Alabama Baseball Plays At Arkansas

Spencer Turnbull

Alabama's baseball team is back in the national rankings after a two-week absence. It's easy to figure out how the Crimson Tide got back in the ratings: winning eight of nine games.



Those Alabama baseball games, however, were at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Now the Crimson Tide is on the road for a tough Southeastern Conference series at Arkansas beginning tonight.

After spending the last two weeks out of the national rankings, the Tide is back in at No. 28 rank from both the NCBWA and Collegiate Baseball News. UA is receiving votes in both the USA Today Coaches poll and the Perfect Game USA poll.

The Crimson Tide (14-6, 2-1 SEC) will play three games at Arkansas (11-7, 1-2 SEC) this weekend. The series begins tonight, with first pitch scheduled for 6:35 p.m. CDT from Baum Stadium. Game two will begin at 2:05 p.m. CDT Saturday, and the series wraps up on Sunday with a 1:05 p.m. start. Sunday's game will be televised in some areas.

After defeating Alcorn State 17-3 and 12-0 this week, Alabama completed a season-long nine-game homestand with an 8-1 record. During the homestand, the Tide swept a weekend series over Mississippi Valley State, defeated Samford, won its SEC opening series over No. 20 Kentucky, and swept the two-game series over the Braves. Following the home midweek sweep of Alcorn State, Alabama is 12-3 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium this year. Alabama has won its last three games and is 10-1 in its last 11 games, which included a seven-game winning streak.

Alabama will pitch junior right-hander Spencer Turnbull in tonight's opener in Fayetteville. Turnbull has a modest 2-1 record, but a sparkling 0.31 earned run average. The Razorbacks will pitch junior left-hander Jalen Beeks (3-2, 1.15 ERA).

Saturday's match-up has Bama's Justin Kamplain, junior left-hander with a 2-2 record and 3.67 ERA, against Trey Killian (soph righty, 0-3, 3.06). Bama will pitch junior left-hander Jon Keller (4-0 with a 1.63 ERA) on Sunday. Arkansas has not announced a Sunday pitcher. Turnbull and Kamplain will be making their sixth starts of the season, while Sunday's start for Keller will be his third of the year.

The Crimson Tide is hitting .274 as a team, while averaging 5.6 runs and 9.6 hits per game. When the Tide scores three or more runs in a game they are 13-0. Alabama ranks fourth in the SEC with 13 home runs. The Tide hit 26 home runs in 63 games in 2013. In winning 10 of their last 11 games, the Tide is hitting .315 with 20 doubles and nine home runs for a .442 slugging percentage, while averaging 11.1 hits per game during that stretch.

The Alabama pitching staff has been outstanding this season, posting the third best ERA in the SEC and fifth best ERA in the country at 1.77. In 183 innings, Alabama has given up 45 runs (36 earned) on 112 hits with 166 strikeouts and 63 walks. Opponents are hitting just .182 against the Tide this season, which ranks second in the SEC. Alabama is second in the country, allowing 5.6 hits per game. In 78.2 innings this season, the Tide bullpen has allowed just 14 runs (11 earned) for a 1.25 ERA, while allowing a .201 batting average.

Offensively, Alabama is paced by senior first baseman Austen Smith, who has team-highs with a .377 average and 17 RBI this season. Georgie Salem is second on the team with a .326 average, while leading the team in hits (28) and at-bats (86). Freshman catcher Will Haynie is hitting .298 for the season, after going 13-for-29 (.488) with two doubles, two home runs and eight RBI over his last eight games.

The Arkansas Razorbacks enter the weekend series against Alabama with an 11-7 overall record following a pair of midweek wins over Grambling State. The Razorbacks opened Southeastern Conference play with a series loss at Florida last week, winning the final game of the series 9-3. Arkansas lost games one and two by scores of 2-1 and 1-0, respectively.

Arkansas enters the weekend series with a .261 team batting average, while averaging 5.3 runs and 8.3 hits per game. The Razorbacks pitching staff has the fourth best ERA in the SEC and sixth best in the country, posting a 1.82 mark through 18 games. Arkansas is allowing 2.4 runs and 6.0 hits per game to rank sixth nationally.

Brian Anderson leads the team in batting average (.333), RBI (15) and doubles (6). He also has one of the team's seven home runs this season. Krisjon Wilkerson is second on the team with a .304 average and a .418 on-base percentage. Tyler Spoon is second on the club with 14 runs and 114 RBI and Joe Serrano is third on the team lead with 13 RBI. Andrew Benintendi has a team-high 15 runs scored and Eric Fisher leads the team with two home runs.

Arkansas has registered four saves this season, with Michael Gunn earning two saves in a team-high seven appearances. Zach Jackson and Jacob Stone turning in one save each, while Stone and Jalen Beeks lead the team with three wins.

In a series that dates back to the 1992 season, Alabama has played Arkansas 73 times, posting a 42-31 record all-time versus the Razorbacks. In the most recent SEC series, the Razorbacks won two of three games played in Tuscaloosa last season. Alabama and Arkansas have played 34 times in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks hold a 20-14 advantage in games play at Arkansas.

After this weekend's three-game series at Arkansas, Alabama will travel to Pensacola, Fla., to play the Troy Trojans at Vince J. Whibbs Jr. Community Maritime Park on Tuesday night. The game at the home of the Double-A Blue Wahoos, is scheduled to begin at 6:37 p.m. CT and will be televised on Cox Sports Television (CST). Tuesday's game will mark the 30th meeting all-time between Alabama and Troy, and the fourth meeting at a neutral site. Alabama is 19-10 all-time against the Trojans, and 1-2 in neutral site games. Troy defeated the Tide twice during the 2013 NCAA Tallahassee Regional in the most recent meetings between the two schools.

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