Baseball officially opens practice

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama baseball team held its first full-squad practice on Monday as preparations for the 2003 season continued at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

The Crimson Tide team practiced twice on Monday, taking advantage of the school's Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday.

During the morning session, Alabama worked on hitting and base running. In the afternoon, the Crimson Tide pitchers worked in the bullpen, while the team on defense and play situations.

"We had a good first day," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "It was good to get the entire team out on the field and get started. We have been in individual workouts since October, so it was good to see everybody on the field at the same time today."

Alabama (51-15, 20-10 SEC) won the SEC Western Division and SEC Tournament Championship, while advancing to its seventh NCAA Regional in eight seasons under Wells.

Senior Beau Hearod (Jennings, La.) is the Crimson Tide's leading returning hitter off last year's squad. As a junior, Hearod batted .335 with 12 home runs and 54 RBI. Senior outfielder Travis Garner (.323, 6 HR, 31 RBI) also returns to the UA lineup.

In addition, the Crimson Tide will also return senior infielder Carlos Sosa (.269, HR, 16 RBI), junior shortstop Adam Pavkovich (.272, 6 HR, 31 RBI) and sophomores Allen Rice (2B, .247, 18 RBI) and Zac Welch (1B, .229, HR, 14 RBI).

The pitching staff will be built around five returnees led by preseason All-American Taylor Tankersley. The sophomore from Vicksburg, Miss., posted an 8-5 record and 2.62 ERA last season for the Crimson Tide. He matched the single-season record for wins by freshman and added seven save en route to earning Freshman All-American honors by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association.

Joining Tankersley on the mound are senior Brian Reed (RHP, 5-0, 1.75 ERA, 9 Saves), juniors Jeffrey Norris (LHP, 6-1, 3/34 ERA) and Jared Woodward (RHP, 6-1, 4.52 ERA) and sophomore Brent Carter (LHP, 2-0, 3.31 ERA, 2 Saves).

Alabama will practice each day this week at 2 p.m. at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Crimson Tide will hold three scrimmages at the stadium this weekend, beginning Friday. Coach Wells said all 18 pitchers were scheduled to throw three innings apiece this weekend and that would amount to one nine-inning game on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All scrimmages are free and open to the public.

The Crimson Tide will open the 2003 season at the Astros College Classic in Houston, Texas Feb. 14-16. Alabama will play Louisiana-Lafayette (Friday, Feb. 14), No. 5 Houston (Saturday, Feb. 15) and No. 2 Rice (Sunday, Feb. 16). All three games beign at 11 a.m.

Season tickets are also available for the upcoming 2003 season by calling the Alabama Ticket Office (205-348-2262).

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