Alabama baseball didn’t have this kind of confidence a season ago. But the Crimson Tide also didn’t have a 9-0 start to the season.
“We could get down 4-0, 6-0,” senior Hunter Alexander said. “I never worry about ‘Oh, we’re going to lose this game.’ It really doesn’t matter. I think we’re just really confident in the fact that we can win any game.”
Alabama continued its unbeaten streak with an 11-1 win over Alabama State on Wednesday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. It’s the best start to a season since 2002, and the first time Alabama has had a nine-game win streak since 2003. Brad Bohannon is the first head coach to start 9-0 in his first year at Alabama since Wallace Wade did it in 1924.
The Crimson Tide got five innings of one-hit ball from junior righty Mason Duke to put the Hornets (5-4) in a hole early. Alabama took a 2-0 lead in the second inning and built steadily from there before closing the door with four runs in the seventh inning and three runs in the ninth.
“I’m really pleased with the start,” Bohannon said. “I keep saying we’re not giving any of these wins back. But I think we can play better. We’re doing a good job. There are plenty of areas in the game where we can improve and must improve if we want to be playing in May and June like we want to be playing at that point in time.”
Duke had only thrown two innings this season before making his first start on Wednesday, but made quick work of the lineup. He struck out seven and didn’t give up a walk in his five innings.
“I just tried to get on the mound and throw as many strikes as I could, build on my last outing,” Duke said.
He did just that. Duke needed only 60 pitches to get through his five innings.
He also got some help from his bullpen. Tyler Adams gave up one run in the sixth inning, but Davis Vainer and Brady Greene finished the game. Alabama’s relievers have posted a 2.59 earned run average across 41 2/3 innings this season.
“Until a young player goes out and does it, you don’t really know if they can do it,” Bohannon said. “That works both ways, good and bad. There were so many unknowns going into the season. We had guys coming off injury, guys we hadn’t seen throw to hitters a lot. Now we’ve seen our guys in a game setting and see how the hitters react and see how our pitchers react with the lights on.”
Alexander led the offense, going 3-4 with a walk and two RBIs. Three other players also had two RBIs each.
Bohannon used a handful of regulars in the lineup in different positions and started some bench players elsewhere. Cobie Vance and Chandler Avant played second base and shortstop, their respective positions a year ago. Hunter Alexander started in right field and Chandler Taylor started in left. Connor Short played third base while John Trousdale played first base.
“We have 11, 12, 13 guys that deserve to play and need to play,” Bohannon said. “A guy like Connor Short hasn’t played a lot this year and he’s played a lot for two years. The way that we defend the infield with Cobie playing third, it’s been hard to get Shorty in there. But as a coach, you can’t expect somebody to sit on the bench for three or four weeks. Then you get an (injury) and the guy is expected to do well.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.