Friday, March 9, 2007

Baseball Preview: # 18 Nebraska Cornhuskers


# 13 Crimson Tide Host #18 Cornhuskers in Weekend Set

While most of the students at Alabama are heading to the beach for Spring Break this weekend, the 13th ranked Alabama baseball team will be playing what could be its most pivotal series of the season. Alabama (12-4) is coming off two straight losses and searching for a team identity, takes on nationally ranked Nebraska this weekend at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. This is the last non-conference series before SEC play beings next weekend and a chance for Alabama to see how it stacks up against one of the top teams in college baseball.

Nebraska is 6-4 on the season after going 1-2 at the Stetson Invitational over the weekend. The Huskers dropped their first two games on Sunday, but bounced back with a 6-2 win over Stetson to begin the week. According to the their official website, Nebraska was able to practice outside on Wednesday for the first time since fall drills ended on October 13. I am not sure if not being able to practice outside will be an advantage for Alabama this weekend but it certainly can not hurt. Nebraska has also played all of their games on the road this season.

The Huskers are led offensively by DH/1B Thad Weber, who is hitting .389 on the season with 6 RBIs. Second baseman Jake Opitz leads Nebraska in RBI's with 10 and home runs with 2. He his hitting .343 on the season. Nebraska does not have great power numbers through the first 10 games of the season as they only have seven home runs as a team.

The strength of the team though lies in its starting pitching and they are led by Big 12 preseason Pitcher of the Year Tony Watson. Watson, who will start on Friday night, is considered to be one of the best pitchers in America and is 1-0 on the year with a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings pitched and has recorded nine strikeouts. Sophomore Charlie Shirek (1-2) will start on Saturday and junior Johnny Dorn (1-2) will start on Sunday for the Huskers.

Alabama will counter with a starting rotation of Miers Quigley (2-0, 1.48 ERA) on Friday night, Kasey Kebedeaux (2-1, 1.42 ERA) on Saturday, and Bernard Robert (2-0, 1.80 ERA) on Sunday. With the Crimson Tide having to play five games this week, they must get good outings from their starting pitchers to win the series. Coach Wells had to use multiple guys in the two mid week games and needs the starters to go deep into the games to rest his bullpen as much as possible.

If Alabama can beat Watson on Friday night the odds of winning this series will be in the Crimson Tide's favor. He is by far Nebraska's best pitcher and gives Nebraska the best chance to win. That said, Alabama must play better than it has in its last two games to win this series, or even to avoid a sweep. I think Alabama responds and takes the series.

Nicks Prediction: Alabama wins series 2-1.

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