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February 19, 2013

BASEBALL: Alabama beats No. 21 Southern Miss

TUSCALOOSA | The array of Caterpillar tractor equipment just beyond the right field wall of Sewell-Thomas Stadium is a fitting juxtaposition to the events occurring a few dozen feet away.

The Earth Mover tractor parked amongst the construction is transforming the landscape for the future home of the Sarah Patterson Memorial Plaza. You can say the same thing about what a group of young players mixed in with a few veterans are doing to overhaul the Alabama baseball team.

Alabama outlasted No. 21 Southern Miss 10-8 Tuesday night to improve to 4-0. The Crimson Tide never reached four games over .500 a season ago.

The results are due to an improved offense, which is averaging nearly nine runs a game, stellar defense and just enough naiveté not to know what they are doing wasn't expected - not by the fans or the league coaches, who projected Alabama sixth out of seven Southeastern Conference West teams in a preseason poll.

The win was propelled by senior catcher Brett Booth. Mainly known for his defense behind the plate and at third base, Booth has come into his own at the plate, highlighted by Tuesday's perfect 3-for-3 outing with two runs scored, two RBIs, a walk and a solo home run blast off the scoreboard in left center field.

"Brett's playing as good as I've ever seen him play right now," UA coach Mitch Gaspard said. "The game has slowed down for Brett. He's been a calming force for this team."

Booth recognizes that he's in perfect rhythm at the plate.

"A lot of times when you feel this good it's a, 'How long can you feel this good?' kind of thing," Booth said. "I feel like this team is really looking up to me to be a leader. These young guys really listen to the old man who has been there and done it. I kind of feel like I'm playing that role real well."

And it's not just Booth. A look up and down the lineup reveals the names of players who have completely uplifted the prospects for this season.

Sophomore left-hander Taylor Guilbeau (1-0) is another. He threw five innings in the win, allowing just one run on three hits and two walks.

"We have so many new guys and it's such a new team, and that's a good thing because they're not thinking like us who saw that last year … It's a different team," Gaspard said. "There's good talent on this team. Guys are making plays. Anytime you have competition amongst yourself … it breeds more success."

Six Alabama players recorded a hit and Mikey White, who was named Freshman of the Week, scored two runs and added two RBIs. He was one of three freshmen along with Georgie Salem and Kyle Overstreet to drive in two runs.

"That was a great, great, great win for this program," Overstreet said. "Maybe we'll stay together and get rolling heading into this weekend."

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron.suttles@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0229.


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