Nevada baseball opens with Alabama in NCAA Regional

Nevada and Alabama have much in common as they prepare to square off in the first round of the NCAA Regional today at Stanford University's Sunken Diamond.

Both clubs are familiar not only to NCAA postseason play, but to Sunken Diamond coming into their 3 p.m. contest. The Nevada Wolf Pack played in the Stanford regional last year and reached the championship game before losing to the host Cardinal. And the Alabama Crimson Tide, fourth at last year's College World Series, was the runner-up behind Long Beach State at the 1998 Stanford Regional.

Today's game can be heard live on KPTT radio (630 AM).

Alabama is seeded No. 2 and Nevada No. 3 coming into the regional. Today's second game will match the top-seeded Stanford Cardinal (42-13) against No. 4 seed Fresno State Bulldogs (40-19).

Both Nevada and Alabama are riding hot streaks coming into the postseason. Nevada finished as Big West Conference co-champion after winning seven straight and 16 of 19 games. Alabama, which has won 16 of its last 22 games, finished fourth in the Southeastern Conference Western Division and placed third at the SEC Tournament this past weekend.

Alabama returns six starters and six pitchers off a 1999 team that went 53-16 and placed fourth at the College World Series. With five consecutive NCAA Regional appearances, the Crimson Tide has now made 12 postseason tournaments, advancing to the College World Series five times, including a loss in the 1997 championship game to LSU.

Nevada's scheduled starter is senior Chad Qualls, who was named to the All-Big West first-team earlier this week. Qualls is 11-3 with a 3.62 ERA and now holds Nevada's single-season strikeout record (109 strikeouts in 124.1 innings).

Alabama will counter with 6-foot-6 sophomore right-hander Scott Murphy, who had a team-high four complete games. Murphy pitched the last nine weekend's as the Crimson Tide's No. 1 starter, against six ranked teams. He won 12 straight times as a collegiate before suffering his first career loss March 31 at South Carolina - the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 seed - when he allowed four runs and nine hits in eight innings.

The Crimson Tide line features Sam Bozanich, from Bakersfield, Calif., who holds Alabama's single-season record for home runs (17) and RBIs (81) by a second baseman. He is team leader with runners in scoring position with a .429 average and also leads the team with two outs, batting .345 (30-for-87) with a team-high 34 RBIs.

Regardless of today's outcome, the Wolf Pack will resume play in the double elimination tournament on Saturday. If the Wolf Pack wins, they will play the Stanford-Fresno State winner at 3 p.m. A loss will have Nevada playing at 11 a.m.

Carson City product Darrell Rasner is the Wolf Pack's likely candidate to pitch the second game. Rasner, a freshman right-hander, was also selected to the All-Big West first-team this week.

Today's scheduled pitchers

Alabama - 27 Scott Murphy (RH, So., 13 GS, 4 CG, 7-2, 5.21 ERA)

Nevada - 30 Chad Qualls (RH, Sr., 17 GS, 6 CG, 11-3, 3.62 ERA)

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