News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Tide braces for top-gun Vanderbilt pitching staff

By Josh Cooper · 340-2460

The Alabama baseball team has had its pitching machine gassed up all week to throw almost as hard as possible in preparation for its weekend series at Vanderbilt.

The reasoning is that if the Crimson Tide (19-12, 4-5 SEC) sees hard pitches in practice, it will get used to them and then maybe they won't seem so hard against No. 1-ranked Vanderbilt (27-4, 5-4 SEC).

Wishful thinking for a team that will face Commodores left-hander David Price of the 97 mile per hour fastball Friday and then fellow southpaw Mike Minor on Saturday.

"Having two guys that are similar that are lefties are good for them," Alabama left-handed designated hitter Alex Avila said. "We have to prepare for both of them the same way because they throw hard and come after us with strikes."

Price is projected to go first in June's first-year player draft for Major League Baseball, and Minor was listed as one of the top college freshmen available for the 2009 draft class.

Tack on those two starters to a lineup that features a potential first-round pick in the 2008 draft — last season's Baseball America freshman of the year, third baseman Pedro Alvarez — and Alabama has a tough task, especially being on the road.

The Tide has lost its last two SEC series, first at Ole Miss and at home against LSU. Against the Tigers on March 30, the Tide had a 4-2 lead, but lost when reliever Tommy Hunter gave up a three-run home run in the top of the ninth.

It was the second series in which Alabama was a big play away from a crucial win. The previous Saturday it had the bases loaded with two outs in the 10th at Ole Miss.

And playing a team that just took two of three from previously top-ranked South Carolina on the road could hurt the Tide even more. Or it could be an opportunity to get an important win against a top foe.

"We're one hit away, one pitch away from being a great team," said Matt Bentley, a Hazel Green High graduate. "We've struggled lately. We haven't been beat bad. We're just trying to get over that hump."

Alabama baseball

  • Friday’s game:Alabama (19-12, 4-5 SEC) at Vanderbilt (27-4, 5-4), 7 p.m.

  • Saturday’s game:Alabama at Vanderbilt, 3 p.m.

  • Sunday’s game:Alabama at Vanderbilt, 1p.m.

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