Alabama Vs. Auburn Baseball For Real

In recent years, Alabama and Auburn have played a baseball game in Montgomery – the Capital City Classic – in addition to the games that really counted in Southeastern Conference play. Prior to this year, Auburn won every one of the Montgomery exhibitions, but the Crimson Tide has come back to win most of the games that mattered in the SEC.



This year Alabama is 1-0 against Auburn, but it was the game that didn't matter – the exhibition in Montgomery. Now the teams will play the games that really matter in Tuscaloosa, the SEC series this weekend.

The No. 9-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (22-10, 8-4 SEC) will host the Auburn Tigers (20-14, 5-7 SEC) in a three-game series that begins on Friday, with first pitch scheduled for 6:35 p.m. CDT from Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The series continues on Saturday with a 6:05 p.m. first pitch, and wraps up on Sunday with a 1:05 p.m. start.

Alabama and Auburn have been playing in baseball since 1896. The Tide holds a 150-123 record all-time against the Tigers. In the most recent SEC series, Alabama won two of three games over the Tigers when they met in Auburn last season. In the last meeting between the teams in Tuscaloosa, Alabama swept the Tigers when they were ranked 23rd in the country during the 2013 campaign.

After posting a 3-1 record last week, Alabama made another jump in this week's national ranking, returning to the top-10 for the first time since the 2009 season. The Tide is ranked No. 9 by Collegiate Baseball, marking the highest ranking in that poll since earning a No. 10 ranking in May of 2009. Alabama returned to the top-10 in the Baseball America poll, earning a No. 10 ranking this week. It's the first time Bama has been in the Baseball America top-10 since the final poll of the 2006 campaign. UA is ranked No. 16 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and the NCBWA poll and 18th by Perfect Game USA.

Alabama has won seven of its last nine games and 18 of the last 23 overall. The Crimson Tide enters the fifth week of SEC play in first place in the Western Division and overall conference standings with an 8-4 SEC record. The Crimson Tide has won all five home weekend series this season.

The probable pitching match-ups this weekend:

Ceremonial first pitch Friday: Right-hander Nick Saban.

Otherwise:

Friday – UA Spencer Turnbull (Jr., RHP, 4-1, 1.58 ERA) vs. AUB-Dillon Ortman (Sr., RHP, 5-2, 2.11 ERA)

Saturday – UA Justin Kamplain (Jr., LHP, 2-2, 4.06 ERA) vs. AUB-Keegan Thompson (Fr., RHP, 5-1, 1.71 ERA)

Sunday – UA Jon Keller (Jr., LHP, 5-1, 1.52 ERA) vs. AUB-Michael O'Neal (Sr., LHP, 2-3, 3.92 ERA)

Alabama expects good crowds for the games. Those expecting to find seating in the new right field plaza are probably too late unless reading this on an I-Phone.

The Crimson Tide is hitting .273 as a team, while averaging 5.6 runs and 9.3 hits per game. When the Tide scores three or more runs they are 22-1, but 0-9 when scoring less than three runs. Alabama ranks fourth in the SEC with 21 home runs. The Tide hit 26 home runs in 63 games in 2013. In winning 18 of their last 23 games, the Tide is hitting .292 with 43 doubles, three triples and 17 home runs for a .424 slugging percentage, while averaging 6.5 runs and 9.9 hits per game during that stretch. Alabama's had 10 hits or more in 17 games this season, including reaching the 10-hit mark in four of the last five games.

The Alabama pitching staff has been outstanding this season, posting the sixth-best ERA in the SEC at 2.40. In 289 innings, Alabama has given up 96 runs (77 earned) on 210 hits with 249 strikeouts and 105 walks. Opponents are hitting .207 against the Tide, which ranks fourth in the SEC. Alabama is fourth in the country, allowing 6.6 hits per game. In 112.2 innings, the Tide bullpen has allowed 36 runs (31 earned) for a 2.55 ERA, while allowing a .215 batting average. Alabama is 16-4 when playing at Sewell-Thomas Stadium and 6-6 away from home, including a 4-6 mark in road games and a 2-0 mark at neutral sites.

Hunter Webb, this week's SEC Freshman of the Week, is tied with Mikey White for the longest current hitting streak on the team at seven games and Austen Smith and Chance Vincent have five-game hitting streaks. The Alabama pitching staff ranks sixth in the SEC and 17th nationally with a 2.23 ERA. The Tide ranks third in the SEC and fourth in the country allowing 6.6 hits per game.

The Alabama weekend rotation of Spencer Turnbull (1.58), Justin Kamplain (4.06) and Jon Keller (1.52) rank 16th nationally with a combined 2.35 ERA (based on at least five starts each).

The Auburn Tigers enter the SEC series with a 20-14 overall record and are in sixth place in the SEC Western Division standings with a 5-7 conference mark. Auburn enters the game after posting a 6-0 victory over Troy on Tuesday night to snap a four-game losing streak. The Tigers have dropped their last two SEC series, losing two of three to Missouri at home two weeks ago before being swept at Ole Miss last weekend. Auburn ranks third in the SEC with a .295 team batting average and is posting 4.7 runs and 9.6 hits per game. The Tigers pitching staff has a 2.97 ERA, while opponents are hitting .237 against them. AU is allowing 3.8 runs and 8.0 hits per game.

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