Baseball team heading to take on Cardinals

Kevin Connell

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The University of Alabama baseball team travels to Louisville, Ky., this weekend to play against the No. 4 Cardinals in its second road series of the season. First pitches are set for Friday at 3 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

After a 7-1 February record to start the season, the Crimson Tide (8-4) has now dropped three out of four to in March following Tuesday’s 6-3 loss in the Capital City Classic in Montgomery, Ala., against Auburn.

Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard called the Auburn loss “disappointing,” but said the team has already moved on as it prepares for the 9-2 Cardinals.

“What’s behind us is over with,” he said. “We’re going to be challenged in a lot of areas and we’ve got to prepare really hard in the next two days for them. I think we have an opportunity to go there and leave on Sunday a better team than we are right now today.”

While many teams might look to schedule easier opponents before beginning conference play, Gaspard said the reason they put Louisville on the schedule is to prepare them for down the road.

“If you’re going to be there in the end [of the season], these are the types of teams you’ve got to play and you’ve got to beat,” he said. “There’s only one way to see where you’re at and that’s to play those teams.”

Sophomore right-fielder Ben Moore said he’s excited for the test the Cardinals will bring to the table.

“These are the games we live for,” he said. “You want to play the top dogs in the country [to] earn a little respect [and] earn a little pride. These are the fun games, being the underdog going out [and] giving it all you got.”

Although they are nonconference opponents, Alabama and Louisville are not completely unfamiliar with each other. The two teams last met March 10, 2012, when the Tide took down the then-No. 20 Cardinals 7-6 in Tuscaloosa.

Playing against a top pitching staff, it will be imperative that the Tide gets some offensive production out of its lineup.

Junior first baseman Austen Smith is one player the Tide may turn to for that production, who in the last three games batted .317 with five hits and five RBIs after a slow start to the season at the plate.

“When we all start swinging it [well], it’s going to be tough to get us out,” Moore said. “But for Austen to be successful swinging it, it’s really going to help.”

Likewise, the Tide pitching staff needs to find a way to keep its pitch count down, which it has struggled to do in recent outings.

“I know me, I’ll get 0-2 [or] 1-2 [in the count], but then I’ll want to be too perfect to get that strikeout,” said sophomore pitcher Jon Keller, who is slated to start Saturday. “I’ll end up 2-2 or 3-2, then that guy gets a hit and then you have to start back over and there you are throwing 25 pitches an inning.”

Senior right-hander Charley Sullivan (0-1, 4.20 ERA) will start Friday, with sophomore right-hander Spencer Turnbull (0-1, 3.77 ERA) getting the nod to conclude the series Sunday.

Leading in today’s Crimson White:

Loss at Ole Miss damages Alabama’s chances for high SEC tournament seed

Men’s team continues spring schedule in Vegas

UMCH helps send foster children to Alabama