florida will take on number seven seed Arkansas at 10 a.m. to get the tournament started. Number three seed Ole Miss and number six seed Georgia follow at 1:30 p.m. The night session features number one seed LSU and number eight seed Vanderbilt at 5 p.m., followed by Bama and South Carolina.

Alabama is making its fifth straight SEC Tournament appearance, the third-longest active streak in the league. Only South Carolina (13) and Mississippi (7) have played in more consecutive SEC Tournaments than the Tide.

Published reports are that Alabama's Jake Smith, the hard-hitting third baseman who became a fine closer for Bama this year, would be available to pitch in the tournament. Smith has been playing third or serving as designated hitter since injuring his arm against Arkansas.

Alabama has had very good luck at Regions Park (formerly the Hoover Met) since the stadium opened in 1988. The Tide has compiled a 34-18 record (65.3 per cent winning) since first playing there in 1989.

Alabama has captured four SEC Tournament championships in Hoover–1996, 1999, 2002 and 2003 under Coach Jim Wells. Alabama is 7-4 (63.6 per cent) in regular season games at Regions Park and 27-14 (65.9 per cent) in SEC Tournament games.

Senior right fielder Kent Matthes tied the Alabama single-season record with his 27th home run of the season in the series finale at Auburn on May 16. Doug Duke also hit 27 home runs in 1986. Matthes hit an opposite-field, solo home run in the second inning to jump start the UA offense with a 1-0 lead.

Matthes also became the school's all-time leader with his 23rd outfield assist in the series opener against Auburn. Matthes picked up the record-breaking assist in the ninth inning when he threw out Auburn's Casey McElroy after a base hit to right field. McElory rounded first base and was thrown out in an attempt to get back to the bag. Matthes broke the record of 22 career outfield assists held by Scott McClanahan from 1999-2002. Matthes has seven assists this season to go along with seven assists in 2007 and 2008. He had two outfield assists as a freshman in 2006.

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