Cobie Vance wasn’t just taking on one new role for the Alabama baseball team. He was making two moves.
On defense, he went from second base to third. On offense, he moved to the top of the order.
“I put a lot of work in,” Vance said.
Both moves have paid off for the junior. He’s second on the team in batting average (.318) and on-base percentage (.434) among every day players, both well up from last season. He’s already drawn 23 walks midway through the season; his career high is 25.
Alabama at No. 19 Texas A&M
Schedule: Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m.
Where: Taylor Stadium in College Station, Texas.
Records: Alabama 21-13 (5-7 SEC), Texas A&M 24-9 (5-7 SEC)
TV: ESPNU (Thursday only)
Radio: 102.9 FM
His defense at second was stellar, with just five errors all of last season. But the move to third has worked out as well. His move to third allowed shortstop Chandler Avant to slide over to second base, while junior college transfer Jett Manning took over at shortstop.
“He’s been a really good player for us all year, all the way around,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “I like him setting the tone for us in the first inning.”
Batting leadoff wasn’t entirely new to Vance, but it hadn’t been his primary spot in the lineup until this season. Bohannon trusted him to get on base and thought he’d be suited for the role.
Bohannon also thought that batting leadoff would help Vance get deeper into counts. His on-base percentage has improved more than 80 points this season.
“I’ve kind of gotten myself out a lot the past couple of years,” Vance said. “Now it’s like I’m working more 3-1, 2-1 counts, advantage counts where I’ve got more walks.”
Third base might have been the bigger adjustment. Vance got in touch with former Vanderbilt third baseman Will Toffey and Florida’s Jonathan India in the offseason to pick their brains about the position. That learning process is still ongoing.
“I was telling Brian Sharp, Missouri’s first baseman, I was on first base and I was telling him,” Vance said. “He asked how it was and I told him ‘I’m still getting balls that I’ve never gotten before. I’m still getting hops and different plays that I’ve never had before.’ Every day I’m kind of learning something different. It’s still going to be a process throughout the whole year. I think the time we spent doing infield and all that this fall played a lot into it.”
Making both changes has helped Vance and the rest of the team. Batting leadoff requires setting a tone for teammates. That’s something Vance has always done.
“Cobie loves being on the baseball field,” Bohannon said. “He loves to play, he loves to practice. I think that attitude is infectious.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.