Montgomery offers the Alabama baseball team no respite. Its annual midweek matchup with Auburn at Riverwalk Stadium has not been a sunny series.
Alabama is 1-9 in Montgomery against Auburn in the last 10 years and has lost four straight. The Crimson Tide’s only win in the last decade was a 4-3 win in 2014. Five of the nine losses have been by one or two runs.
“I can’t speak to why, over a nine, 10-year period why the record between the two schools has been what it’s been,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “I’ve only been in the dugout for three of the games. I think the times I’ve been in the dugout, the best team has probably won the game. I think if we want to do better in the series over time, we need to be better. We are better this year. I’m excited about the game (Tuesday) night.”
Bohannon is 2-1 in the games; both of his wins came as an Auburn assistant in 2016 and 2017 before Alabama lost the game last year in his first season as head coach.
The rivalry between the baseball programs hasn’t been nearly as lopsided as the Montgomery series, which has been as balanced as a sumo wrestler on a seesaw. Alabama is 19-11 in its regular SEC series against Auburn in that same span (Tuesday’s game does not count for the SEC standings) and 2-0 in the SEC tournament.
The SEC slate plays a role in the strategy of the game. Alabama will start true freshman Tyler Ras on Tuesday night rather than a weekend starter. Several top relievers might pitch, but Alabama’s standard weekend starters won’t make an appearance.
“I would assume (Auburn coach Butch Thompson) will tell you the same thing, the absolute most important thing for any program in the SEC is to win SEC games because that’s what weighs the most for getting to the postseason and NCAA regionals, which is what we’re all trying to do,” Bohannon said.
The game doesn’t come at an easy point in Alabama’s schedule. In a 10-day span, the Crimson Tide faced a top-10 Arkansas team in a three-game series in Tuscaloosa. The Auburn game comes after that series, before a three-day road series against Florida. The Gators are 1-5 in the SEC but won the conference in the regular season last year and reached the 2018 College World Series. Florida is also ranked in the top 25 in every major poll.
“It’s super exciting because that’s what we signed up for,” junior reliever Davis Vainer said. “You go out there with a positive attitude and a lot of confidence. You know you want to play the best. We look forward to playing teams like that.”
Auburn is also ranked in the top 25. There’s no resting this time of year, even on Tuesday games that don’t count in the conference standings.
“I’m excited to play a good team,” Bohannon said. “This group has done a good job of beating teams that we’re more talented than. The next step for us, we have to beat some good teams and Auburn has a very good team ranked in all the polls. This will be a really good challenge for us.
“Half of our team has never played in this game. Half of our team is like ‘Why are we playing Auburn in a midweek? Don’t we play them later?’ They didn’t even know this game existed. I’m excited to see this group of guys compete in that environment against a good team.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.