Alabama vs. Ball State
Schedule: Friday at 1 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
Where: Sewell-Thomas Stadium
Records: Alabama 3-1, Ball State 1-3
Radio: 102.9 FM
Alabama baseball has plenty of ammunition to use in recruiting. The coaching staff can talk tradition, facilities, competition, academics and more when speaking to recruits.
One pitch was more important than the others for Tyler Ras, perhaps the Crimson Tide’s top freshman.
“Growing up in the North, you wanted to go down where the warmer weather is,” Ras said. “You don’t want to be inside, basically training all the time. To come down south is what I really wanted. The recruiting process was basically to come down south.”
Ras committed to Alabama in summer of 2016 while playing high school ball in New Jersey. His commitment came a few months after that of Connor Shamblin, a prospect from Tennessee.
Both Ras and Shamblin were starters on the mound for Alabama during the season’s first weekend against Presbyterian. They’re expected to start the second and third games of this weekend’s series against Ball State.
It’s not typical for a true freshman pitcher to win a starting job in the weekend rotation to open the season. The other 13 SEC schools started a total of eight freshman last weekend; LSU was the only other school to throw two freshmen starters on the weekend.
Alabama hadn’t started a pair of freshman pitchers to start a season since 2012. It was the first time head coach Brad Bohannon could remember throwing two true freshmen to start the season on one of his teams in 16 years in the league as an assistant or head coach.
“I think any coach being honest with you in this league would tell you that’s the last thing they want to do, start two freshmen on the weekend,” Bohannon said. “But Connor and Tyler are very talented, they’re both mature. They’ve earned it. They’ve done it for six months.”
Ras was rated as the No. 74 overall recruit in the 2018 class by Perfect Game and the No. 78 high school draft prospect by Baseball America. Shamblin was rated as the No. 3 pitcher in Tennessee by Perfect Game. They were both key pieces of Alabama’s first full recruiting class under Bohannon, though both committed to the program well before he arrived as coach.
“I was always coming to Alabama,” Ras said.
That was decided on his visit to campus and sealed when Bohannon and his staff spoke to him in summer 2017. They knew early on he’d be a priority.
“I think the first time I saw him hit, he hit a double down the left field line,” Bohannon said. “The first time (pitching coach Jason Jackson) saw him pitch he came in with the bases loaded, nobody out and struck out the side. That made it easy for us. Who doesn’t want a 6-4, 200-pound righty who throws hard and can hit? If there’s any more of those guys out there, we’ll take them.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.