Alabama baseball has built some momentum for itself during its nonconference schedule. Now the Crimson Tide will have a chance to make a name for itself.
Alabama remained unranked in this week’s major polls, but that won’t be the case next week if it can keep its 12-game winning streak alive this week after a road trip to No. 9 Ole Miss. It’s the first of 10 straight SEC series. All 10 of those opponents are ranked in the D1Baseball.com Top 25 and eight of them are ranked in the coaches’ poll.
“I think that’s why we’re all here,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “Every coach, every player, if you’re genuinely competitive, you want to compete with and against the best and it starts with one of the best with Ole Miss, who is in the top 10 in all the polls. Just really excited to see how our team responds to being in a tough environment against a great opponent and I expect to really compete well. We have a good team, and I’m excited to find out how good this weekend.”
Alabama at No. 9 Ole Miss
Schedule: Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 1:30 p.m., Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Where: Oxford-University Stadium at Swayze Field (Oxford, Miss.)
Records: Alabama 16-2, Ole Miss 12-5
Radio: 102.9 FM
The first four weeks of the season have answered a few questions about Alabama, including the weekend rotation. Senior Sam Finnerty will start the Friday night game, followed by junior Brock Love on Saturday and junior Wil Freeman on Sunday.
Finnerty and Love have played against SEC competition before, but Freeman, a junior college transfer, will be facing a new kind of competition.
“We have a lot of new guys but throughout the fall and the spring, we knew we had a good team,” Love said. “We look forward to going and playing a team like Ole Miss and seeing how we stack up against them.”
Alabama is expected to be without sophomore catcher Sam Praytor. He hasn’t played since Feb. 23 with an elbow injury.
The team has been able to keep winning without him, ranking 10th in the league in scoring, second in earned run average and second in the league in fielding percentage. Alabama is improved in all three categories from where it finished 2018.
“I’m just really pleased with the way we’ve pitched, especially out of the bullpen,” Bohannon said. “We were last in the SEC in fielding percentage last year and currently second, so we’ve really made some strides in those two areas. Last season, even before it ended, I knew that we had to get better, deeper on the mound and we had to defend the field better. Really pleased, three-and-a-half weeks into the season, that we’ve improved in those areas.”
That success gives Alabama some confidence it can compete with its SEC brethren even after going 8-22 in the conference last season. But the road ahead is difficult, and not every player on the roster has been down it before.
“Kolby Robinson, Morgan McCullough, Brett Auerbach, Tyler Gentry, those guys are very good players,” Bohannon said. “How are they going to respond when they go 1-13 with five punchouts in a weekend? Because they can be second team all-league players and have a weekend like that, and they get up to bat that 15th, 16th, 17th at bat, do they truly expect to get a hit? Those are things we have to work through and figure out, but I’m very pleased with where we are right now.”
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.