There have been few constants for Alabama baseball in the last three or four seasons.
Three coaching staffs. Roster turnover. A renovated stadium.
“Going through all the changes and stuff, it really makes you that much closer,” senior Chandler Avant said. “You start to get kind of sad and choked up when you tell them goodbye, when the time comes, and hopefully you’ll see them soon.”
Alabama vs. No. 5 Ole Miss
Where: Sewell-Thomas Stadium
Schedule: Thursday at 6 p.m., Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m.
Records: Alabama 26-27 (7-20 SEC), Ole Miss 40-13 (15-11 SEC)
Radio: 102.9 FM
A handful of players have been the most consistent part of the program in that time. Alabama will say goodbye to six seniors this weekend in its season finale against Ole Miss at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. There are also more than a dozen juniors, some of whom could be drafted in June.
Senior Jake Walters moved into the starting rotation as a freshman and remained there, climbing up Alabama’s all-time records lists. Avant has been a three-year starter, playing shortstop in 2016-17 and second base this season. Junior Chandler Taylor is a three-year starter in right field. Junior Cobie Vance started at second base in his first two seasons before moving to third this year. Vance and Taylor will be among Alabama’s draft prospects.
Those three position players have a combined 513 starts, and have all played a key role in the lineup in the last three seasons.
“It’s like when we show up here, we’ve been the constant,” Taylor said.
Other seniors have had significant impacts during their careers, too. First baseman Cody Henry has started 163 games, and Hunter Alexander started 91 in the last two seasons. Connor Short started at third base for most of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. They’ll all be playing in their final games this weekend with Alabama eliminated from postseason play.
Alabama’s regular lineup has often featured seven or eight juniors or seniors this season. Among 30 players who have played this season, Alabama carried 20 juniors and seniors.
“This will always be my first team, and I’m really, really thankful for the character of this group, especially the older group,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “I’m really, really thankful that they truly gave us a chance to coach them. Because of that, it’s made this transition as smooth as it can possibly be. I think they’ve done a great job of laying a foundation for a really successful future. We’re going to have a lot of success at the University of Alabama and this group will be a big part of that.”
Much of that group will exit after this weekend. This core of players will move on. When they do, they’ll do it together.
“We’re like brothers,” Vance said. “Me and CT could fight right now, and then love each other the next second. Me and Avant are the same way. We get along so well, we understand each other so well. We all have kind of the same mind-set about it. We want to win so bad and we’re so focused on success, both for the team and personally. Sometimes that can hinder our relationship at the time. We’ll get upset and lash out at each other and stuff. That’s how we are as competitors. I think that we’re family. We’ll be family for life, for sure.”
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.