Preview: Alabama Prepares to Host #3 LSU
UAB saw its six-game winning streak come to an end on Tuesday when it fell to Alabama 7-2 at Regions Field. Alabama (15-12) tied its season high with seven walks in the game, which helped bring in four runs in the top of the fifth inning. The Crimson Tide added two more runs in the final four innings to help put the game out of reach. The focus must now shift to one of the Tide's toughest opponents of the season.
LSU (24-5) may be the best all-around team in college baseball . The Tigers entered last weekend's series with Kentucky as the top ranked team in the country, but the Wildcats won two out of three games, both of which were in extra innings, to claim the series. In fact, three of LSU's five losses have come in extra innings.
The Tigers' X-factor this season has been its pitching staff. Probable starters for this weekend's matchup with Alabama are LHP Jared Poche', RHP Alex Lange, and RHP Jake Godfrey. Poche' is the only starting pitcher with a loss this season (5-1), but still carries a 3.48 ERA. Freshman phenomenon Alex Lange has an SEC best 1.20 ERA and is second in the conference in strikeouts (58). Godfrey has proven to be just as lethal with a 5-0 record and 3.21 ERA.
LSU's ability to strikeout opposing batters is frightening for any team but especially Alabama. The Crimson Tide strikes out just over eight times per game on average, which is second-worst in the SEC. Luckily, there appears to be better days on the horizon for Alabama. Chandler Avant has multi-hit games in 9 out of his last 10 contests including three hits on Tuesday. Kyle Overstreet is batting .381 with 16 hits over his last 11 games, while Casey Hughston continues to lead the team in batting average (.392) and hits (40).
If Alabama can manage to get hot at the plate, LSU can answer offensively with the best lineup in the SEC. The Tigers lead the conference in batting average (.329), slugging percentage (.499), hits (349), doubles (65), and total bases (529). Second baseman Jared Foster and shortstop Alex Bregman each have seven home runs on the year. DH Kyle Scivicque has the second best batting average in the SEC (.407), and right fielder Mark Laird leads the team in hits (43).
Alabama's numbers on the mound, at first glance, appear to be no match for the Tigers' powerful lineup. The Tide's 4.20 ERA ranks twelfth among SEC teams. The team has allowed 122 walks this season. In comparison, LSU makes this weekend's series seem like a David vs. Goliath matchup. However, Alabama ranks 18th in D1Baseball.com's RPI rankings. The Tide's previous performances against top ranked teams proves it can compete with anyone.
Alabama leads the all-time series over LSU, 197-158-3, but the Tigers have won eight of the last 10 contests. Thursday's game is scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm CT. Friday's start time has been moved up to 3:00 pm CT due to weather concerns. The two teams will conclude the series on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 pm CT.