The closest connections between the Alabama and Auburn baseball teams were often the players themselves. The rosters both had enough in-state talent that pitchers and hitters had years of history dating back to high school and travel ball.
That might not be the case this season.
“I don’t want to downplay it,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “Every weekend we play, it’s pretty heated. There’s a lot of people in the stands and we really want to win. I think this week is probably a bigger deal for the fans than it is for the kids. Both rosters are about 50 percent out of state. We want to beat Auburn because they’re a good SEC team and we’re trying to get to Hoover and extend our season.”
Alabama has 17 in-state players on its roster; Auburn has 18.
Alabama at Auburn
Schedule: Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m.
Where: Plainsman Park, Auburn
Records: Alabama 26-19 (5-16 SEC), LSU 27-17 (10-11 SEC)
Radio: 102.9 FM
TV: SEC Network (Saturday and Sunday only)
There are still strong ties between the two dugouts. The most obvious is Bohannon, who was an assistant for two seasons at Auburn for Butch Thompson. That stint was during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, meaning there are still players Bohannon recruited or coached on the Auburn roster who will play this weekend.
But plenty of players are just experiencing the rivalry for the first time. Alabama catcher Brett Auerbach, a junior college transfer from California, had scarcely heard of it before he arrived on campus. His first experience was the Iron Bowl in November. He’s only played one game against Auburn – a 6-3 win in Montgomery earlier this season.
“The place was packed,” Auerbach said. “Both sides had a bunch of fans.”
The Crimson Tide has played well against Auburn in its SEC series recently. Alabama has won six of the last seven series dating to 2012; the only loss was a sweep in Tuscaloosa last season. Alabama swept Auburn on the road its last two trips there in 2015 and 2017.
Another win in the series would be critical for the program. Alabama remains tied with Kentucky and South Carolina for last in the SEC standings and only 12 of 14 programs will reach the SEC tournament in Hoover. Every conference win gives Alabama a better chance of reaching the postseason for the first time since 2016.
“I know there are some kids on our team that have some personal relationships with their players, but at the end of the day it’s just another passionate, competitive weekend against a really tough opponent that’s standing in the way of where we want to be,” Bohannon said.
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.