Alabama Baseball Hosts Minnesota

Last week, Alabama's baseball team lost some important games to the weather. When the Crimson Tide finally got to play, the results were outstanding. This week Bama has a "name" midweek opponent before starting Southeastern Conference play this weekend.

The Alabama team of first-year coach Mitch Gaspard improved its record to 12-1 with four wins over Stony Brook in a three-game stretch last weekend. This week the Crimson Tide will host Minnesota in single games at 6:35 p.m. CDT Tuesday and Wednesday, then open SEC competition hosting Vanderbilt in games Friday (6:35), Saturday (3:05) and Sunday (2:05).

Alabama has recorded two shutouts this season, beating College of Charleston (4-0) and Stony Brook (5-0). Junior right-hander Jimmy Nelson was the winning pitcher in both games and has a streak of 13 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings. Nelson, freshman left-hander Taylor Wolfe, and junior left-hander Jonathan Smart started the final three games of the Stony Brook series on the mound and allowed only one run while striking out 16 in 18 innings.

Nelson and Wolf are among Alabama's three candidates for SEC weekly honors.

Nelson, a native of Niceville, Fla., is Bama's nominee for SEC Pitcher of the Week. He has had his shutout performances in back-to-back games. In his six innings against Stony Brook last weekend he held the Seawolves to four hits while striking out seven and walking four.

Wolf, who is from Fortson, Ga., is the Tide's nominee for SEC Freshman of the Week. He earned his second win of the season with six solid innings against Stony Brook. Wolf allowed one run and five hits, with one walk and six strikeouts in his first weekend start and improved his record to 2-0. His other win came in his first career start against No. 25 Georgia at Regions Park in Hoover on March 3.

Alabama's SEC Player of the Week nominee is second baseman Ross Wilson, a junior from Hoover. Wilson hit .467 (7-for-15) with three home runs and 10 RBI in the four-game series sweep against Stony Brook. He had two game-winning RBI in the series. He compiled an 1.133 slugging percentage and a .500 on-base mark and scored five runs. He went 2-for-5 in the series opener with a two-run home run in the first inning to jump start the Tide's 15-run outburst. He was 1-for-3 with one RBI in the Tide's 5-0 win in game two, collecting a first-inning sacrifice fly. Wilson tied his career high with two home runs and six RBI in the 13-6 win in game three. He hit a three-run home run in the seventh and another three-run homer in the eighth inning in the win. He capped the weekend with a 2-for-4 game in series finale, with one double, one RBI and one run scored.

Wilson's two-homer game Saturday was his third career multi-home run game at Alabama. He also hit two home runs in games against Mississippi State on April 19, 2008, and Coastal Carolina on May 31, 2008. The six RBI matched his career high set previously against Youngstown State on March 7, 2008.

The four-game series sweep was the first by an Alabama team since the 1946 season when first-year coach Millard "Dixie" Howell (best known as the left halfback on the Alabama Rose Bowl football team that also starred the likes of Don Hutson and Paul Bryant) led the Tide to a four-game sweep of Mississippi State.

Alabama is off to its best start since the 1997 team opened the with a school-record 15-game winning streak. The Crimson Tide owns a 14-game home winning streak, dating back to last season.

Senior first baseman Clay Jones hit his team-leading fifth home run of the season in the first inning Sunday. Jones has five home runs and 21 RBI in 12 games for Alabama. He left the game with what is believed to be a badly sprained ankle.

Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge went 2-for-3 on Sunday to extend his hitting streak to eight games. It is the longest of the season by an Alabama player. Junior left fielder John David Smelser went 1-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to six games.

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