There is no solace in statistics for the University of Alabama baseball season. There are already 26 losses this season. The Crimson Tide has lost all six SEC series, and its last 10 conference games overall.
There are 11 one-run losses against just two wins. Seven more losses have come by two or three runs. Head coach Greg Goff knows the numbers.
“I count them every night,” he said on Tuesday. “I take full responsibility for every loss we have. I wear it every day. You’ve seen me. You’ve been around me. I take pride in what we do. It’s killing me.”
The past week may have been the lowest yet. Alabama was swept in a three-game series against Mississippi State in Starkville, dropping all three games by a single run. The Crimson Tide hadn’t been swept in a three-game series by three total runs since 1987.
Alabama led all three games at one point. Friday’s doubleheader was a disheartening defeat by any standard. UA built a 5-0 lead in the second game and starter Jake Walters carried a no-hitter through five complete innings. Then the Bulldogs hung nine runs in the sixth, eventually beating Alabama 13-12 in the 13th inning.
“It’s starting to take more and more of a toll,” Walters said on Monday. “It just gets tougher every game that goes that way. I feel like this weekend has taken the most toll on us emotionally. After that game we played, two days we played so many hours of baseball. We had Saturday off to relax. I just feel like we have to dig down a little bit more, come together as a team and just focus on these next games.”
After the doubleheader that stretched into Saturday morning, Alabama’s bus arrived back in Tuscaloosa at nearly 4 a.m.
“It’s tough,” sophomore Sam Finnerty said on Monday. “Some of us were talking in the locker room, we’ve lost almost 15 games by one run or two runs or less. It’s tough. We’re right there. We’re right there to win every game.”
It hasn’t gotten any easier this week. Jacksonville State beat Alabama 11-8 on Tuesday, and No. 13 LSU arrives with one of the nation’s best weekend rotations. Junior Alex Lange (4-4, 3.41 ERA) will start on Thursday; senior lefty Jared Poche (6-3, 3.28 ERA) throws on Friday and freshman Eric Walker (5-1, 3.49) concludes the series.
It’s been a trying season physically, as well. Two of Alabama’s top relievers have undergone Tommy John surgery and are out for the year. Centerfielder Gene Wood had surgery for a knee injury this week that ended his season, and first baseman/outfielder Hunter Alexander is out with a finger injury.
“There’s a lot of times this year we feel like things just aren’t going our way,” Walters said. “But the game does that to you. We just have to learn how to react to it.”
Alabama still has 14 regular season games remaining. The Crimson Tide can salvage some of those statistics.
A win or two against the Tigers might not change the end of the season. But it can change the mood of the last week.
“I feel it every day when I wake up,” Goff said. “I feel like I’ve let a lot of people down, disappointed a lot of people. That’s not fun to wake up to, to be honest with you. But I feel that. I’ve worked a long time to get to this position and to go through this, it’s tough.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.
No. 13 LSU at Alabama
Schedule: Thursday at 6:30 p.m., Friday at 6:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 p.m.
Where: Sewell-Thomas Stadium
Records: Alabama 15-26 (2-16 SEC), LSU 27-15 (10-8 SEC)
TV: ESPN2 (Thursday only)
Radio: 102.9 FM