There’s much to learn for Alabama baseball this spring.
First-year head coach Brad Bohannon still has to find his best lineup and pitching rotation. The Crimson Tide roster has to become familiar with Bohannon and assistant coaches Jerry Zulli, Jason Jackson and Brock Bennett. That education started on Friday with the first full team practice of spring.
“Energy was outstanding,” Bohannon said. “A lot of hard contact, a lot of strikes. It’s the healthiest we’ve been since I’ve been here, since I got the job. It was a good first day. I’m really pleased with where we are right now.”
The team scrimmaged for five innings on Friday at the end of its first practice. Alabama’s season begins with a three-game homestand against Valparaiso from Feb. 16-18.
There’s plenty to be done before then. Bohannon and the coaching staff still haven’t seen all of their pitchers because of a handful of injuries that limited some players during fall practice.
Redshirt sophomore Brock Love and redshirt freshman Garret Rukes, who both underwent Tommy John surgery during the 2017 season, completed their throwing programs in December and are expected to be available for opening day. Junior Dylan Duarte, who had an elbow injury late last season, pitched in Friday’s scrimmage. Jake Walters and Sonny Potter, who had minor injuries that limited them in fall, are both available now.
“We’ve got some guys that we expect to be in our top eight to ten (pitchers) that this is really the first time we’re seeing them pitch live to hitters,” Bohannon said. “You evaluate pitchers in the bullpen and you see their pitches, but there’s nothing like the feedback from the hitter that they give you.”
A handful of position players moved around to new positions in Friday’s practice as well. Cobie Vance, who started the last two seasons at second base, played third. Senior Chandler Avant, who had started at shortstop, played second base. There could be more shuffling as the coaching staff finds its lineup.
“We have a lot of experience,” Bohanon said. “We have 40 of 46 home runs back from last year. No matter who we end up playing opening day, there are going to be a lot of juniors and seniors out there.”
Bohannon is the third head coach for the baseball program in three years. Mitch Gaspard after the 2016 after seven years as head coach. Greg Goff was fired after the 2017 season. More than a dozen players on Alabama’s roster are playing for their third college head coach. A handful of players who had transferred earlier in their careers, like seniors Connor Short and Hunter Alexander, have played for four coaches.
“I went from (Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan) to Ross Jones at junior college to the coaching staff last year to Bo,” Alexander said. “It’s been a lot but I’ve got a lot of useful information from four different really good coaches.”
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