TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – After suffering a series set-back to Mississippi State on the final weekend of the regular season, the Alabama Crimson Tide (34-21, 15-14 SEC) enters the 2014 SEC Baseball Tournament as the eighth seed. Alabama opens the tournament against the ninth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats (32-22, 14-16 SEC) on Tuesday with first pitch scheduled for 4:30 p.m. CT at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
The game will be televised on CSS with Matt Stewart and Rusty Ensor calling the action. The game will also be available on ESPN3/WatchESPN. Tuesday’s game is a single-elimination game and the winner will play the No. 1 seeded Florida Gators on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. CT.
The Crimson Tide will start freshman right-handed pitcher Nick Eicholtz on Tuesday versus Kentucky. During the regular season, Eicholtz appeared in 19 games with eight starts, posting a 3-1 record with a 3.06 ERA in 50 innings. The Wildcats will counter with junior left-handed pitcher A.J. Reed, who was just named the SEC Pitcher of the Week. Reed enters Tuesday’s game with a 10-2 record with a 2.11 ERA. Reed has started 14 games in 2014, posting 66 strikeouts while holding opponents to a .229 batting average.
Alabama remained ranked this season with the release of the collegiate baseball polls on Monday. The Tide is ranked No. 24 by Baseball America and No. 25 by Perfect Game USA and in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The NCBWA top-30 poll has not been announced.
No. 8 Alabama (34-21, 15-14 SEC) vs. No. 9 Kentucky (32-22, 14-16 SEC)
Hoover Metropolitan Stadium - Hoover, Ala.
Schedule – Tuesday, 4:30 p.m. CT
Television – CSS
Steaming – ESPN3/WatchESPN
Radio – Tide 99.1 FM and CTSN
Livestats – SECsports.com
Probable Pitching Matchups
Tuesday – UA – Nick Eicholtz (Fr., RHP, 3-1, 3.06 ERA) vs. UK – A.J. Reed (Jr., LHP, 10-2, 2.11 ERA)
Follow the Tide Live
All Alabama baseball games throughout the 2014 season will be broadcast by the Crimson Tide Sports Network (CTSN). The radio broadcast for all games of the 2014 season will be available on 99.1 FM in Tuscaloosa and available on the CTSN throughout the state. Chris Stewart and Lee Tracey will provide the call for Tuesday SEC Tournament opener against Kentucky.
Alabama in the SEC Tournament
Since the inception of the SEC Baseball Tournament in 1977, Alabama has advanced to the conference tournament 26 times. With the eight-seed in this year’s tournament, Alabama has been in the tournament field in nine of the last 10 years. After posting a 2-2 record in the 2013 SEC Tournament, the Crimson Tide has a 45-38 (.542) record in the tournament. UA is second among the 14 SEC schools with seven tournament titles (1983, 95, 96, 97, 99, 2002, and 03). Dating back to the 1950 season, Alabama is making its 34th appearance in the SEC postseason. From 1950-76, Alabama appeared in seven SEC Playoff series, posting a 9-10 record with three championships (1950, 55, and 68).
About the Crimson Tide
The Crimson Tide is seventh in the SEC with a .277 batting average, while averaging 5.2 runs and 9.5 hits per game. Alabama’s had 10 or more hits in 29 games this season, while reaching the 10-hit mark in 17 of the last 28 games. Alabama has 40 home runs (second in the SEC and 15th nationally) in 55 games, surpassing its 2013 season total of 26 home runs in 63 games. The 40 home runs are the most for Alabama since the bat change following the 2010 season.
After starting the year 4-5 with a .224 batting average through nine games, Alabama posted a .290 average with a .412 slugging percentage, with 36 of its 40 home runs and 69 of their 78 doubles coming during that stretch. Alabama is seventh in the SEC with a 3.22 ERA for the season, ranking 50th nationally. UA ranks fifth in the SEC with a .228 opponent’s batting average, while ranking sixth in the country, allowing 7.3 hits per nine innings.
Alabama finished the regular season 21-11 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium and 13-10 away from home, including an 11-10 mark in road games and a 2-0 mark at neutral sites.
Ben Moore clubbed his team-leading ninth home run of the season on Saturday and is now third in the SEC in home runs this season. Moore is second on the team with a .310 average, 24 RBI 42 runs scored and 11 doubles. After hitting .375 last week, Mikey White is hitting .305 with 32 RBI, six home runs and a team-leading 44 runs scored. Austen Smith continues to lead the team in average (.320), RBI (36), walks (35) and on-base percentage (.425).
Scouting the Kentucky Wildcats
The ninth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats enter the SEC Baseball Tournament with a 32-22 overall record, after posting a 14-16 mark against conference opponents. The Wildcats are tied for the SEC lead with a .304 team batting average, while their 57 home runs lead the conference and rank fourth in the country. The Kentucky pitching staff has a 4.04 ERA, which is 13th in the league, while opponents are hitting .272 against the Cats.
A.J. Reed has been the outstanding both on the mound on at the plate for Kentucky this season. Reed will start on the mound for UK, after posting a 10-2 record with a 2.11 ERA in 14 starts and 98 innings this season. Reed has also been the spark at the plate, as he leads the SEC in the triple-crown categories with a .359 batting average, a nation-leading 23 home runs and 70 RBI. Reed is one of seven players on the everyday lineup that is hitting over .300 this season.
Ka’al Tom is second on the team with a .339 average, Max Kuhn is hitting .327 with seven home runs, 50 RBI and a team-high 62 runs scored and catcher Michael Thomas also has seven home runs, with 43 RBI. Out of the bullpen, Spencer Jacks leads the way with a 3-1 record and 1.34 ERA in a team-high 24 appearances.
Series versus Kentucky
When Alabama and Kentucky meet in the opening round of the SEC Tournament, it will mark the 96th meeting all-time and 11th meeting in the SEC Tournament. Alabama is 58-37 all-time versus the Wildcats, while posting a 7-3 record all-time versus UK in the SEC Tournament. When the teams met in Tuscaloosa during the regular season, Alabama won the series two games to one. The last time the two teams squared off in Hoover, the teams split a pair of games during the 2008 tournament. Kentucky won the first game 9-3, before the Tide answered with a 13-4 win to advance to the championship game of the tournament.