Just because he’s not from Alabama doesn’t mean Alex Webb doesn’t understand what a series against Auburn means.
“I grew up a Georgia fan, so I’ve kind of hated Auburn since I was little,” the freshman catcher said. “I never liked them that much.”
Webb, a Tennessee native, will get his chance against the Tigers this weekend when Alabama travels to Auburn for a three-game series. He’s broken into the lineup recently for UA, starting four of its last five games behind the plate.
That’s no small feat for Webb, who entered the season with a sophomore and two senior catchers also on the roster. His hot bat has helped move him into the starting lineup. Since April 21, he’s gone 8 for 19 with three doubles, a home run and two RBIs.
“I’m really happy about how Alex is a guy that worked hard, kept his mouth shut, just waited for his opportunity and has been doing good,” head coach Greg Goff said. “Really happy for him.”
The first game might have been his biggest. He started the second game of a doubleheader against Mississippi State and went 2 for 4 with two doubles. It was only his second start of the season, but that performance gave him a boost that kept him moving forward for the next week.
Webb has had to wait more than just this season. He redshirted in 2016 with three juniors ahead of him on the roster. But he didn’t stand idle during that season, or while he was a backup earlier this year.
“You never want to be unprepared when your opportunity comes,” he said.
He kept working, improving his defense by watching junior Will Haynie last season, then learning from Alabama’s catchers this year. He’s thrown out seven of 12 runners in his limited action this year, the best ratio on the team.
Webb isn’t the only tweak to the Alabama lineup. The pitching rotation will also be altered this weekend. Senior righty Nick Eicholtz will pitch on Friday night, and junior Jake Walters will throw on Saturday. Sophomore Dylan Duarte, who has pitched the first game in each of the last two weekends, will be available out of the bullpen. UA’s starter on Sunday will be determined after the first two games.
Webb has picked up on the particulars of the Alabama-Auburn rivalry since he arrived on campus. Alabama lost in a nonconference midweek meeting 4-3 in Montgomery earlier this year that was contested to the final out.
“We’re Alabama and they’re Auburn,” Webb said. “It doesn’t matter what your conference record is, what part of the season it is or anything like that. You’re going to be energized and ready to go and hopefully put on a show to go out there and play your best series of the year.”
UA has lost 13 straight SEC games, but had recent success against the Tigers. Alabama has won its last five SEC series against Auburn, going 12-3 in the last five seasons. That’s the kind of weekend the Crimson Tide is hoping to have.
“It’s Auburn,” Goff said. “It’s a weekend that we’ve circled and we know is a very important weekend, just like they all are. But it’s Auburn, our in-state rivals. We know that it’s very, very important for us to go down and play well this weekend. Our guys will know that today at practice. You’re playing one of the top-10 teams in the country. Not only is it your rival, but it’s a top-10 team and another SEC opponent. What more could you want than to have that?”
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.