Alabama Baseball Has Done It Before

The task ahead seems great, perhaps overwhelming. An Alabama baseball team that has struggled this season—a current winning streak notwithstanding—is in Columbia to take on a South Carolina team that is ranked third in the nation.

Alabama is 27-15 overall and 8-10 in Southeastern Conference games after having won five straight games, including three consecutive SEC games over Mississippi State.

But Mississippi State is not South Carolina. The Gamecocks are 32-8 this year and lead the SEC overall standings with a 14-4 league record. South Cartolina is ranked third in the nation.

The Gamecocks are playing in new Carolina Stadium, so it will be Bama's first experience in the venue. The Crimson Tide is playing its third SEC road series in the most recent four weekends.

While Alabama is a decided underdog this weekend, the Crimson Tide can take some heart from history. Alabama leads the all-time series with South Carolina, 23-22. The teams have not met in the regular-season since 2007. This is Alabama's first trip to Columbia, S.C. since 2006 when UA took two of three games from the number-one ranked Gamecocks.

Alabama and South Carolina will meet at 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. central time) Friday, 1 p.m. EDT (noon central) in a Saturday game that will be regionally telecast, and finish on Sunday with first pitch at 1:30 EDT (12:30 central).

It is ace vs. ace in Friday's series opener. Alabama will go with right-hander Jimmy Nelson, who is 5-1 with a 3.86 earned run average. The Gamecocks will counter with right-hander Blake Cooper (8-0 with a 2.67 ERA).

On Saturday, Alabama will go with left-hander Adam Morgan (4-2, 5.91 ERA) against South Carolina's Sam Dyson (4-2, 4.35 ERA). Sunday's Alabama pitcher has not been announced by Coach Mitch Gaspard. The Gamecocks will pitch right-hander Jay Brown (2-0, 4.22 ERA).

A key to Alabama success this year has been getting the game into the right arm of junior relief pitcher Nathan Kilcrease. Kilcrease is having his best season in his three-year career for the Crimson Tide. The Phenix City native has compiled a 3-1 record with four saves and a 1.45 ERA in 25 appearances. Kilcrease has worked 43 2/3 innings and has allowed seven runs and 28 hits with 49 strikeouts and 11 walks.

He leads the SEC in appearances (25), relief appearances (25), earned run average (1.45), fewest runs (7) allowed, fewest earned runs (7) allowed, fewest hits (28) allowed, fewest doubles (3) allowed and fewest home runs (2) allowed.

Kilcrease has turned in 19 scoreless relief appearances this season and he opened the year by retiring the first 16 batters he faced over his first four outings. He has retired 20 of 25 first batters and stranded 10 of 15 inherited base runners.

Alabama's bullpen is 14-6 with 10 saves and 3.98 ERA this season. The Tide has used 13 different relievers. Last year, Alabama's bullpen was 11-12 with 11 saves and 5.67 ERA in 58 games.

On offense, Alabama has homered in six of its last seven games and hit 12 home runs in the past two weeks. That has jumped Bama from 12th in the SEC in home runs to a tie (with Vanderbilt) for 11th.

Interestingly, senior third baseman Jake Smith, who has been in a slump much of the season, has ignited two Bama come-from-behind wins with grand slam home runs and Smith now has five for his career. That leaves him one shy of the Alabama career record. Mike Pitisci played just one year at Alabama, but in 1984 he hit a record six grand slam home runs.

Clay Jones leads Alabama with a career-high 12 home runs this season, with seven of those home runs coming in his last 13 games. He has hit three home runs in the last two games, including his first career multi-homer game on Tuesday.

The Gamecocks have not played since a three-game sweep of Georgia last weekend in Athens.

After the South Carolina trip, Alabama will have the week off for final exams before returning to action next weekend against the Florida Gators at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

BamaMag Top Stories