Alabama, Auburn take to the mound
Alabama may be playing for more than a win tonight as it takes on the Auburn Tigers in the one-game Capitol City Classic played at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery, Ala. The Crimson Tide will be playing to reverse an ugly trend when it comes to Alabama athletics.
In the last five years, Alabama has compiled a 7-11 regular-season record against the hated in-state rival Auburn Tigers, including 0-3 in the last three Capitol City Classics.
Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard is aware of the importance of the Auburn game.
“That’s always a game that’s circled on the schedule, for both us and them,” head coach Mitch Gaspard said.
This will be the fourth straight year the Tide has played Auburn in Montgomery, but the fifth straight year Alabama has played a game in Montgomery. Alabama lost to Troy 5-4 in Montgomery in 2008 before picking up the yearly contest with Auburn.
The trend is an unpleasant one for the program, but not one that Gaspard is particularly focused on.
“For the team, collecting wins and momentum is very important right now,” Gaspard said.
Alabama is turning to a fresh face, freshman starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull, to reverse the Auburn losing trend and get the Tide some momentum. Turnbull started in Alabama’s last Tuesday night game, a 4-3 win over South Alabama on Feb. 28.
“He’s coming off of his first collegiate start and pitched pretty well,” Gaspard said. “What we’re looking for from him is being able to throw his second pitch, throw his curveball for a strike.”
The Capital City Classic marks an important turning point in the season for the Tide. After the Auburn game, Alabama will host the DRASH Alabama Baseball Classic and will be just two games away from opening the Southeastern Conference schedule.
This is normally the time that Gaspard begins to settle down and get comfortable in a set lineup, but going into the Capital City Classic, there are still some question marks.
“Left field and right field have been revolving doors to find the right guy, and same for [designated hitter],” Gaspard said. “We would like to find that right combination, but right now, we haven’t had consistent play and consistent at-bats at those positions.”
Gaspard did single out one player as a potential front-runner for a consistent starting job.
“[Junior outfielder] Cameron Carlisle is a guy who has stepped up and put together good at-bats for us,” Gaspard said.
Carlisle has a .286 batting average and six hits, two of them doubles, in six starts and eight game appearances. Other candidates for the corner outfield positions are senior Hunter Gregory, redshirt freshman Cary Baxter and junior Andrew Miller.
Gregory is having the best statistical season of the three, also having six hits and two doubles in seven starts and eight game appearances.