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Alabama, Auburn clash today in SEC Tourney

HOOVER — State rivals meet today in the opening game of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament after following different paths to arrive there.

Auburn (39-17, 20-10) clinched a spot in the tournament earlier this season and has been playing for position. The Tigers’ season ending sweep of Ole Miss put Auburn gave Auburn the No. 2 seed.

Alabama (34-21, 15-15) looked like a long shot a few weeks ago, but a five-game winning streak in conference games propelled the Tide into the No. 7 seed.

Alabama used strong pitching from Jimmy Nelson and Nathan Kilcrease to reach the tournament, but both players might be fatigued heading into today’s game.

Nelson has pitched two complete games during the Tide’s win streak while Kilcrease pitched a complete game during last weekend’s series against Tennessee.

If their arms are tired, it could be a long day for Alabama. Auburn leads the SEC in several offensive categories including home runs (114), batting average (.354), slugging percentage (.597), on base percentage (.430), runs scored (527), hits (724), RBI (493), total bases (1,221) and sacrifice bunts (53).

Tiger first baseman Hunter Morris, named the SEC Player of the Year Tuesday, is a big contributor to those numbers. He leads the SEC in home runs (20), runs scored (34), total bases (101), and slugging percentage (.816). He is second in hits (51) and RBI (37) as well as third in batting average (.408).

This is Auburn’s first trip to the SEC Tournament since 2003 and the No. 2 seed is the highest Auburn has ever been during the tournament.

Alabama last won the SEC Tournament in 2003 and has been in the tournament five times since then. The Tide has a 5-10 record in the tournament since its last title.

This will be the fifth meeting of the season between these two squads. Auburn won a non-conference game 6-3 in March, but Alabama won the first game of the season series 10-5 and the second game 6-5 before Auburn won the final game of the SEC series 7-1.

The winner will play the winner of the Ole Miss vs. South Carolina game while the loser will play the loser of the Ole Miss vs. South Carolina game.