This weekend’s trip to Oklahoma is a new challenge for Alabama baseball.
The Sooners are likely the best opponent Alabama has faced this season. It’s the first extended road trip for the Crimson Tide as well.
Alabama at Oklahoma
Schedule: Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 4:00 p.m., Sunday at 12:00 p.m.
Where: L. Dale Mitchell Park in Norman, Okla.
Records: Alabama 9-0, Oklahoma 4-5
Radio: 102.9 FM
“You can’t explain it in athletics, but there’s just something different about being somewhere else, a different backdrop when you’re batting and whatnot,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “I thought we did a pretty good job (at Samford on Tuesday). This is a new challenge coming up this weekend, getting on a plane and going to play a really strong opponent. We just have to tackle that challenge and hopefully we’ll respond well.”
It’s also Alabama’s first three-game road series against an opponent from a major conference in the nonconference since playing at Nebraska in 2006. Alabama has played on the road at a handful of ranked opponents since then, such as Houston and Louisville, but none from a major conference.
It’s a challenge the team is excited about. The Sooners made the NCAA tournament in 2017.
“I’m looking forward to a different opponent and getting out of state,” pitcher Mason Duke said.
The Crimson Tide is off to its best start since beginning 10-0 in the 2002 season. The Sooners will have the firepower to stop that run. Outfielder Steele Walker is ranked as the No. 15 college prospect by Baseball America. Friday night starter Jake Irvin is also a top-100 prospect whose fastball sits in the low-to mid-90s.
“They’ll be talented and they’ll have a good team and it’ll be a good challenge,” Bohannon said. “We’ll have to play good baseball to win.”
Alabama’s strong start has come thanks to a sharp improvement in a number of categories. The Crimson Tide is averaging 10.1 runs per game early this season after averaging 5.2 in 2017. The team ERA has improved from 4.83 last spring to 2.89. The defense has made seven errors in nine games after making 61 in 54 games last spring.
Players said the team is having more fun this season and has more confidence. Winning a series on the road could only help that.
The winning streak has been a pleasant surprise to start the spring after Alabama went 19-34-1 last season. The series against the Sooners is the next step as SEC play draws closer.
“I didn’t know what to expect, to be quite honest,” Bohannon said. “I knew we had some good pieces. I think if you had told me three weeks ago that we’d start out 9-0 or 3-6, I could have believed anything. I just really didn’t know. I really didn’t create any expectations for this group in the short term.”
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.