Tide Opens SEC Tourney Vs. Auburn

Justin Kamplain

Alabama had all it could handle last weekend as the Crimson Tide baseball team was in Nashville to take on No. 1 Vanderbilt. It was no surprise that the Commodores took the series. What was a surprise is that Bama won one game and played Vandy very close in the other two.



In Alabama's win at Vandy, Justin Kamplain was one of many Tiders who performed heroically. Kamplain came into the second game of the series in the sixth inning with the score tied 2-2 and Vanderbilt having the bases loaded. Kamplain also pitched a scoreless seventh inning.

In all, Kamplain threw just 38 pitches. Kamplain, who has been a starter much of the season, gets his next starting assignment Tuesday when Bama takes on Auburn on the first day of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament at the Hoover Met. The winner moves into the double elimination segment of the tournament and plays LSU Wednesday. The loser heads home in the format that has four games Tuesday. (Two teams – Georgia and Tennessee – did not qualify for the tournament.)

Alabama vs. Auburn will begin following the opening game of the tournament. Ole Miss will meet Kentucky at 9:30 a.m. CDT. The Tide and Tigers will play beginning 30 minutes after the first game. Fox Sports will televise the game.

Alabama finished the regular season with a 32-24 overall record, and a 14-15 mark in SEC play. The Tide was fifth in the SEC West and the seventh overall seed. Auburn was 13-17 in SEC games, which was seventh in the SEC West, 10th overall. Auburn has an overall record of 33-22.

Kamplain, a sophomore left-hander, has a record of 1-0 with an earned run average of 4.53. Kamplain will make his 20th appearance and sixth start of the season on Tuesday. Kamplain started the year in the Alabama bullpen and collected a couple of saves earlier in the year. Kamplain is second on the team with 48 strikeouts in 51.2 innings pitched and is second on the team with 0.92 strikeouts per inning pitched. Auburn will start junior left-hander Conner Kendrick (5-3 with a 2.03 ERA).

Tuesday's game between Alabama and Auburn will mark the fifth meeting this season. Alabama lost to Auburn in what is essentially an exhibition game, played in Montgomery each year. The Tigers took a 6-3 win. In the games that counted in SEC play, Alabama took two of three games against Auburn in Auburn to win the series. The Tide took wins of 6-2 and 2-0 around a 6-3 loss.

Kendrick was the winning pitcher in Auburn's 6-3 win over the Tide in the Capital City Classic, but took the loss as the starter, when Alabama defeated the Tigers 6-2 in the SEC series opener on March 28.

The Crimson Tide is coming off a road SEC series loss at No. 1 Vanderbilt. Alabama dropped games one and three to the Commodores, 7-6 and 14-10, respectively. The Tide defeated the Dores 5-4 in 10 innings in game two of the series. Auburn earned the 10-seed in the tournament after posting a SEC series win at home over 11th-ranked Arkansas this past weekend. The Tigers won the first game 3-0, lost game two 1-0, then closed the series with an 11-6 win on Saturday.

Ben Moore leads the Crimson Tide with a .290 batting average, 38 RBI and a .438 slugging percentage this season. Moore is also tied for the team lead with 12 doubles, he leads the team with four triples and is fourth on the squad with four home runs. Mikey White led the team with a .350 batting average during SEC play and finished the regular season with a .284 average, equaling Kyle Overstreet for the second best average on the team. Brett Booth and Austen Smith are tied for the team lead with six home runs and Kenny Roberts, who had a grand slam on Thursday night at Vanderbilt, has five home runs and is tied with Booth with 43 runs scored.

When Alabama and Auburn meet on Tuesday, it will mark the 272 meeting all-time between the two schools. Alabama is 148-123 all-time versus the Tigers. The match-up in the SEC Tournament will be the ninth between the two schools, with the Tide holding a 5-3 record against the Tigers in the post-season event. In the most recent SEC Tournament match-up, Alabama posted a 7-1 victory in the opening game of the 2010 tournament.

Since the inception of the SEC Baseball Tournament in 1977, Alabama has advanced to the conference tournament 25 times. With the seven seed in this year's tournament, Alabama has been in the tournament field in eight of the last nine years. The Crimson Tide has a 43-36 (.544) record in the tournament. UA is second among the 14 SEC schools with seven tournament titles (1983, 95, 96, 97, 99, 2002, and 03). From 1950-76, Alabama appeared in seven SEC Playoff series, posting a 9-10 record with three championships (1950, 55, and 68).

Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said, "We're coming off a good weekend at Vanderbilt. We didn't win the series, but we played extremely tough against one of the best teams in the country. Offensively and position-wise we're in as good a place as we've been all year. Our offensive numbers are up the last three weeks.

"I think we can put together pitchers. We have some work to do in the bullpen where we have struggled some."

The Tide coach termed his squad "a youthful roster with a handful of older guys.

"We feel we've had a pretty solid year and that we're playing pretty good baseball going into the tournament.

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