by Knox Bardeenknox.email@example.comHOOVER, Ala. The Friday session of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament will begin just as the opening day did; with Alabama playing Arkansas. The difference is that the loser wont be sent to a consolation bracket, but be eliminated from the tournament.
The seven seed, Alabama, scored five runs in the first inning Wednesday to beat the second seed Arkansas, 7-4. Now the two will play a quarterfinals rematch at 3 p.m. CT on CSS.
Alabama will send Jonathan Smart to the mound in Fridays quarterfinal game. The senior southpaw is 4-2 with a 2.30 ERA and has 10 saves is five starts this season and 23 relief appearances. Smart saved Wednesdays SEC Tournament win over the Razorbacks when he struck out two batters and didnt allow a hit in the final inning of the game.
Smarts last start came on May 21 against South Carolina. He threw 8 13 innings and allowed three earned runs on 12 hits, losing the game. Smart earned three saves against Arkansas this season, one on Wednesday and two in the regular season.
Arkansas will counter with freshman Ryne Stanek. The right-hander is 2-2 with a 4.75 ERA this season in 10 starts and three relief appearances. Stanek last pitched against Ole Miss on May 21 when he lasted just 13 of an inning and gave up two runs on two hits and a walk. Stanek did not face Alabama at all this season.
Alabama not only beat Arkansas on Wednesday in the SEC Tournament, but took 2-of-3 from the Razorbacks during the regular season in early April. Since the inception of this head-to-head series, the Crimson tide holds a 41-25 advantage over the Razorbacks.
The winner on Friday will advance to play Florida at 9:30 a.m. CT on Saturday. The loser, eliminated from SEC Tournament play, will head home and wait to find out about their NCAA Tournament chances.
Stanek was a third-round pick in last years Major League Baseball Draft, but elected to play at Arkansas.
Razorbacks head coach Dave Van Horn said that Stanek, has a tremendous fastball and three really good pitches.
Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard heaps high praise on Smart, who has succeeded in every role hes been placed in this season. We would not be where we are without him.
Smart leads Alabama with a 2.30 earned run average and ranks fifth in the SEC.