No matter the sport, when the Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers meet, everyone has their eyes in the state.
Fans on both sides seek bragging rights wherever they can get them, including on the baseball field.
Alabama (27-22, 10-14) suffered another series loss to the No. 17 LSU Tigers last weekend in Tuscaloosa, further putting its SEC and NCAA tournament hopes on edge. According to D1Baseball, the Crimson Tide were one of the “First Four Out” before their series loss to the Tigers.
Now, Alabama is also off that short list.
Earlier this week, the Crimson Tide recorded a season-high 18 hits in their 13-6 loss to the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. Now Alabama is looking southeast at their arch-rival, the No. 20 Auburn Tigers (33-16, 13-11).
“It’s a very complete team,” Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon said. “I just think they’re really balanced and very consistent.”
The Tigers are sitting safely on the NCAA Tournament field, but are looking to host a regional. Managing the Crimson Tide will go a long way in determining this.
Auburn is coming off back-to-back losses to No. 1 Tennessee and No. 4 Arkansas. The series with Alabama is its last three-game Plains game.
In the middle of the lineup is infielder Sonny DiChiara, who has been one of the most dangerous bats in the entire country. DiChiara has a supernatural OPS of 1.414 with 16 homers and 45 RBIs. The senior from Hoover, Alabama is hitting .412 with a .838 slugging percentage.
The Tigers don’t hit a ton of home runs, but the roster finds a way to score runs night after night. Auburn has eight players with 20+ RBIs this season.
“They’re a really good team,” Alabama outfielder William Hamiter said. “They have a lot of good hitters and a lot of good pitchers. They’re ranked in the top 25 – they’ve been around for a while. We have to be ready to play. »
Crimson Tide relief pitcher Brock Guffey also knows the threat of the Tigers offense.
“They’re very competitive at home plate,” Guffey said. “They’re going to give you great drummers. They will not back down. It will therefore be necessary to bring it and limit errors.
Every time Crimson Tide and Tigers get together, it means something – including to players on both sides who reside in the state.
“A lot of kids from each team were recruited by both schools,” Bohannon said. “There is a lot at stake here. They play a lot, and we scratch and claw to extend our season. It will be a great series and I know it will be a great atmosphere.
For Hamiter and Guffey, this series is always the one on the calendar.
“I grew up as an Alabama fan watching football, basketball and baseball,” Hamiter said. “The rivalry means a lot to me. Last year’s series was a lot of fun. So obviously that will have implications with all of these one-inning games back home. Now we are going to their house so it will be fun and we can’t wait to be there.
“This rivalry is super special to me,” Guffey said. “Growing up in Alabama is all I’ve ever seen. It’s like the biggest thing of the year, especially when it comes to football. But for baseball, it’s no different. “The crowds there don’t care what sport it is. It’s Alabama versus Auburn, and it’s going to be a very special weekend. Hopefully we can come out on top.”
For the Crimson Tide to make the playoffs, they must start this weekend at Auburn. Alabama can’t take another series loss or sweep.
“We have to win, plain and simple,” Hamiter said. “We have to give everything we have. We have to be able to play our best ball and come out with a win. Because it seems to be our best option to make the playoffs. We have to get there.
Game 1 from Plainsman Park to Auburn is scheduled for Friday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.