News from the Tennessee Valley Sports
TUESDAY, MAY 29, 2007

Alabama baseball season is over
NCAA panel not impressed with Tide

By Josh Cooper · 340-2460

The end to Alabama’s baseball season officially came at about 11:49 a.m. Monday.

The final regional pairings were announced on the NCAA baseball tournament selection show without Alabama in any bracket.

The announcement ends a disappointing season for the baseball team, which hoped a strong finish would catapult it into the NCAA tournament field. But the selection committee took Alabama’s low ratings percentage index and disappointing nonconference record into account.

Alabama had the lowest ranking in the ratings percentage index (64th nationally) out of any potential tournament team from the SEC. In addition, the Tide finished 6-11 in non-conference play. Those two factors helped negate Alabama’s late-season series wins against South Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi State, all tournament teams.

“We did not get in, and that is not real surprising to me,” Alabama coach Jim Wells said. “Based on the information I had gotten prior to the SEC tournament, we needed to finish with a .500 SEC record, which meant a minimum of two wins at the tournament. We did not do that. If all of that information was true, I did not expect us to get in the NCAA tournament.”

Alabama finished without a win in the SEC tournament, losing 6-0 on Wednesday against Arkansas, and 3-2 on Thursday against Florida.

Overall, the SEC received five bids to the NCAA tournament: Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Ole Miss and South Carolina will host regionals as No. 1 seeds. Mississippi State received a No. 2 seed in the Tallahassee, Fla., regional.

Since the NCAA field expanded to 64 teams in 1999, the SEC has received at least six bids every year.

“This was a unique year for our conference,” said NCAA Selection Committee Chairman, and Mississippi State Athletics Director Larry Templeton. “At the end of the day, the committee felt like the SEC only deserved five slots. The committee has made it a point to reward teams that step up and play good out of conference schedules.”

Despite the tough end to the year, Alabama is set to return several core players for next year’s squad.

Senior center fielder Emeel Salem is gone, but homer leader Alex Avila is a sophomore, as is right fielder Kent Matthes. Avila blasted 14 home runs and was first-team all-SEC. Matthes knocked eight homers. Junior first baseman Matt Bentley, who hit 12 home runs, is a junior, but he is not expected to leave through the draft.

The key is Friday night starter Tommy Hunter. A draft- eligible sophomore, Hunter is projected to be an early round selection. It is unclear, though, if he would sign with a major league team if drafted.

After Hunter was moved into the rotation, the Tide went 7-5 in conference to end the season.

If Hunter returns, Alabama’s entire rotation will be intact
for next year. If he leaves, the team will be searching for a new ace.

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