Alabama Baseball Goes To Kentucky

C.M. Newton is most associated with basketball. But the former Alabama and Vanderbilt head coach and Kentucky athletics director and Basketball Hall of Fame member played both baseball and basketball at Kentucky. And Newton still remembers facing off against the Crimson Tide in the 1950 Southeastern Conference baseball playoffs.

Newton was a fine pitcher who would go on to a brief career in the New York Yankees system. But when the Wildcats got to Tuscaloosa to start the series, Newton became keenly aware of the Alabama pitching rotation. It included the Lary brothers, Frank and Al, and Al Worthington—all future major league pitchers.

Alabama won the SEC Championship by defeating Kentucky three games to one in that 1950 series.

The 2010 series in Lexington this weekend isn't as important as that 1950 title match was, but it is nevertheless important for Coach Mitch Gaspard's Crimson Tide. There is a difficult schedule ahead for Bama. This weekend, Bama is facing a Kentucky team that has struggled, and Alabama needs to take advantage. Alabama is 20-9 on the season and 4-4 in SEC games and is coming off series win over Auburn last weekend. The Wildcats are 19-11 overall and 2-7 in league games.

The series in Cliff Hagan Stadium has games at 5:30 p.m. CDT Friday and Saturday and noon Sunday.

Alabama will go with left-hander Adam Morgan (4-0 with a 3.60 ERA) in today's game against Kentucky's left-handed Logan Darnell (3-2, 4.50). On Saturday Bama pitches right-hander Jimmy Nelson (4-0, 2.52) against Wildcats left-hander Taylor Rogers (3-3, 5.31). Alabama has not announced a Sunday pitcher. Kentucky will go with right-hander Alex Meyer (4-2, 7.64).

Alabama is ranked 24th by Baseball America and 25th by USA Today/ESPN Coaches and National Colegiate Basebal Writers Association.

Alabama sophomores Jon Kelton and Taylor Dugas are among the NCAA Division I baseball statistical leaders when the NCAA released its weekly baseball statistics Tuesday, April 6. Kelton leads the nation with a .607 on base percentage, while Dugas is second nationally with a .598 on-base percentage through games of Sunday, April 4. As of April 5, Kelton had reached base 51 times in 84 plate appearances this season, including 22 hits, 20 walks and nine hit by pitch. Dugas has been on base 73 times in 122 plate appearances, including 43 hits, 28 walks and two hit by pitch. In addition, Dugas leads the SEC and ranks seventh nationally with a .467 batting average. He is also seventh in walks (28) and 10th in walks per games (1.04). He is also the seventh toughest Division I hitter to strikeout this season. Dugas has three strikeouts in 92 at-bats or one strikeout for every 30.7 at bats through April 4.

Alabama holds a 52-31 lead in the series with Kentucky, which dates back to the 1925 college baseball season. Although the two schools first met in the 1920s, they did not play each other on an annual basis until 1986. The Tide holds a 20-13 series lead in Lexington and owns a 4-3 mark at neutral sites. Alabama won two out of three from Kentucky last season, the fourth straight series in Tuscaloosa won by Bama.

Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard will be making his coaching debut against UK. Kentucky Coach Gary Henderson is 1-2 against the Crimson Tide.

Scouting the Wildcats:

Kentucky opened the season by winning 10 of its first 11 games, including a seven-game winning streak. Since then, the Wildcats have gone 9-10, including seven losses in nine SEC games.

UK is hitting .291 (295-for-1013) on the season with 42 home runs and 197 RBI. The Wildcats average 7.2 runs and 9.8 hits per game. The offense is built around speed and power. In addition to the 42 home runs, UK has 68 stolen bases in 83 attempts this season. The Wildcats average 2.27 stolen bases per game.

Senior utility man Gunner Glad (.364, 7 HR, 30 RBI), sophomore outfielder Chad Wright (.355, 2 HR, 23 RBI) and senior infielder Chris Bisson (.340, 2 HR, 18 RBI) are the top three hitters in UK's talented lineup. Sophomore outfielder Cory Farris, sophomore infielder Andy Burns and Glad share the team lead with seven home runs.

On the mound, UK sports one of the nation's top pitching staffs. The Cats own a 19-11 record with six saves and 4.48 ERA. UK opponents are hitting only .271 and average 5.2 runs and 9.4 hits per game. In addition to sgtarters Darnell, Rogers, and Meyer, the bullpen is anchored by three more outstanding arms in sophomore righty Braden Kapteyn (6 G, 1-0, 1 SV, 0.00 ERA), junior left-hander Mike Kaczmarek (8 G, 1-0, 1.59 ERA) and junior right-hander Matt Little (13 G, 1-1, 2.96 ERA, 4 SV).

Kentucky owns a .964 fielding mark this season and has committed 44 errors in 30 games. Junior infielder Taylor Black has 13 errors. UK has also turned 31 double plays, more than one per game.

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