The midway point of the regular season for the University of Alabama baseball team is here. The Crimson Tide (13-15, 2-7 SEC) have played 28 of 56 games in head coach Greg Goff’s first year.
That hasn’t been the kind of beginning he had hoped for.
“I hate to lose,” he said. “I don’t even enjoy winning. I hate to lose. For me, going through this is tough. It’s tough for our players. It’s tough for our fans. Losing is unacceptable. We talked about that from Day One. Playing to a high standard, setting the bar high.”
There has been progress in some areas. The team batting average, .249 last season, sits at .274 at the moment. Alabama had 446 strikeouts last season and that number is tracking downward, with just 188 so far this year. Alabama is tied for second in the conference with 27 double plays and in the middle of the league in fielding percentage.
“I think offensively, we’ve made a big jump from where we were to where we are right now,” Goff said. “Defensively, I think overall we’ve played very clean. Most of the games we’ve been consistent on that part of it. I love our team chemistry. I love our team intensity. I love our team makeup and what they do. I really do. I’ve really grown to respect these players.”
On the other hand, the team ERA is at 3.49, up a tick from 3.46 last year. Starters Jake Walters and Nick Eicholtz haven’t been as consistent as they were in 2016. Relief pitching has struggled at times, particularly when its depth is tested. Injuries have also done some damage to the bullpen.
Players and coaches have also had to adjust to one another.
“It’s been a learning curve over the time we’ve spent with them,” senior reliever Mike Oczypok said. “We’re just trying to get in sync as players with the coaches. Hopefully the rest of the season we can continue to grow and win those tight games that we’ve had.”
Alabama has had plenty of those tight games in the last two weeks. The Crimson Tide lost its last two series against South Carolina and Arkansas, but was within striking distance in three of its four losses against those teams.
They’ll need to finish some of those games to keep their season going. The Crimson Tide are currently 13th in the league, and the top 12 teams move on to the SEC tournament in Hoover.
“I think our goal is getting to that SEC tournament and being in the top 12 of 14 (teams),” Goff said. “I think those are things we can accomplish and do.”
Its next two series, against Ole Miss and Texas A&M, could figure large in that discussion. The Rebels and Aggies are both just one game ahead of Alabama in the standings. Winning one or both series would change the complexion of the conference.
Both those opponents are ranked by at least one poll. Those series are the next chance for the Crimson Tide to show where it has improved.
“I want to make our fans and the people that support the University of Alabama proud of what we’re doing,” Goff said. “I’m a fan of those guys. That’s what bothers me the most. That’s what hurts me the most. I take full responsibility for every loss that we have.”