Back In Action

Chris Ellis heads back home to pitch tonight. He's doing his best to keep it all in perspective.

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That's something the even keel Ellis doesn't really have a hard time doing. The Spain Park High School (Hoover, Ala.) product said it might not be just another locale but it is just another game, albeit an important one.

"I have to treat it like every other start, every other game," said the Rebels' Friday night starter, who lived in Alabama during his three high school years but in Nashville, Tenn., before that. "Just do what I do and as a team do what we do. Throw strikes and let the defense work behind me. Just not try to do too much."

Ellis was an Ole Miss fan growing up. Both his parents are native Mississippians and Ole Miss alums.

He and the Rebels find themselves atop the Southeastern Conference standings through two weekends. There are eight more three-game series to go before any champions are crowned or NCAA Regional hosts are decided. There are a lot of teams in the mix currently. Ole Miss is one. Alabama is another.

The Rebels are 21-5 overall and 4-2 in SEC play. Alabama is 16-8 and 3-3. Last weekend Ole Miss swept Missouri at home, while Alabama lost two of three at Arkansas.

The Crimson Tide did so by what might be considered unusual scores as far as the order they were posted. On Friday night they won 17-9 but lost the next two days 2-1 and 1-0.

Tonight the Tide will start Spencer Turnbull, a junior right-hander who is an Alabama native but has a little of that Ellis reverse incentive as well. Turnbull is a product of Madison Central High School in Madison, Miss.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder is 2-1 with an impressive 0.28 ERA in six starts and 32 innings.

Ellis, who was high school teammates of Alabama's Mikey White and Colton Freeman, said the season has gone about as well for him personally as he could have expected.

Spencer Turnbull
File Photo

"I was hoping this was where I'd be. So far so good," said Ellis, with a 0.67 ERA and a 4-0 in 40.1 innings pitched. "It's still early in SEC play. As long as I keep throwing the ball down in the zone and living down there and being able to throw three pitches in the strike zone hopefully it will continue to stay the same way."

Ellis, third statiscally among the league's pitchers behind Turnbull who is second and LSU's Aaron Nola (0.22 ERA, 5-0, 40.1 innings) who is first, said he likes this Rebel team and the possibilities.

"We've been swinging the bats great," he said. Christian Trent's doing a great job on Saturday. Sam Smith's giving us a great start every Sunday. The relief pitchers have been shut down so far. Defense has been solid. I like where we're at as a club."

He's also off to the type start he wanted for himself this year.

"I'd hoped the first two seasons would have gone a little better for me," he said. "Freshman season went OK. Last season was kind of a nightmare. Where I hoped I'd be junior year, this is it, pitching on Friday nights with a great offense behind me. Nationally ranked and headed to Alabama looking for more wins."

Scouting the Crimson Tide

Alabama is hitting .273 as a team, while averaging 5.9 runs and 9.5 hits per game. When the Tide scores three or more runs in a game they are 16-0. Alabama ranks fourth in the SEC with 16 home runs.

In winning 12 of their last 15 games, the Tide is hitting .303 with 29 doubles, three triples and 12 home runs for a .440 slugging percentage, while averaging 7.5 runs and 10.5 hits per game during that stretch.

The Alabama pitching staff has been solid, posting the fifth-best ERA in the SEC at 2.20. In 217 innings, Alabama has given up 62 runs (53 earned) on 145 hits with 187 strikeouts and 79 walks. Opponents are hitting .195 against the Tide, which ranks second in the SEC. Alabama is second in the country, allowing 6.0 hits per game.

Will Allen
Bruce Newman

Offensively, Alabama is led by senior first baseman Austen Smith, who has team-highs with a .377 average, three home runs and 21 RBI. Georgie Salem is second on the team with a .317 average, while leading the team in hits (33) and at-bats (104). Kyle Overstreet is on an eight-game hitting streak entering the weekend, and is now third on the team with a .300 average for the season. Mikey White is fourth on the team with a .293 average, while leading the team in walks (10) and most times hit by a pitch (7).

In addition to Turnbull, Saturday starter, junior LHP Justin Kamplain (2-2, 3.21 ERA), leads the team with 33 strikeouts and he's holding opponents to a .171 average this season, ranking ninth in the conference in both categories. Sunday starter, junior LHP Jon Keller (4-1, 1.64 ERA), leads the club and is tied for eighth in the SEC with four wins.

Midweek Action

While Alabama was taking care of instate rival Troy 10-5 Tuesday night in a game played in Pensacola's Double A Cincinnati Reds ballpark, the Rebels were losing to instate rival Southern Miss 5-3 in Pearl at Trustmark Park, the Atlanta Braves' Double A ballpark.

"Unfortunately it was one of those games," senior catcher Will Allen said of the loss to USM. "It's an instate rivalry and it's obviously important to play well. At the end of the day we didn't get it done. We're a better team than we showed. The important thing now is to make sure we've flushed it and have a good weekend at Alabama."

Allen said the team has done a nice job so far of setting things up for a positive run in the conference.

"We like where we are. We have a lot of confidence," he said. "There's some things we need to improve on. We're excited to see what the rest of the year holds."

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