NCAA baseball tournament: Tide heads to Tallahassee; AU stays home
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
May 27, 2013 | 7653 views |  0 comments | 62 62 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama's Mikey White (1) throws to first for the out against LSU during the SEC tournament. (Photo by Vasha Hunt/AL.com)
Alabama's Mikey White (1) throws to first for the out against LSU during the SEC tournament. (Photo by Vasha Hunt/AL.com)
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TUSCALOOSA -- Sometime before Friday’s first round of the NCAA Tallahassee Regional, Alabama freshman shortstop Mikey White probably will call on friend Jameis Winston seeking recommendations.

No, not recommendations on how to hit Florida State pitchers. Winston wouldn’t sell out his teammates.

“I don’t know if I’ll call about a scouting report, but maybe go down there and get to some good food in Tallahassee,” White said.

Alabama drew more than familiar folks in the NCAA tournament. The Crimson Tide drew familiar surroundings and a familiar opponent.

The second-seeded Crimson Tide (34-26) will play in the double-elimination Tallahassee Regional for the second time in three years and open Friday at 11 a.m. against third-seeded Troy (40-18). The Tide beat Troy on 11-2 on May 8.

The game will air on ESPNU.

Host and top-seeded Florida State (44-15), Winston’s team and the No. 7 national seed, will open against fourth-seeded Savannah State (33-21), which won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament to earn the school’s first NCAA tourney berth since moving up to Division I.

Alabama was one of a national-best nine SEC teams to make the NCAA field. The others were Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt and LSU, which played in Sunday’s SEC final, were among the top eight national seeds. Vandy was the No. 2 national seed and LSU No. 4.

Auburn (33-23), which lost 6-3 to Alabama in the single-elimination round of the SEC tournament, did not make the field. The Tigers won their final three SEC series but took a 13-17 league record into the conference tourney.

“Obviously, we are disappointed we didn’t get in,” said Auburn coach John Pawlowski, who was fired later in the day. “I thought our team played very well in the second half of the season after the start we had in the SEC. I’m very proud of what they did in the second half.”

Alabama will return to the NCAA tournament after skipping a year. The Tide’s last appearance came in 2011, when it beat Central Florida twice but lost twice to Florida State.

“I think from day one this team has made a choice to be a team and do things the right way, and you’re being rewarded now to get into postseason play and move on,” Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. “Obviously, the opportunity to go to Florida State and play an in-state opponent like Troy, I think is exciting for our team.”

Troy will make its fourth NCAA appearance since joining the Sun Belt in 2006. The Trojans won the Sun Belt Conference regular-season title.

Alabama’s victory over Troy on May 8 in Tuscaloosa saw the Tide amass 13 hits off of five Troy pitchers, with third baseman Kenny Roberts and right fielder Ben Moore getting three apiece.

Taylor Gilbeau got the win in five innings of work for Alabama. Jay Shaw and Ray Castillo worked the final four innings in relief.

The three Alabama pitchers spread out 10 Troy hits.

“Mid-week games are much different from weekend series,” Gaspard said. “Obviously, we respect Troy so much. Obviously, they’ve had a tremendous year with 40 wins and had a great year in a tough Sun Belt league.

“It’s really different matchups with weekend starters on the mound. They’re a really good offensive team.”

Assuming the top two seeds win Friday, Alabama and Florida State will face off in the winners’ bracket. The Tide’s veteran players got a good look at FSU two years ago.

They also got a look at similar competition recently, having played top-ranked Vanderbilt in the final regular-season series and No. 2 LSU twice in the SEC tournament.

“The league that we play in prepares us for times like this and to play the top teams in the nation in postseason,” senior pitcher Charley Sullivan said. “We’re definitely battle-tested enough to go down there and play well.”

Tide veterans have told young stars like White about the Tallahassee experience, from the short porch (320 feet) in right field to sweaty spikes.

“They’ve told me it’s going to be really hot down there, for sure,” White said. “They said that, after games, they’d have to take their spikes off and, like, let them air out because they’re just filled with sweat.”

White could get even more scoop on the Tallahassee experience from Winston, the Seminoles’ freshman right fielder/pitcher and Hueytown native. White and Winston starred for Birmingham-area high schools, White at Spain Park and Winston at Hueytown.

White said the two players are “good friends.” They last talked after Alabama beat Auburn in the SEC tournament.

“He says that they’re playing really well,” White said.

The Tallahassee Regional winner will advance to the play the winner of the Bloomington Regional, which includes Indiana, Austin Peay, Florida and Valparaiso.

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