Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Alabama
- Schedule: Thursday at 6 p.m. Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
- Where: Sewell-Thomas Stadium
- Records: Alabama 6-5, APB 2-8
- Radio: 102.9 FM
You may see sophomore Brock Love take the ball to start this weekend’s series against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. You may have to wait and watch him finish out a close game from the bullpen. But you’re almost sure to see the right-handed pitcher sooner or later.
Love has four appearances for Alabama this season: one starts, and three relief outings. He has one win, one loss and one save.
“It’s fun, getting to compete regardless of when it is or what I’m doing,” he said. “I enjoy it wherever I pitch. Relief or start, it’s perfectly OK with me.”
Love was scheduled to start on Tuesday night against Troy, but that game was rained out. That makes him available for Alabama’s four-game series against the Golden Lions that begins Thursday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Head coach Greg Goff said Monday he was hoping to rest senior starter Nick Eicholtz this weekend, leaving one day in the rotation open. That opportunity could fall to Love.
He’s been key to Alabama’s pitching staff this season, throwing 13 1/3 innings with a 4.05 ERA in his four games. He picked up a four-inning save against Presbyterian in the season opener, holding on to a 4-3 lead for the win. He entered to take over for Eicholtz last Friday and had the best outing of his career, throwing 4 1/3 perfect innings while striking out 10 of the 13 batters he faced.
“He’s definitely one of our top arms and we’re still trying to figure out how we’re going to go through this,” Goff said. “He may end up starting on the weekend.”
That showing on Friday came in another close game: Alabama beat Louisiana-Monroe 4-3. Love came into the game with a runner in scoring position and never gave the Warhawks a chance.
He did most of the work on Friday with his fastball. Love said he’s become more and more confident in his ability to locate his fastball in the last year, and that was on display on Friday. Love’s development since the end of his freshman campaign has helped him become a more reliable option for the Crimson Tide. He could get even more opportunities in the future.
“I definitely think he’s going the right direction,” Goff said. “From the time I got to know him this summer until now, I’ve seen a huge difference in his commitment level. Everybody has those, when it clicks. I think it’s really clicked for him. I think he’s starting to understand, ‘God has blessed me with a lot of ability, and I want to work at it and see how good I can become.’ That lightbulb has gone off in his head. He’s in great shape, he’s in the right mental frame of mind. We’re hoping to continue to develop him.”
Goff likes knowing he can trust Love to make a midweek start, but his Friday night appearances have come at critical moments. He’s becoming one of Alabama’s key arms, no matter when he’s asked to throw.
“Long relief, short relief, start. It doesn’t really matter,” Love said.
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.