Alabama got a much-needed series win last weekend, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs two games-to-one. The Tide has also won four of their last five, defeating Samford and Birmingham in their most recent mid week games. 'Bama now has a record of 19-16 overall and 6-9 in the SEC. The surging Tigers sport a 24-13 overall mark and are 10-5 in conference play.
Missouri is one of those teams that you look at their offensive numbers and wonder how are they winning. The Tigers are 12th in the SEC in batting average at .256, and rank at or near the bottom of almost every category. Only one regular, freshman Brett Bond at .315, is hitting over .300. Sophomore Jake Ring is second in average at .293. Bond leads the team with four home runs, and Ryan Howard (not that one) leads in RBIs with 25. In studying the teams numbers, one is hard pressed to find anything that they do well offensively, although the team does have 53 stolen bases in 73 chances. The Tigers are 14th in on base percentage (.341), 13th in slugging (.368), 12 in runs (181), and 12 in hits with 159.
To find ho/why Mizzou is winning, look not further than their pitching and defense, ranking second (to Texas A@M) in almost all pitching statistics, and second in fielding with an outstanding .980 fielding mark, with only 29 errors. The Tigers team ERA is a sparkling 2.76, and they hold teams to a .227 batting average against. The Tigers will start junior right hander Reggie McClain (4-4, 3.20 ERA) on Friday, freshman righty Tanner Houck (6-1, 2.92 ERA) on Saturday and junior right hander Peter Fairbanks (4-3, 2.17 ERA) on Sunday. Closer Breckin Williams has eight saves and a 4-1 record with a 2.08 ERA with 25 strikeouts with only four walks in 21.2 innings pitched. Austin Tribby leads the SEC in appearances with 22 and has 25 strikeouts in 23.2 innings pitched. Lake Dabney, Bryce Montes De Oca and Andrew Schwaab are all used often out of the bullpen.
Missouri averages 10.81 ground ball outs per game, taking advantage of their outstanding defense, by pitching to contact. The Tigers have a very good ratio of 286 batters struck out against only 92 walks. UM was picked to finish last in the SEC East this year, and have won all four of their series with in division foes thus far this year.
Alabama comes into the week with a team batting average of .282, which ranks seventh in the SEC, and their .396 slugging percentage ranks eighth in the league. 'Bama ranks 10th in the SEC in on base percentage (.359), 13th in walks drawn (120) and second in strike outs (297), a ratio that coach Mitch Gaspard has mentioned several times "needs to improve."
The Tide offense continues to be led by Mikey White and Casey Hughston, who rank 10th (White-.371) and 11th (Hughston-.364) in the league in batting average. White leads in runs with 34, doubles with 13, triples with five, slugging percentage at .636, is tied for the home run league, with four, and has added 25 runs driven in. Hughston is tied for the home run lead with four, leads in hits with 51, and is tied for the RBI lead with 27. The Mobile native also has 10 doubles, two triples, 10 stolen bases, and four outfield assists from his right field post.
Freshman Cody Henry is riding a hot streak where he has hit over .600 for the last eight games, raising his average to .328. The Florida native has also drawn 14 walks in 83 plate appearances, and leads the team with a .458 on base percentage. Kyle Overstreet is tied for the RBI lead with 27 with a .304 batting average, and has reached base in 24 straight games. J.C. Wilhite has a .324 average with 15 runs driven in. Will Haynie is also tied for the home run lead with four and has driven in 19 runs. Georgie Salem leads in stolen bases with 12 in 16 attempts.
'Bama has a team ERA of 3.98 in 323 innings pitched. Taylor Guilbeau continues to be the Friday night starter and has a 2-2 record with a 3.11 ERA in 55 innings, allowing 40 hits with 31 walks and 54 strikeouts. When Guilbeau control is on he is as good as anyone in the conference, and has given the team a chance to win each start. Freshman Jake Walters will move into the Saturday rotation spot, replacing junior Will Carter, who has struggled. Walters has started four games, appearing in nine, with a 3-1 record and one save. The Thompson High product has a 1.75 ERA in 25.2 innings, allowing only 18 hits with 13 walks and 33 strikeouts. Walters cooly collected his only save of the year in Sunday's game three with Georgia by protecting the Tide's 5-2 lead in the final two innings. The Tides defense, uncharacteristically of a Gaspard coached team, ranks 11th in the SEC with a .970 fielding percentage and 42 errors.
Geoffrey Bramblett will continue in his Sunday role, and he gives the Tide an opportunity to win each time he toes the rubber. The Hoover High graduate has a 5-1 record with a 3.86 ERA in 53.2 innings, allowing 54 hits with 16 walks and 36 strikeouts. Bramblett struck out a career high nine batters in his last start against Georgia on last Sunday.
Ray Castillo has appeared in 16 games out of the bull pen and has a 3-0 record with three saves and a 2.16 ERA in 33.1 innings pitched. The junior right hander has allowed 25 hits with ten walks and 32 strikeouts. Sophomore left hander Thomas Burrows leads the team in appearances with 18 and in saves with four, and has a 0-3 record and 4.50 ERA in 24 innings, allowing 28 hits with 12 walks and 25 strikeouts. Jay Shaw, 3.38 ERA in 16 innings, Mitch Greer 3.38 ERA in 13.1 innings, Jake Hubbard, Nick Eicholtz, Carter and Wilhite will all most likely see action out of the pen as well.
Hopefully Walters will give the Tide a lift in the Saturday tilt, of which they have lost seven straight. The offense stills needs to work more walks and have less strikeouts, and the pitchers need to walk less and work from ahead in the counts more often.
Although the Tigers are highly ranked, this is a very winnable series, in an almost must win situation for the Tide. At 6-9 in conference 'Bama is bunched with several teams vying to be one of the 12 teams that make the SEC tournament. Currently Alabama is tied with Georgia, Mississippi State and South Carolina, but does hold the tie breaker over both sets of Bulldogs. Tennessee and Auburn are both behind the pack with 5-10 record, and Arkansas and Ole Miss, at 7-8, are just ahead.
The games times (weather permitting!) are Friday at 6:00 p.m., Saturday at 7:00 p.m and Sunday at noon. All times are CST. Friday's game will be available on line with SEC Network Plus, while Saturday and Sunday's games are both scheduled to be on the SEC Network.
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