UWA in the GSC Tournament

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 5, 2004

LIVINGSTON, AL- For the first time in nine years, the University of West Alabama baseball team (31-20, 10-9 GSC) will make their way to the Gulf South Conference Tournament. The Tigers secured the number-four seed from the East Division with a 12-6 win at West Georgia on Sunday. The Tigers will open the double elimination tourney on Thursday when they face off with the number-one seeded Delta State Statesmen (43-9, 19-3 GSC).

“We are excited about the opportunity to represent West Alabama in the GSC Tournament,” said Tiger Head Coach Gary Rundles. “Our guys have worked hard this season and fought through some injury issues, always staying focused on the goals we had set.”

The Tigers and Statesmen met twice during the regular season with both teams earning a win. On Feb. 27, Brad Lightsey went 7.1 strong innings, limiting the Tigers to just three runs in an 8-3 DSU win. On the following day, West Alabama got a 3-for-3 performance, including a home run and three RBI from junior Randal Minton as the Tigers surged for a 10-9 comeback win over the Statesmen.

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Both teams are hitting well above .300 as a team, with the Tigers currently hitting at a clip of .320, while DSU boasts a team average of .345. Senior leftfielder Rafael Farrell leads the Tigers with a .404 batting average, including 11 doubles, three home runs and 33 RBI. Junior Brandon Boles is third on the team with a .385 batting average and has stolen a school record 29 bases for a team that leads the GSC with 130 steals (160 attempts).

Sophomore Dustin Carter has also been solid for UWA, hitting .398 with four round trippers and 35 RBI. Demopolis native, Dustin Roberts leads the Tigers with 12 homers and 49 RBI, while teammate Scott Needs is currently hitting .293 with eight home runs and 46 RBI.

The potent Statesmen offense has scored 420 runs in 2004 (8.08 runs per game). Jud Thigpen leads DSU with a .423 average, including 13 round trippers and 62 RBI. Chris Reed has also been outstanding, batting .420 with nine doubles and 44 RBI on a team that has eight players with 35 RBI apiece or more.

“We know that we will have to pitch well and be very sound on defense to beat Delta State,” said Rundles. “You cannot make mistakes and give a team of their caliber extra outs if you expect to win.”

Delta State carries a slight edge on the mound, with a very solid team ERA of 4.44, while the Tigers have also pitched well and have a team ERA of 5.56. Lee Boyd has been solid all season for West Alabama and currently has a record of 6-1 with two saves and an ERA of 4.15.

Ryan Taylor has started 12 games on the hill for UWA and is 7-4 with 32 strikeouts in 62.2 innings of work. Sophomore Shane Martin has also been good for West Alabama, posting a 5-1 record with a 4.72 ERA, while closer Clint Chambless has a team best 2.12 ERA and has already tied the single-season school record with eight saves.

Josh Barton leads DSU with an impressive record of 10-1 to go along with a 3.24 ERA and a team leading 59 strikeouts in 77.2 innings of work. Matt McAlpin is close behind with a record of 8-1 and a 3.68 ERA. In addition to hitting over .400, Reed is also the Statesmen leading closer with

six saves in 17 relief appearances.

West Alabama and Delta State are set to face off in opening round action on Thursday in Millington, Tenn., at 1:00 p.m. All of the exciting action can be heard on WZNJ 106.5-FM (Demopolis).