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Bama hosts familiar foes in NCAA Regional action

By By Mark Etheridge / special to The Star
May 31, 2002
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. When the field was announced Monday for NCAA baseball Regional play, fourth-ranked Alabama noticed some familiar names in its bracket.
Not only is cross-state SEC rival Auburn making its second trip of this season to Tuscaloosa, but Florida Atlantic and Southeast Missouri State have ties to the Tide as well.
Alabama swept Auburn in a three-game series earlier this season that included a pair of dramatic come-from-behind wins. Alabama beat Florida Atlantic in February as both teams participated in the Hormel Foods Classic in Minneapolis. The other opponent, and the only one the Tide is assured of facing, is today's opponent Southeast Missouri State.
Irony abounds as the Tide and Indians were originally scheduled to play a three-game series early in this season in Tuscaloosa. When the SEC decided to revert back to a 30-game conference slate as opposed to the 27 the coaches were working from to make their early schedules, coach Mark Hogan's team was the odd team out and dropped from Alabama's schedule. If Hogan's name sounds familiar to local baseball fans, his prior coaching job was at Livingston University (now known as West Alabama) just 50 miles down Interstate 20/59 from Tuscaloosa.
SEC Tournament MVP and Crimson Tide first baseman Brent Boyd says there is an advantage in the way the bracket was filled.
Following Alabama's SEC Tournament championship Sunday, the Crimson Tide earned the national No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament trailing only No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Clemson. National seeds are given to the top eight teams in the nation. This is Alabama's second national seed in the post season since the NCAA Tournament was expanded to 64 teams in 1999. Alabama is 18-2 (.900) all-time in post-season games in Tuscaloosa and has never lost an NCAA Regional game played on its campus, compiling a 13-0 all-time record.
Wells lists senior right-hander Shane Sanders (8-3 3.38 ERA) as the today's probable starter. Sanders looks to rebound after losing two consecutive decisions. The staff ace, senior right-hander Lance Cormier (10-3 3.24 ERA), is expected to get the ball Saturday. Freshman left-hander Taylor Tankersley (8-4 2.67 ERA) and sophomore left-hander Jeffrey Norris (5-1 3.34 ERA) are also contenders to start. Junior right-hander Brian Reed (5-0 1.75 ERA 9 saves), a former Meridian Community College standout, will lead a host of arms in the bullpen.
Sophomore second baseman Peter Stonard (.409-5-40-16 sbs), senior catcher Jeremy Brown (.323-11-58), junior rightfielder Travis Garner (.335-6-31-21 sbs), also a former MCC standout, and senior centerfielder Scott McClanahan (.312-13-60-19 sbs) lead the Tide offense.
The three-day double-elimination tournament will kick off today with a first round matchup between the No. 2 seed Auburn Tigers (34-24) and No. 3 seed Florida Atlantic (43-18) at 1:30 p.m. In the nightcap, the No. 1 seed Crimson Tide (48-13) will take on No. 4 Southeast Missouri State (34-18) at 6:30 p.m. (CT). The two winners meet Saturday, at 3 p.m., while the losers square off at 11 a.m.
Tickets to the 2002 NCAA Baseball Regional are available through the Alabama Athletic Ticket Office. Ticket books are $65 (lower chairback), $55 (upper reserved) and $50 (reserved bleachers).
The Tuscaloosa Regional winner will face the winner of the Atlanta Regional that features Georgia Tech, Georgia, Louisville, and Coastal Carolina.