In fact those are Houston’s only May innings until today. His last previous action was back on April 30, in the infamous Saturday double-header at, yes, Alabama. With the Dogs tied in extra innings of what was to be a 7-inning game, Houston entered to get a strikeout and end the bottom of the eighth. He returned with a one-run lead.
And, promptly walked what proved the tying runner on with four pitches. Those were the only two batters he faced.
But before then Houston had earned his last decision with 2.2 scoreless innings against Ole Miss in the Governors Cup victory. His other starts this season were against South Dakota State and Nicholls State back in February; then against Louisiana-Monroe in Biloxi.
So, this will be the third AA-park Houston has pick in for his season.
Prior to their Hoover opener, the Bulldogs will receive the 2016 SEC Championship trophy in an on-field presentation by commissioner Greg Sankey.
As the post-season opens, Bulldog OF Jake Mangum is the SEC’s top batter with his .427 average. There is no regular season ‘crown’ for the stat of course. So Mangum will have to maintain his lead up to the end of the campaign.
He does begin the SEC Tourney with a bit more margin. His competitor, Texas A&M’s Boomer White, went into a last-week slump and fell behind Mangum at .410. Now in the Aggies’ Wednesday loss to Vanderbilt, White went 1-of-4 to drop his rate to .408.
Mangum has been so hot for so long that his recent pace doesn’t stand out…by his standards. In the last ten games on the schedule the freshman was 21-of-46, or .457. He scored 13 times in the ten games, too. Though as the order-topper, and coming after the bottom of the lineup, RBI opportunities are scarce. He’s driven in just three teammates in this stretch.
Mangum has not had consecutive hitless games since March 24-25, against Georgia.
Alabama will start Geoffrey Bramblett in today’s game. He lasted 6.0 innings in the April 28 meeting on Thursday night, allowing six runs on four hits and three walks to take the loss. In the win Mangum went 3-of-5 with three runs and a rare RBI, while C/DH Jack Kruger was 2-of-3 with three runs and 1B Nate Lowe 2-of-4 with 3 RBI.
However, the rain-delayed Saturday double-header saw less State success against other Tide pitchers. Mangum was 1-of-8 in the twinbill; Lowe 1-of-7. The offense was carried by 3B Gavin Collins and OF Reid Humphreys that Saturday with three hits each.
Lowe went 0-for-5 in the regular season finale, spoiling his latest hot stretch. In the preceding four games he was 11-of-16 with 8 RBI and 7 runs.
But the previous six times Lowe went hitless, he came back the next game to have multi-hit games. For what it’s worth, in the six games AFTER he was oh-fered Lowe is a combined 16-of-23.
Kruger is as hot as anyone in the league going into tourney time. In his last eight games he has hit 17-of-36 with ten runs and 9 RBI. And Kruger has scored a run, or two, in the past eight games. He’s scored a run in 13 of the last 15 games.
Collins goes into tournament play on a 17-game hitting streak, in which he is 25-of-67 at the plate for a .373 rate. But he’s reached base in the last 20 games as well.
Lowe continues to lead the team in games with multiple hits, now at 24 ahead of Brent Rooker (21) and Kruger (20). Mangum interestingly has just—just—19 games with two or more hits.
Lowe is the only Bulldog to start all 55 games this season. He’s also started all of them at the same first base position. The second-most starts at the same spot? That would be Collins, 49 out of 55.
Here’s an obscure stat that computers make simple. It is the record of the team by what player plays a position, and by what spot in the order he hits.
Naturally Lowe, the lone full-season starter, has the most wins. State has won 28 times when he hits third in the order. But the best winning percentage is when Jack Kruger hits second, .781 with a 25-7 record.
Yes, as we said, an obscure stat.