The lengthy home stand to start the University of Alabama baseball season has finished. The next step is seeing how the Crimson Tide fares on the road.
Alabama’s first 20 games this season were all at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, while the next five games are all away from Tuscaloosa. UA started that trip with a win on Birmingham over UAB on Tuesday night, but has a taller task this week with a trip to No. 8 South Carolina.
“They’ve got one of the best pitching staffs in the country,” head coach Greg Goff said. “Offensively, they’ve got some guys in that order that can really hurt you. The leadoff guy is really good. This is by far, I feel like, the best team we’ve played so far, on paper anyways. We’re going to have to play really well to beat these guys this weekend.”
Alabama will be going into the series without two players who will miss the rest of the season with injuries. Sophomore right hander Brock Love will undergo surgery and be out the rest of the season. Love had started two midweek games and been a key reliever, throwing 26 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings.
Freshman infielder Camden Bauer, who had one at-bat this season, had shoulder surgery and will also miss the rest of the season.
Alabama was swept in the final home series last weekend against Missouri to start SEC play. The final nine weekends of the season are all against SEC competition. The Gamecocks are on an eight-game winning streak.
Opposing fans, particularly those around the SEC, provide a sometimes unkind environment that several of Alabama’s young players haven’t seen yet.
“They’re not just saying ‘Roll Tide’ or ‘Good job,’” catcher Tanner DeVinny said. “It’s going to allow those guys to grow mentally and ultimately help them to help us perform later on in the season.”
Goff continued to tinker with the lineup in Tuesday’s game, and said last week he was hoping to iron out some more wrinkles before SEC play began. With the Crimson Tide hitting the road, he has another opportunity to learn a little more about his team and how it will respond.
“I think getting in those environments, being away from home, not in your home field and your home locker room, I think you can learn a lot about guys,” Goff said. “I think it can bring guys together. I think when you travel on the bus together, watch movies and get away from everything else, taking 27 guys this weekend to something new and different, I think it can be a good thing for us.”