SEASON PREVIEW: INF/CATCHER | OUTFIELD | STARTING PITCHING | BULLPEN
The anticipation for Alabama baseball’s season opener on Friday has been building for weeks for players, who began practicing in January. It’s been building longer for others who are looking to move past last year’s 19-win season.
New head coach Brad Bohannon has thought of the moment for years. He began his career as an assistant coach in 2001. Friday night will be his first game as a head coach.
“I’m sure that clock will be moving pretty slow on Friday morning,” he said.
It’ll also be the first Friday night start for junior pitcher Sam Finnerty. He’ll open the series against Valparaiso, followed by senior righty Jake Walters on Saturday. Alabama isn’t yet set on a Sunday starter.
Finnerty was excited when he heard he’d be the opening day starter. He’s also noticed his coach’s attitude rub off on teammates.
“He’s shown a lot of excitement in the last couple of days,” Finnerty said. “It’s lifted us up too, because we’ve been working hard for the past three weeks. We’re ready to play someone else in a different jersey.”
The Alabama lineup will feature several returning players, but many will be playing new positions. Junior Cobie Vance has moved from second base to third and senior Chandler Avant has played second base in preseason after playing shortstop the last two seasons.
Alabama will be without junior outfielder Chandler Taylor and sophomore righty Deacon Medders. They’re suspended this weekend for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Valpo was 24-29 last year, losing in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament. The Crusaders haven’t played an SEC team since the 2013 NCAA tournament.
But games this early still have plenty of opportunity for teaching moments. Opening the season with a string of wins would mean a fresh start for the roster.
“This team needs to learn how to win,” Bohannon said. “This is a group that won 19 games last year. They need to learn to close games out, learn to bounce back better from adversity. You can win all three games and things are going to go sideways at some point, whether we have a really bad inning or three or four innings of bad at-bats. Just excited to see how our kids respond to some short-term failure. I want to win.”
Bohannon has been waiting long enough for his first win as a head coach. Friday night is his first chance.
“When you’re an assistant and you aspire to be a head coach, you think about this stuff all the time,” Bohannon said.
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.
Alabama vs. Valparaiso
Schedule: Friday at 3:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 p.m., Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
Where: Sewell-Thomas Stadium
Records: Alabama 0-0, Valparaiso 0-0
Radio: 102.9 FM