There Are Some Things To Like

There are some things to like about Alabama's chances against nationally-ranked Auburn when the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament begins Wednesday morning at Hoover.

Alabama (34-21 overall, 15-15 in SEC games) will be opening the tournament with first pitch shortly after 9:30 a.m. CDT at Regions Park in suburban Birmingham. The game will be regionally televised. Auburn (39-17, 20-10) won the SEC Western Division. The last time Auburn was in the SEC Tournament, no player on the current team was old enough to legally drive a car. It has been a seven-year drought for Auburn in the league tournament.

Alabama, a traditional SEC baseball power, is making its sixth consecutive trip to the tournament, but its first under Coach Mitch Gaspard. Alabama has generally had good performances in the tournament, but has not won this event since 2003.

Most expect a large crowd Wednesday morning, and large crowds at the SEC Tournament are usually large Crimson Tide crowds. The top seven turnouts ever and 14 of the top 15 have been for Bama games. That works in Alabama's favor.

Auburn is the league's best home run hitting team, far ahead of Alabama.The Tigers have slugged 114 round-trippers (the second best team in the SEC is 31 back of that). Of the eight teams in the tournament, Bama is next to last with 53 home runs, one more than Vanderbilt. But Regions Park is not a bandbox. It's 340 down the lines, 385 in the gaps, and 405 to center. Perhaps some of those Auburn home runs can be held to triples...or even flyouts.

Finally, Alabama will be going with its ace pitcher, Jimmy Nelson. Auburn will not be pitching its best. Auburn has announced that left-handed sophomore Cory Luckie (6-3, 6.17 ERA) will get the start on Wednesday against Alabama while junior Grant Dayton (8-2, 4.61) is expected to get the call on Thursday in game two against either South Carolina or Ole Miss.

Alabama and Auburn played against each other four times in the regular season. Alabama won two of the three games that counted in SEC play, while Auburn won the non-counting game so the teams split 2-2.

Alabama held a one-hour practice and met with the media on Tuesday at Regions Park. The Crimson Tide practiced from 10-11 a.m. (CDT) with infield-outfield practice, followed by a round of batting practice.

Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said, "I think the most important thing for us right now is to try and keep the good momentum we have going. We have a five-game winning streak and I think our psyche right now is we're in a better place than we have been in a long time. I think that is important for us to come in here and win some games and play well consistently throughout the tournament."

Gaspard said, "For all the teams this is a reward. Obviously it's competitive and everybody wants to win. This is such a long season and to have a great tournament like this is really special. The SEC and the city of Hoover do such a great job with this event. It's a nice reward for all the players to come here and enjoy themselves."

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