Alabama baseball quietly finished the Crimson Tide’s weekend sweep of Tennessee in Knoxville this weekend. After Alabama’s football team started things on Saturday with a 58-21 win, the baseball team capped things with a scrimmage against the Volunteers.

A new NCAA rule allows baseball programs to scrimmage against other teams during the six-week practice period in fall. Alabama played 11 innings of standard baseball against Tennessee, then finished the day with seven innings of situational work.

“It was serious,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “I made it clear with my kids that ‘Hey, this is a fall scrimmage. We’re going to play more people than perhaps we normally we would on a Saturday or Sunday game in April, but we need to win.’ This group of kids, this baseball program needs to win baseball games. So it was important to me that we go up and play our best baseball and play to win.”

No official statistics were published from the scrimmage. Alabama did not announce the result; Tennessee posted on its Twitter account that the Crimson Tide won 4-2.

Another scrimmage is coming this weekend, when Alabama travels to Tallahassee to face Florida State. The Seminoles finished this spring 43-19 as an NCAA regional host and are ranked perennially. That was done with an eye towards showing Alabama’s young roster the kind of competition it will face during SEC play.

“I thought it was really important for all of our kids but especially our new kids (to see) what an SEC team looks like,” Bohannon said. “With us not having Tennessee on the schedule in the spring, Florida State being a perennial top 10, top 15 program, I thought it was really important.

“When you scrimmage (against yourself), half the kids on the field aren’t going to be playing a lot. And every time that a guy is pitching and a couple guys get on base, it seems like maybe a second-tier player comes up to bat. It’s just different when you’re playing a legitimate opponent with their best guy in the lineup. It’s different and it’s good to see another SEC team.”

Softball programs have held intersquad scrimmages for years in the fall. Baseball coaches are still feeling it out, but there are plenty of advantages. It can help players remain focused with a goal in mind when offseason attention spans might otherwise wane. It can be a measuring stick for coaches. Younger players gain valuable experience they’d otherwise only gain in the season.

The bulk of the work in fall is still done in practices and intrasquad play as teammates face one another. But having the chance to play outside competition in the offseason is a valuable new tool for coaches.

“You have a bunch of kids, no matter how talented they are coming from the high school or junior college ranks, you just don’t get this conference until you’re in the middle of it,” Bohannon said. “So we’re doing everything we can to speed up their development. We’re trying to get these freshmen to play like sophomores in March, not May. Trying to get these JC kids to really help us win right away and not their senior year. I think these two scrimmages will be a huge piece of helping speed up their growth.”

Reach Ben Jones at ben@tidesports.com or 205-722-0196.

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