The same Alabama lineup that entered the weekend seventh nationally in both batting average and slugging percentage was also top 20 in walks. For all the damage UA baseball can do — now boasting four regulars with batting averages north of .340 — they can take free passes when granted.
As Lipscomb’s pitching staff met its limit, the Crimson Tide took nine walks on Sunday compared to 10 hits in a 14-2 win over Lipscomb, clinching the weekend series as it went. Eight of the nine batters to walk worked their way around to score.
“We kind of have a mix of a couple of guys that are too anxious and guys that are too passive,” UA coach Brad Bohannon said. “We weren’t great offensively this weekend, and I do want to give credit to the way Lipscomb pitched. We’re doing some good things, we’re in the right place, but some guys need to be more aggressive and some guys need to slow down a little bit.”
The walks stacked up in the eight-run fourth, when five walks and two wild pitches did most of the damage, compared to just three hits and a sacrifice fly. Three of the five walks came with the bases loaded, thus scoring a run.
UA drew 23 walks on the weekend, after drawing 27 walks last weekend against Harvard, to bump its season total up to 93 walks in 16 games. The Tide is highly unlikely to keep up that 5.81 walks per game pace when the SEC schedule starts next weekend, but even adjusting for that impending bump up in competition, UA’s walks pace remains impressive.
Last year’s team, which finished eighth in school history with 285 walks, averaged 6.57 walks per game against non-conference competition; this year’s team is slightly behind at 5.81, but still has 10 opportunities in midweek games to make it up. It’s also possible that UA (15-1) draws more walks in SEC play than it did last year considering three of its top four in walks from 2019 are in its lineup nearly every day this season: left fielder T.J. Reeves, first baseman Drew Williamson and utility man Brett Auerbach.
Some of those individuals are on pace for their own walk accolades. Auerbach has 15 through 16 games, well on his way to the first 50-walk season at UA since Taylor Dugas in 2010 (59). Williamson is not far behind with 14, and Gentry could join them soon if he continues to receive intentional walks, as he did three times in the weekend series against Lipscomb (9-5).
In many cases, those walks are good for free RBI opportunities. In Sunday’s case, it was all the support Antoine Jean (3-0) needed.
UA’s freshman lefty threw five innings, allowing four hits and no walks with six strikeouts. He retired 10 of the first 11 he faced, five of those 10 going down via strikeout.
“My fastball command was pretty good today, and it allowed me to not show all three of my pitches too early in the game,” Jean said.
The fast start was an indicator of how locked in Jean was for the start, it being his first chance in a winner-take-the-series game. Jean was not the only one in a productive state of mind after the Tide’s first loss of the season on Saturday.
“That’s one thing I’ve said, you don’t know how a group or individuals are going to respond to failure. These guys do a great job of just going to play,” Bohannon said. “They really like each other, they really liked being at the field. It felt the same way in the dugout today that it did yesterday, that it did two weeks ago. We certainly have plenty of things we need to get better at, but the culture, feel, environment deal is a real strength for this group.”
UA’s final game before conference play is a 6 p.m. Tuesday game against UAB at Regions Field in Birmingham, before a home series against Missouri.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson