Sunday starts have remained a sticking point for Alabama baseball during the first half of the conference season. The Crimson Tide lost to No. 5 Mississippi State 13-3 on Sunday to fall to 0-5 against SEC opponents in series finales this season. Alabama is 4-6 in its other SEC games and was 4-0 in the third game of its nonconference weekend series to start the season.
Problems with starting pitching have been a common denominator in those five losses. Alabama starters have taken four of the five losses in series finales against SEC teams, and none has gone longer than 2 1/3 innings. In the five SEC series finales, Alabama’s starting pitchers have thrown a combined 8 2/3 innings while allowing 17 runs (15 earned) for an earned run average of 15.58.
Junior college transfer Casey Cobb got his first start of the season on Sunday against the Bulldogs and gave up six earned runs in 1 2/3 innings. He had given up eight earned runs in 22 2/3 innings the rest of the season out of the bullpen before that start.
Cobb got the start largely because Alabama’s other Sunday starters had struggled before him. Freshman Tyler Ras was 0-1 in two starts, giving up five runs (three earned) across 2 2/3 total innings in two starts. Junior Wil Freeman was 0-2 in two starts, allowing six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings.
Alabama could continue to try one of those three players in the final five weeks of the season or continue to rotate through different options. Freshman Connor Shamblin opened the season as the Sunday starter, but struggled at times and has mostly pitched out of the bullpen. Junior Garret Rukes started Alabama’s midweek game at Samford last week and allowed one hit and one walk in three innings. He has some starting experience but is also one of Alabama’s few left handers out of the bullpen and may be more valuable in relief.