Delta Devils Visit Sewell-Thomas

Jon Keller

Alabama's baseball weekend – on paper – could not be any more different than a weekend ago. Although Crimson Tide baseball attention on the past doesn't go back a full week, only to Bama's 4-3 victory over Auburn in Montgomery on Wednesday, Alabama had a very tough assignment last weekend, playing at Louisiana-Lafayette.



This weekend Alabama is home to Mississippi Valley State at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

Here's the notable difference: Louisiana was ranked 10th in the nation and the Ragin' Cajuns shut Alabama out in the first two games of the series in Lafayette. The Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils are 0-12 as they come to Tuscaloosa.

Alabama salvaged the final game of the Louisiana series in impressive fashion with l2 hits in a 12-6 decision. The Crimson Tide's mid-week win over Auburn in the Capital City Classic in Montgomery improved the Bama record to 6-5 on the year.

The Mississippi Valley State series begins at 6 p.m. CST today and continues with games at 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

The Sunday game has an interesting development in that Jon Keller will get his first start of the season. Keller is coming off a very good outing from the bullpen last Sunday in the win over Louisiana Lafayette, when he pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up six hits and two runs in getting the victory. On the year he is 3-0 and with a tealm-high 15 2/3 innings pitched (all in relief) has a 1.15 earned run average. Keller is a junior left-hander.

Spencer Turnbull is tonight's starter for Alabama. The junior right-hander is 0-1, but has an impressive 0.61 ERA and a team-best 16 strikeouts. Saturday the Tide will go with junior left-hander Justin Kamplain (1-1, 3.60).

Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard would be expected to get his 350th career head coaching victory this weekend. He has 139 wins at Bama and had 210 at Northwestern State.

The Crimson Tide is hitting .258 as a team this season, while averaging 3.9 runs and 9.3 hits per game. Alabama scored 12 runs against ULL on Sunday, marking the most for the Tide since scoring 15 runs against Samford on March 19, 2013. The 21 hits against UL-Lafayette on March 2, marked the first 20-hit performance for UA since having 20 against Tennessee on March 17, 2013, and the most since having 23 hits against Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 27, 2010.

The Alabama pitching staff has been solid this season, posting the fifth best ERA in the SEC with a 2.23 mark. In 101 innings, Alabama has given up 31 runs (25 earned) on 67 hits with 72 strikeouts and 44 walks. Opponents are hitting just .198 against the Tide this season. In 51 innings this season, the Tide bullpen has allowed just 11 runs (9 earned) for a 1.59 ERA, while allowing a .234 batting average.

Alabama is 4-2 when playing at Sewell-Thomas Stadium and 2-3 away from home this season.

Offensively, the Tide is paced by Georgie Salem's .327 batting average. Salem, who has the longest active hitting streak on the team at four games, leads the team with 16 hits. Austen Smith is hitting .297 and leads the club with seven RBI. Ben Moore is second on the team with six RBI and his seven runs scored through 11 games is tops on the team.

Thomas Burrows, a freshman pitcher, was MVP of the Capital City Classic for his relief performance in the win over Auburn. He has four appearances this year and has not yielded a run. He has struck out seven and opponents are hitting .045 against him in his 7 1/3 innings pitched.

After being swept in four games by Alabama State last weekend, Mississippi Valley State enters the weekend series against the Tide with a 0-12 record. The Delta Devils are hitting .209 as a team, while averaging 2.2 runs and 6.8 hits per game. The Valley's pitching staff has an 8.73 ERA, while allowing the opposition to hit .354. MVSU opponents are averaging 10.3 runs and 12.5 hits per game.

Arrington Smith is the team's leading hitter with a .391 batting average. Smith leads the team with 18 hits, six doubles and six runs scored, and is tied for third on the team with three RBI.

In a series that dates back to 2002, this weekend series between Alabama and Mississippi Valley State will mark games 19-21 between the two teams. This will mark the first time Alabama and MVSU have played a three-game weekend series. Alabama hosted the Delta Devils in a two-game midweek series in 2010, 2011 and 2012. All 18 games of the series have been played in Tuscaloosa, and the Tide is 17-1 all-time versus MVSU. In the most recent meeting, the Tide defeated MVSU 8-3 on May 7, 2013. The only win for MVSU in the series came in game two of a double header on April 18, 2012, when the Delta Devils posted an 8-3 win in a seven-inning game.

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