UA baseball team looks to even series

Kevin Connell

There are only a few schools that have routinely given Alabama baseball coach Mitch Gaspard’s teams trouble over his 10-year head coaching career. One of those schools is Southern Miss, a team that Alabama will play for the second time this season and the 100th time in school history Tuesday night at 6:05 p.m. at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

“I think with both teams, with both coaching staffs, certainly respect one another,” Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. “I think that playing them every year, it’s almost like that in-state rivalry game. We’ve played them so many years in a row that we know them, they know us, kind of one of those series. It’s really been back and forth.”

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For Gaspard, this will be the 12th time he has faced Southern Miss (24-17, 13-5 C-USA), the first meeting dating back to 2004 when he was the coach at Northwestern State. His overall record against the Golden Eagles is 4-7, and 4-3 since he took over at Alabama in 2008.

The Crimson Tide’s most recent meeting against Southern Miss was a 2-1 defeat in Hattiesburg, Miss., in February during a time in which, Gaspard said, his team was not hitting well.

Now, anchored by the return of senior first baseman Austen Smith to the lineup last weekend at Tennessee, Gaspard said he believes the offense is in a much better place than it was during the teams’ first meeting this season.

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“I think our lineup right now, we’ve got multiple guys swinging the bat really well, which is producing a lot more runs than we have in the past, so I like where we’re at offensively,” Gaspard said about his team, which is batting .326 over the last week.

Still, even as a mid-week, nonconference game, Gaspard said that Alabama (28-12, 12-6 SEC) is not overlooking Southern Miss, despite an upcoming stretch of four SEC weekend series against ranked opponents.

“Southern Miss has been playing really good baseball as of late, so it’s a very important midweek game for us, as all of them are, but an opponent that we really respect,” he said. “We always have really good ballgames with Southern Miss, both at home and at their place, so we’re expecting a real battle, a real challenge Tuesday night.”

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