Bama-Auburn: Alabama Civil War, stitchball-style
By Glenn Tanner - April 22, 2007
So who cares about a game when the two teams are both underwater in conference play and unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament based on their body of work so far?
Well, when it's Alabama-Auburn, the whole state cares, especially Tiger fans as Auburn looks for the sweep today after blasting the Tide 12-5 Friday and rallying for a 6-5 win yesterday courtesy of five Bama errors.
Alabama is a team that has never found its way this season. On March 4, the Tide stood 12-2 after running through the very soft part of their schedule. That schedule toughened up considerably, though, and Alabama has won only 10 of their last 25 games and stands with a 22-18 record, and 7-10 in the SEC. Maybe the most severe blow in that stretch was a 4-3 home loss to Nebraska that not only started a three-game losing streak, but made coach Jim Wells lose faith in his bullpen's ability to close out a game. Wells responded to that loss by moving ace Tommy Hunter to the pen, and though Hunter has been a very good and flexible closer, losing their Friday night ace left Bama fewer leads to protect.
Because Hunter was not used in the first two games of this series, he'll draw his sixth start of the season today. He's 3-3 with a 3.41 ERA in 60.2 innings and boasts an excellent 65/15 K/BB ratio.
Outside of Emeel Salem, the offense hasn't been very potent -- Alabama is hitting only .287 as a team and ranks tenth in the SEC in runs scored. Salem is batting .355 and has stolen 21 bases.
Auburn's season has seen a huge peak and a huge valley, which they may be emerging from this weekend. After week seven, the Tigers actually had the highest RPI rating in the nation. SEC play started in week eight, though, and the Tigers lost their first six conference games and currently stand at 27-15 and a dismal 6-11 in conference.
The schizo season shows up in Auburn's stats, too. The team carries a .299 overall batting average, but has hit just .260 in the SEC. Josh Donaldson's overall numbers (.350 batting, .624 slugging, 45 RBI, 16 steals) warrant All-America consideration, but the junior catcher has hit only .242 with one homer and nine ribbies in 17 SEC games. With a batting average near .350 no matter who the opponent, speedy little Bruce Edwards has been a consistent catalyst for the Tigers.
Justin Bristow (1-4, 6.91 ERA) draws the start on the mound, but has really struggled in conference play, posting a 12.41 ERA in 8.2 SEC innings.
Another gorgeous day in the Deep South. Temps in the high 70's and only miniscule clouds in the sky. We'll be starting soon. Back in a few with updates.
Posted by Glenn Tanner at 02:11 PM on April 22, 2007