May 1, 2009
The University of Alabama baseball team''s offense is intimidating when you look at the numbers.
Alabama leads the Southeastern Conference in batting average (.338), hits (550), slugging percentage (.592), on-base percentage (.423), runs scored (423), RBIs (394), doubles (116), and total bases (963).
When Mississippi State plays host to Alabama in a three-game SEC series at 6:30 p.m. today, 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, the Bulldogs primary task will be to try to hold down that offense.
"They are one of the best offensive teams in the country," Mississippi State coach John Cohen said. "They are swinging it very well. It is a team that was carefully constructed by the Alabama staff."
Alabama (30-15, 12-9 SEC) will look to improve its standing in the Western Division, while MSU (21-24, 6-15) will attempt to get back into the race with nine conference games remaining.
"We just want to play as hard as we can and send the seniors out competing," Cohen said.
Alabama coach Jim Wells saw his squad begin to generate a better offense toward the end of last season when it reached the SEC tournament and NCAA Regionals.
Even though Wells thought the Crimson Tide could do some nice things offensively this year, he didn''t foresee the numbers his club has generated.
"I knew we would be solid, but I didn''t see all of the home runs," Wells said. "It''s a good offensive team. We know that good pitching can stop good hitting, but game in and game out we feel we are going to be able to score, which, hopefully, takes a little pressure off the pitching. We have pitched better the last couple of games."
That''s something MSU can''t say. It has the SEC''s poorest ERA (6.18).
Cohen isn''t sure who will start on the mound tonight, but he might opt for sophomore Forrest Moore (2-1, 5.91 ERA), who opened the first game of the Vanderbilt series. Freshman Nick Routt (4-3, 3.41) should stay in his Saturday spot, while junior Tyler Whitney (2-4, 5.02) will get the nod Sunday.
Any MSU pitcher who takes the mound will have to face Kent Matthes, who leads the SEC in home runs (23) and slugging percentage (.923) and is second in batting average (.378).
"Teams have to be aware of him whenever he''s coming up," Wells said. "He''s just put it all together. He didn''t play a lot as a freshman, but he has started the last two years. He didn''t show this as much in the fall, but has just gotten better. I think it''s just confidence, maturity, and all those things come together."
Austin Hyatt (6-1, 3.45) will start tonight for Alabama.