What ace pitcher Connor Prielipp's absence means for Alabama baseball's immediate future

Brett Hudson
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama baseball’s first loss of the season, 9-4 to UT Martin, was not the only hit it took Wednesday.

After the game, UA coach Brad Bohannon announced ace starting pitcher Connor Prielipp will be out for a short spell with a “medical condition,” which he did not define further.

Prielipp has not allowed a run in his college career, now spanning five starts and 26 innings. In some ways, UA is well-equipped to manage in his absence, but it also comes with consequences — some of them partially responsible for Wednesday’s loss.

MORE:What to make of Alabama baseball after season-opening sweep of McNeese

Bohannon said it will be Tyler Ras starting Friday in Prielipp’s place against Wright State, with Antoine Jean and Dylan Smith holding their spots in the rotation for Saturday and Sunday. Ras was nearly as reliable as Prielipp in the 2020 season, throwing 11⅓ innings with no earned runs and nine hits allowed, although he is coming off a poor outing against McNeese last weekend.

Where UA might be able to weather Prielipp’s absence, however long it may be, is its depth of pitchers able to take on longer stints if called upon. Jacob McNairy and Grayson Hits both took three-inning relief stints in the opening weekend series sweep of McNeese; Landon Green handled two innings against McNeese and 2⅔ on Tuesday against Jacksonville State. Chase Lee pitched the final 2⅓ innings of Tuesday’s game.

Even without a reliable five, six or more innings from Prielipp, UA may have enough quality pitching to cover its series against Wright State, potentially in winning fashion. Its schedule, however, is doing it no favors.

After Wednesday’s loss to cap a five-game week, Bohannon said UA is, “not currently equipped to do that,” referencing the weekend series followed by two midweek games. On Wednesday, UA turned to freshmen Brayden Rowe, Jake Eddington and Eli Giles for a total of 4⅓ innings, and they were charged with all nine UT Martin runs scored.

“You had three guys in their first college outing today and it looked like it,” Bohannon said. “Like I said early in the season when the starters are only throwing 65 pitches, everybody is going to pitch. Those guys will get opportunities later, they’ll learn from this and they’ll get better.”

The trouble there is UA has two midweek games in each of the next two weeks. It goes to UAB and hosts Troy in the week between the Wright State and College of Charleston series, then hosts South Alabama and Jacksonville State in between the College of Charleston and Stetson series. If UA is forced to expend relievers more heavily on weekends in Prielipp’s absence, midweek pitching could become even more thin than it was Wednesday.

“We just got to quit playing so young, we got to bring more energy to the park,” first baseman Drew Williamson said. “A lot of these guys don’t realize that in college baseball anybody can beat anybody on a given day. You can’t just roll the balls out, roll up to the field and expect to win.”

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson