Tide travels to face tough pitching at LSUBy Brett Hudson | 04/11/2012 11:04pm
The Alabama Crimson Tide will travel to Baton Rouge this weekend to face the No. 5 LSU Tigers.
The Tide will be thrown into the purple and gold fire immediately, facing one of the best pitchers in the country, Kevin Gausman. Gausman enters the series with a 5-1 record in eight starts and a 2.83 ERA. Gausman has allowed only one home run in 202 at-bats and holds opponents to a .218 batting average.
“They’ve got Gausman ... their Friday night guy who potentially could be the first pick in the [Major League Baseball] draft,” Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard said. “He’s a power arm that’s going to pitch in the 95 to 99 range.”
Shortstop Jared Reaves added, “He’s having a stellar year. He’s got great stuff. I remember him from last year, [and] he’s good.”
The adversity does not stop there; Ryan Eades will follow Gausman. Eades is 4-1 with a 2.70 ERA and a WHIP of 1.12.
“Eades is the next guy, and he could be a first rounder next year,” Gaspard said. “Their starting rotation is as dominant as anyone in our conference.”
The task is made even more difficult with the environment in which Alabama will be playing. LSU is 21-4 when playing at its home field, Alex Box Stadium.
“You’re going into an environment that’s one of the toughest places to play in the country, and they’re playing well right now,” Gaspard said. “Coming off of that series win at No. 1 Florida, we’ve certainly got our hands full this weekend.”
The venue in Baton Rouge provides a unique situation for a baseball game, something that is atypical for the rest of the SEC.
“Their fans are very supportive,” Gaspard said. “Alex Box is right on top of you, and they really understand the game. They know how to get their team going, and they know how to get runs at you. You got to play the game the right way and keep the game slow. If the game gets sped up, [it] can get away from you real fast down there.”
Reaves added, “I’ve never been there, but I’m assuming it’s a little more hostile than Arkansas.”
Alabama’s first road series in the SEC was at Arkansas, and the Tide got swept after pushing the Razorbacks to extra innings in the series-opening game.
With the difficult task ahead, Gaspard has a plan in mind.
“The key on the road is pitching,” Gaspard said. “You have to pitch well on the road. That settles the game down for your defenders and your offensive players.”
However, the increased importance of a good pitching performance is not overly substantial.
“The game doesn’t change much,” Gaspard said. “There are still those things you have to do every night to win. It all comes down to execution, whether that’s from the pitching staff or offensively or in the field.”