Alabama baseball is facing some harsh truths. The Crimson Tide’s 16-3 start dissolved into a seven-game losing streak after SEC play began. The team is tied for last in the conference, and has lost five one-run games in the last two weeks.
“When we were hot at the beginning of the year, even when we played bad, coach was letting us know that we won the game but weren’t playing good enough to beat good teams,” junior outfielder Chandler Taylor said on Monday. “Now we’re finding it out. It took us 24, 25 game to find out to beat adequate, conference opponents that you have to play clean baseball all the way through the game. We weren’t doing that but we were still playing just well enough to win. He kept telling us that after the game, and I think some guys just kind of took it for granted.”
The road doesn’t get an easier. Alabama hosts Kentucky for a three-game series this weekend. The Wildcats are a top-10 team despite a 2-4 start in SEC play. Including Kentucky, six of the final eight series this season will be against teams ranked in the top 25.
There is still plenty of time for Alabama to rebound. The regular season still has nearly two months remaining. Lessons learned this weekend should pay off down the line.
“I’m glad we’re playing Kentucky,” coach Brad Bohannon said on Monday. “I don’t think we need to play an inferior opponent right now. We have to figure out a way to win close games against teams that are every bit as good or even a little better than us.”
Alabama has had chances. The team is 2-5 in one-run games this season and has lost four more games by two or three runs.
Alabama vs. No. 6 Kentucky
Schedule: Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
Where: Sewell-Thomas Stadium
Records: Alabama 16-10 (1-5 SEC), Kentucky 18-7 (2-4 SEC)
Radio: 102.9 FM
“I honestly think this team has a chance to win 15 or 16 games in the league,” Taylor said. “I don’t think that’s out of reach for us, and I think we have to realize that. We have to start thinking positively, and we have to take the mindset that we want to change the way that you guys think about Alabama baseball.”
Taylor has been a key player for Alabama since his freshman season in 2016. He’s tied for fifth in the SEC with nine home runs and has twice led the team in RBIs. He was drafted after his sophomore season but chose to return to school.
“We’ve got to change the way that you guys think about Alabama baseball, because right now, to be honest, you guys don’t think very highly of us,” Taylor said. “It’s no secret. Nobody does. But until we start really caring about what you guys think and really wanting to change it, nothing is going to change.”
The baseball program has had its share of change lately, with three head coaches in three seasons. But more change has to happen for the team to arrive where Taylor wants.
It won’t get any easier from here.
“The kids are disappointed and they’re frustrated because they care,” Bohannon said. “We’ve got great kids and they really care and they really try hard. I hurt for them. It’s tough to lose a lot of close games. I’ve tried to remind them of this, we’re seven or eight runs away from being 6-0 in league play. So as bad as it feels, we’re also really close to being on an 11-game winning streak. We have over half of our season left with a lot of really challenging games.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.