Tide looking for turnaround against Tigers

Tony Tsoukalas

After starting the season with a record of 16-1, the Alabama baseball team finds itself at 17-7 after losing six out of its last seven games.

“We are struggling right now,” said head coach Mitch Gaspard. “Certainly this weekend, we need to right the ship and get our offense going.”

The Crimson Tide seemed to be unstoppable early in the season when the team got off to one of the best starts in school history.

Then, a midweek loss to Auburn, followed by a sweep at the hands of Arkansas, sent the Tide into a tailspin.

“In the first 17 or 18 games, we had very good focus on our execution of what we needed to do, and we have kind of lost that the last seven games,” Gaspard said. “It’s just a matter of us putting focus on what we need to do, and that’s playing good baseball.”

The Alabama offense has struggled lately and has seen its two preseason All-Americans, Jake Smith and Ross Wilson, fall into prolonged hitting slumps.

“We just got to get the middle delivering those hits,” Gaspard said. “Rather than four to six runs a night, we will be scoring eight to 10.”

Another problem Alabama has faced is an increase in runs allowed. Alabama has allowed seven runs a game, which goes against Gaspard’s preseason goal of only allowing five runs per contest.

“Those aren’t just numbers,” Gaspard said. “We have done a lot of research on that, and that plays out about every year. If you hold them to five runs or under, you have a real good opportunity to win the game.”

Starting pitching has not necessarily been the problem for the Tide, as Alabama has received quality starts from their Friday and Saturday starters, Adam Morgan and Jimmy Nelson.

“We are still getting very good starts,” Gaspard said. “The bullpen has let us down has in some key spots and as much as anything we just have to execute quality pitches.”

Alabama will need a solid performance from both their starting pitchers and their relievers, as they face an Auburn team loaded with talented hitters. One of those hitters is Hunter Morris, who leads the Tigers offense with a .411 average and eight homers.

Because the two teams faced each other last week in the Capital City Classic, Gaspard said there would be a certain familiarity for both sides heading into the game.

“There is probably a little bit more of a comfort level on both sides just from seeing each other,” Gaspard said. “Both teams used some of their key bullpen guys.”

One of the relievers Gaspard focused on was Auburn’s Michael Hurst, who has had the Tide’s number in the past.

“Really for us it is adjusting to Hurst as much as anybody,” Gaspard said. “ I know we will see him in some big spots, and he’s a guy that has given us trouble now for two years.”

Adam Morgan is scheduled to start the first game of the series tonight with Jimmy Nelson taking the mound Saturday as the Tide looks to turn their slump around.

“The one thing that we can hang our hat on right now is that we have some guys with a track record that have put up numbers before in the past.” Gaspard said.