Gaspard, NCAA projects say Alabama helped itself at SEC tourney
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
May 24, 2013 | 3733 views |  0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard (8) says he thinks his team could be a No. 2 seed in an NCAA tournament regional. The announcement of the NCAA field will come Monday. (Photo by Vasha Hunt/AL.com)
Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard (8) says he thinks his team could be a No. 2 seed in an NCAA tournament regional. The announcement of the NCAA field will come Monday. (Photo by Vasha Hunt/AL.com)
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HOOVER -- Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard came into the SEC tournament confident that his team would make the NCAA tourney and could even play its way into a higher NCAA seed.

Mission accomplished, he said, after the Crimson Tide lost 3-2 to second-ranked LSU in Friday’s SEC elimination game.

“I don’t know what all is going on at other places, but I would assume we’ve played ourselves into a two seed,” Gaspard said. “It depends on what happens everywhere else.”

The NCAA field will be announced Monday, but Alabama (34-26) entered the SEC tournament ranked No. 28 in the Boyd’s World pseudo RPI.

After the Crimson Tide beat Auburn 6-3 in Tuesday’s opener in the single-elimination round, Gaspard said he saw an opportunity for Alabama to improve its NCAA seed while in Hoover. The Tide went 2-2 in the SEC tourney, beating Auburn and Ole Miss but losing twice to LSU.

Going into Friday, ChasingOmaha.com had Alabama projected as a No. 2 seed in the Clemson Regional, along with top-seeded Clemson, third-seeded Campbell and fourth-seeded North Florida.

Going into the week, CollegeBaseballDaily.com had Alabama as a No. 2 seed in Mobile, along with No. 1 seed South Alabama, No. 3 seed Rice and No. 4 seed Rider.

CollegeBaseballNation.net lists Alabama as a No. 3 seed at UCLA, along with No. 2 seed Cal-Poly and No. 4 seed Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The projection was last updated Thursday.

After the SEC tourney, Gaspard sees a bigger picture than Alabama’s seed. Since losing a 16-inning game at LSU on April 20, the Tide has won 11 of 19 games.

“Two (seed)? Three? Who cares right now?” Gaspard said. “We’re playing pretty good, and I love the team we have. I know they’re going to fight. Whether we’re a two or three, I think we’re going to go somewhere and play really well.”

Alabama beat LSU in 10 innings a day after losing that 16-inning game and won another 10-inning game at Vanderbilt.

In the two games against LSU in Hoover, the Tide had a bad first inning in a 3-0 loss on Wednesday and was leading 2-1 with two outs in the top of the ninth inning Friday.

“I thought Alabama really came to play today, and I told our kids that they would,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I have so much respect for Mitch and his staff and the Alabama program.

“When we beat them in a 16-inning game earlier this year, they came right back the next day and played their hearts out.”

Alabama is a young team coming of age, with starters including freshman center fielder Georgie Salem, freshman second baseman Kyle Overstreet, sophomore right fielder Ben Moore and freshman shortstop Mikey White.

White came through with a two-run single in the 10 inning to key Alabama’s victory over Ole Miss on Thursday, and he hit a run-scoring triple Friday.

Freshman pitcher Mike Oczypok came one out short of a complete game Friday in his first start against SEC competition, giving Gaspard something to think about heading into next week.

The coach already liked what he saw.

“I know what our team is right now,” Gaspard said. “We’re a bunch of gutty guys that get after it and scratch and claw, and we’ve got a really good freshman group that’s going to be really outstanding and already has been for us now.

“I like our team. I like our team a lot. I like the way they do things. They do things the right way. They play the game the right way, and they like one another, and they’re getting just what they deserve right now … an opportunity to get to postseason play and advance from there.”

Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, jmedley@annistonstar.com. On Twitter @jmedley_star.

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