Pitching Gem In Store

Most Friday nights in Southeastern Conference play the 12th-ranked Alabama baseball team (28-12 overall, 10-5 SEC) appears on the better end of the starting pitching statistical comparison, but Bama's Friday night series opener against 16th-ranked Vanderbilt (25-13 overall, 10-5 SEC) at Sewell-Thomas Stadium will be different.

Vanderbilt sophomore David Price is a 6-6, 210-pound lefty with a mid-90s fastball. He will start opposite Wade LeBlanc (6-0, 2.97 ERA), Alabama's left-handed starter and Ace for the past three seasons.

"It's like trying to hit (Sandy) Kofax," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said Price. "You don't see that every day in the SEC."

For the last six weeks Price was named SEC Pitcher of the Week four times, LeBlanc once.

Price (5-2, 2.34 ERA) has allowed just 41 hits in his 65 and a third innings and allowed 17 runs. He has a five-to-one strike out ratio (104 strike outs, 20 walks) and is second the country in strike outs.

"He's more blessed than most pitchers," LeBlanc (photo at right) said.

Both pitchers have had their most lackluster outings in recent weeks, however. After locating his fastball the best he had all year against top-ranked Mississippi State three weeks ago, the junior has had trouble spotting the fastball in recent weeks. LeBlanc had nine walks entering the South Carolina series two weeks ago and totaled 10 free passes in his last two outings.

"I think I'm just getting the ball up," LeBlanc said. "I guess I'm trying to miss bats too much, a little bit more than I used to. I need to just get back to the way I used to pitch and start going right at them, trying to stay down in the zone as opposed to trying to get them to swing and miss. Everything will be fine."

Price had a sub-par outing last weekend against Georgia, however, giving up eight hits, three walks and five runs in five and two third innings.

The series opener is not the only game with good pitching. All six starters this weekend rank among the SEC's leaders in wins and earned run average. Alabama's weekend starters are a combined 17-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 27 starts this season, while Vandy's weekend rotation has a 13-5 record and 2.56 ERA in 26 starts.

Vanderbilt Freshman third baseman Pedro Alvarez was named National Hitter of the Week by both Collegiate Baseball and the National Baseball Writers Association after blasting six homers in four games last week.

Friday night's game at Sewell-Thomas Stadium is scheduled to being at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are still available for the game at the box office.

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