Big Baseball Week Starts Vs. Auburn

It really wasn't reasonable to expect the Alabama baseball team of Coach Mitch Gaspard to go undefeated this year. After all, this is Gaspard's first year as coach of the Crimson Tide. Now Bama hopes to get back on the winning track when the Tide goes to Montgomery Wednesday to face Auburn.

Alabama won the series at College of Charleston over the weekend, but lost the final game of the three-game trip with a heart-breaking 7-6 Sunday giveaway. A two-out, ninth inning error allowed the tying and winning runs to score as the Crimson Tide lost for the first time this year.

Bama had defeated Charleston by scores of 6-2 and 4-0 in earlier games. Along with an impressive 13-2 win over nationally-ranked Georgia earlier last week, Bama is now 8-1 on the season.

Bama's game against Georgia was at a neutral site, Hoover (home of the Southeastern Conference Tournament later this year) and did not count as a league game. This week Alabama and Auburn will play at 7 p.m. CST Wednesday at the Capital City Classic at Riverfront Stadium in Montgomery, another game that is officially not a conference game.

Later this week Bama will host Michigan State at 6:35 p.m. CST Thursday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, the start of a 10-game homestand. There will be four games against Stony Brook this weekend at the Joe–a single game at 6:35 p.m. Friday, a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, and a single game at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Gaspard's 8-0 start is the third-best start by a first-year coach in school history. Only Kid Peeples (10-0, 1897) and Wallace Wade (9-0, 1924) led their first UA squads to better starts. Indeed, the Crimson Tide's 8-0 start is tied for the sixth-best record to open as season in school history.

Each week, Alabama nominates a player, a pitcher and a freshman for SEC honors. Bama's nominees are:

Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge, who batted .353 (6-17) with two home runs and six runs batted in. He led Bama with runs scored (7), extra base hits (4), home runs (2), and runs batted in (6). He was 3-3 in stolen bases.

Junior right-handed pitcher Jimmy Nelson fired six shutout innings and recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts in the Tide's 4-0 series-clinching win at the College of Charleston Saturday. He did not walk a batter. (He teamed with Tyler White and Brett Whitaker on the shutout and the trio of hurlers combined for 16 strikeouts and no walks.)

Left-handed pitcher Taylor Wolfe is the freshman nominee. He earned the win over No. 25 Georgia and recorded a career-high seven strikeouts. He worked four innings and held the Bulldogs to two runs and four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in his first collegiate start. Wolfe struck out the side in the second and fourth innings.

Alabama Team Notes (from UofA Media Relations):

Alabama is hitting .331 and averaging 9.3 runs and 11.3 hits per game through nine games ... Alabama has outscored the opposition 28-2 in the first three innings this season ... The Tide is 15-for-19 in stolen bases this season, including 12-for-13 in the last four games ... Alabama was 8-for-9 on the base paths against Charleston ... Alabama is 5-for-10 with the bases loaded this year ... UA starters are hitting .303 with six home runs and 57 RBI ... The bench is hitting .543 (19-for-35) ... UA pinch-hitters are 9-for-19 (.474).

The pitching staff has eight wins, two saves, three holds and 2.86 ERA through nine games ... The Crimson Tide pitching staff has held the opposition to 2.4 runs and 7.2 hits per game ... The Tide pitched its first shutout of the 2010 season on Saturday, beating the College of Charleston 4-0 ... It was the Tide's first shutout since a 12-0 win over Alabama on March 18, 2009 ... It marked UA's first road shutout since a 5-0 win at Jacksonville State on March 26, 2008 ... The 4-0 win marked the first time Charleston had been shutout at home since a 6-0 loss to top-ranked Clemson on March 3, 2006 ... Alabama's starters are 5-0 with a 2.62 ERA in nine starts ...UA relief pitchers have retired 21 of 28 first batters this season and stranded seven of eight inherited runners.

Alabama is fielding .981 through nine games this season and has committed only six errors ... Three of those errors came in the Tide's 7-6 loss at College of Charleston on March 7 ... The Tide has played six errorless games this season ... From Feb. 27-March 7, Alabama logged 35 2/3 consecutive errorless innings and fielded 133 consecutive chances without an error ... Alabama has six outfield assists this season, by five different players, including freshman left fielder Brett Booth (2), sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas (1), senior right fielder Cal Tinsley (1), freshman right fielder Andrew Miller (1) and junior left fielder John David Smelser ... Booth tied an Alabama single-game record with two outfield assists in the series opener at Charleston ... G.W. Keller (vs. USC, 1997), Chad White (at LSU, 2002) and Gabe Scott (vs. Ole Miss, 2004) also had two outfield assists in one game ... UA has thrown out five runners at home this season.

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