CW / Hannah Saad
The Alabama baseball team has had its fair share of intense rivalries. But which of them rank among the top? Here’s a list of the top 10 Alabama Baseball rivalries of all-time.
#10: Alabama vs. the University of South Alabama
In-state rivalries always tend to be exciting matchups, and this one is no different. Alabama has not played the University of South Alabama Jaguars frequently—just 17 games since March of 2006—but this matchup has given baseball fans some things to cheer about. Alabama has an 11-6 record against the Jaguars, winning the last four games. Although the final scores may show that Alabama often dominates this matchup, both teams usually trade runs in the early stages of the game. For example, on March 2, 2019, the sides were evenly matched until March 5, when second baseman Tyler Gentry hit a two-run homer to extend the Tide’s lead from 3-2 to 5-2. Alabama would score 3 more runs and win the game 8-4. Despite a lopsided win-loss record and deceptively dominant scores, these two teams play each other hard.
#9: Alabama vs. the University of Missouri
This matchup for the Crimson Tide has its ups and downs, which makes it even more fun to watch these two teams play. Since May of 2013, Alabama has a 5-8 record against the Missouri Tigers, their last game being in April of 2018. Unlike the previous rivalry, these games are close in scoring, with the largest margin of victory for the Tide at just six runs; most contests are decided by a range of one to four runs. To add to the low-scoring drama, these games are usually scheduled toward the end of the season as the teams play for high stakes. In the April 28, 2015 matchup, Missouri took the lead in the sixth inning with a two-run homer to give the Tigers the win at 5-3. The Tigers would go on to win the series, which put them in first place in the SEC East division. In May of 2013, however, Alabama scored three runs in the ninth inning in a walk-off victory against the Tigers. Low-scoring affairs, intense until the last pitch, high stakes for both teams: This rivalry has all the fun a baseball fan could want.
#8: Alabama vs. the University of Tennessee
Unlike football, the baseball rivalry between Alabama and the University of Tennessee Volunteers has been a touch more competitive. Since 2002, Alabama has a 23-16 record against the Volunteers. This rivalry is higher-scoring than the previous one, with an average runs scored of 6.7 per game. What makes this rivalry so intriguing is the difference that home-field advantage can make. When facing the Volunteers at home, the Crimson Tide is 13-5. Away, the Tide is only 10-11. The crowd tends to motivate the Tide to play harder at home, especially for this opponent. On top of that, in several games Alabama has had to fight from behind or stop a late-inning rally to get the victory. Preventing late-inning heroics and protecting home turf is just a couple things that make this rivalry among the best for Alabama Baseball.
#7: Alabama vs. the University of Kentucky
This rivalry is one of the more competitive ones on this list. Since 2002, Alabama has a 24-17 record against the Kentucky Wildcats. This is a lower-scoring rivalry than most, with both teams averaging a combined 5.32 runs scored per game. In recent years, this matchup has occurred during the middle of the season. This placement makes the rivalry more interesting because the NCAA tournament picture is beginning to form and Kentucky tends to be ranked in the AP Top 25. Alabama gets the chance to hurt the Wildcats’ standing in the tournament picture and cause their ranking to drop in the AP poll. Standings may not seem like they should make a rivalry that much more interesting, but this matchup is the exception.
#6: Alabama vs. Troy University
As stated earlier, in-state rivalries are exciting no matter the sport or the rival, and this one is no different. The most intriguing part about this matchup is the number of runs scored. The average for games since 2009 is 6.86, but there are some games where one team absolutely overpowers the other. In March of 2012, the Troy University Trojans shutout the Crimson Tide 9-0. Three years prior, Alabama beat the Trojans 22-4. That game, the Tide hit two grand slams, tying a school record at the time. This rivalry is also fun to watch because each team knows the other well. Both teams know how quickly the other team can change the momentum. The mutual understanding and respect both teams have for each other makes the games more intense to watch. Even when either the Trojans or the Crimson Tide are down in a game, they keep fighting. With both teams always playing to win, this matchup has become a very good in-state rivalry.
#5 Alabama vs. the University of Florida
This matchup is a tougher one for the Crimson Tide. The University of Florida Gators are consistently one of the top teams in collegiate baseball. Since 2002, Alabama has a 19-30 record against the Gators. Most of these games occur late in the season, specifically during the SEC tournament. Each team has had the opportunity to ruin the other’s College World Series dreams, each one has seized it. In May of 2010, pitcher Adam Morgan led Alabama past the Gators to reach the SEC title game. One year later, the Gators stopped the Tide’s SEC tournament run in the second round. With this matchup only occurring during the later part of the season, seeing these two teams compete for a chance to reach the College World Series makes this rivalry an intriguing one to follow.
#4 Alabama vs. University of Mississippi
This rivalry in recent years has become an entertaining matchup for collegiate baseball fans. Although the win-loss record since 2002 is not favorable to the Crimson Tide – 29-31 since April of 2002 – this matchup is enjoyable to watch. Like the previous rivalry, this one includes a top-ranked team competing against Alabama. The Crimson Tide is known to play these types of opponents a little harder because they know the other team will play clean baseball. Alabama, in recent seasons, has been the Rebels’ kryptonite in the SEC tournament. In 2010, 2013 and 2015, Alabama was able to defend the Rebels in the early rounds in the tournament. Aside from the competitive play in tournaments, games against the Rebels tend to come down to the wire or even go into extra innings. Tight, clean baseball from both teams along with classic extra-inning drama adds to an already intense SEC rivalry.
#3 Alabama vs. Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University and Alabama have an interesting baseball rivalry. With Vanderbilt ranked as a top baseball school, this matchup provides yet another challenge for the Tide. For the most part, the Tide can keep pace with the Commodores; with a 19-20-1 record since 2004, this is a closer matchup than most people think. The scores are usually close, but the Commodores do have their fair share of shutout victories against the Tide. Alabama, however, seems to struggle to beat the Commodores in late-season play. Both teams are playing their best baseball, even if the record does not show it. These tight games often end in exciting fashion, like Austen Smith’s three-run walk-off homer against the Commodores in 2012. This may be one of the lesser-known rivals the Tide has, but the games provide entertainment all baseball fans can appreciate.
#2 Alabama vs. Auburn University.
A classic SEC and in-state rivalry across all sports, this matchup is no less exciting on the baseball field. Alabama has a 40-30 record against the Auburn Tigers, winning both on home turf and away in Auburn. These two teams tend to meet late in the season, building the excitement to play their biggest in-state rival. And games live up to the hype: the rivalry includes blowouts, close wins and extra innings wins. On May 7, 2017, Alabama was able to secure the series sweep in an 11-9 victory after 15 innings, the longest game in Alabama history. This rivalry is one of the classics, and the variety and excitement that comes with the games make it among the top of the list.
#1: Alabama vs LSU
This rivalry is one of the most storied ones across collegiate baseball. These two teams have exchanged SEC titles wins, College World Series wins and much more. Three of the longest games played in Alabama Baseball history are against the LSU Tigers. However, what makes this rivalry soar to the top of this list is the way players and coaches approach this game. Before a series in 2019, LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri discussed how he challenged the Tigers to sweep Alabama.
“I was trying to make them understand how important the whole series was,” Mainieri said in a press conference. “After that first night [a 6-1 Tiger defeat], I was hoping we’d avoid getting swept.”
Mainieri understood the threat Alabama poses to the Tigers. Both teams know that the rivalry is extremely important to fans and the media alike, so both kick it into a higher gear when playing each other, something a baseball fan always enjoys to see. Although the record all-time and more recently favors the Tigers, the intensity and hype around this storied rivalry make it Alabama Baseball’s number one rivalry.