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Series Preview: #20 Alabama Crimson Tide at #3 Houston Cougars

The #20 Alabama baseball team travels west to take on the third-ranked Houston Cougars this weekend.

Coach Mitch Gaspard leads his Tide team agains his alma mater this weekend in a road series at Houston
Coach Mitch Gaspard leads his Tide team agains his alma mater this weekend in a road series at Houston
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend the 20th-ranked Alabama baseball team travels to play a three-game set against Coach Mitch Gaspard's alma mater, the #3 Houston Cougars. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 pm CST on Friday and Saturday, followed by the finale at noon on Sunday. The games will not be televised but a live stream will be available on Houston's website for $9.95.

Both teams are undefeated with the Tide sporting a 3-0 record while Houston comes in at 4-0. Alabama destroyed Maryland Eastern Shore last weekend by a combined score of 36-0. Houston swept Minnesota last weekend and defeated Texas Southern on Wednesday of this week.

The Tide plans on using the same rotation as last weekend: senior left-hander Taylor Guilbeau on Friday, junior righty Will Carter on Saturday, and sophomore right-hander Geoffrey Bramblett on Sunday. Houston will counter with sophomore right-hander Andrew Lantrip on Friday, junior righty Jake Lemoine on Saturday and either Aaron Garza or Patrick Weigel on Sunday. Lemoine accompanies Alabama SS Mikey White on the Golden Spikes Award watch list as one of the 50 top players in the country, and has garnered pre-season All America buzz coming off a season in which he posted a sparkling 2.87 ERA and struck out 87 batters despite a pedestrian 6-8 record.

Alabama hit .364 as a team on opening weekend. Right fielder Casey Hughston struck out his first two at-bats and hasn't been out since, going 11-13 with three doubles, a triple, and a sacrifice fly for an absurd batting average of .846 plus two stolen bases and six runs scored. Mikey White had a 6-10 (.600) weekend with a double and a triple. Second baseman Kyle Overstreet went 6-11 for a .534 mark, with two doubles and 10 RBI. Georgie Salem checks in at .375 and leads the team with three stolen bases. The team was 8-8 on stolen base attempts against Maryland Eastern Shore after only swiping 32 in 45 attempts in 61 games last season, a welcome sight for a team that will need to focus on the running game while playing in the spacious Hoover Met.

Guilbeau, Carter and Bramblett allowed only two hits apiece in their initial starts of the season. Guilbeau struck out seven hitters to lead the squad. Ray Castillo earned a three inning save in Friday night's victory, striking out five along the way. Jay Shaw, Alex Watkins, Mitch Greer, J.C. Wilhite and Thomas Burrows all were used for one inning in the series with MES. Those six, along with Jake Hubbard and Nick Eicholtz, are most likely to see action on the mound this weekend.

Houston has three players hitting an even .400 on the early season: Kyle Survance, Chris Iriart, and Conner Wong. The Cougars have already hit five home runs on the year after hitting only 17 in all of 2014. Iriart has two of the five long balls.

Texas native Gaspard not only played for and graduated from Houston, he also started his coaching career there which gives this series a little extra meaning for him personally. Additionally, grabbing a couple of victories against a top team on the road would be a big boost for 'Bama. The series history is dead even with each team taking six of twelve total contests.

Alabama has 2,499 wins all time, the second most in SEC history behind only Texas A&M, who earned almost all of their 2.524 wins playing in other conferences. Mississippi State is tied with the Tide with 2,499 all time victories, followed by South Carolina with 2.458 all time wins that were also earned mostly outside the conference.

Freshman right handed pitcher Andrew DiPiazza has joined Mike Oczypok and Jon Keller on the sidelines with season-ending arm surgery. DiPiazza had surgery for bone spurs in his elbow and will take a red shirt year. Oczypok, who missed last season after Tommy John surgery, had to have the surgery re-done after complications and will miss this season. Keller, the Sunday starter last season, had Tommy John surgery after the season and is out for this season as well.

After the weekend series 'Bama will come back to the Hoover Met to play a double header with Savannah State on Tuesday. The first game will begin at 2 p.m. CST with the second game scheduled for 30 minutes after the completion of game one.  The games will be available online with SEC Network Plus.