Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
After the Alabama Crimson Tide baseball finished the 2012 baseball season at 21-34 – one loss away from the worst season in school history – the Tide set out on their 2013 campaign with a bad taste in their mouth and the need to prove that last year was a fluke.
Alabama kicked off its 2013 campaign last weekend against the VMI Keydets and fourth-year head coach Mitch Gaspard showed that he will likely rely on a youth movement all season as the Crimson Tide try for a third regional appearance in four years.
Ranked anywhere from the 4th-16th-best recruiting class in 2013, it was to be expected that the younger guys would chip in eventually for the Tide, however with traditional powers such as LSU, Arkansas, Mississippi State and SEC newcomer Texas A&M on the schedule it would be important for the newcomers to pick things up early.
Touted before spring practices began by Coach Gaspard as a “talented group of freshman… with eight or nine of them who could make an impact this year or down the road,” it was good to see the newcomers stand up to the pressure and perform as expected. They didn’t disappoint, as Friday night saw the first three batters of the game for Alabama come up to the plate as true freshman, and the Crimson Tide turned to Sophomore pitcher Spencer Turnbull to get them off on the right foot.
The opening series gave a chance to see how Alabama would play under pressure, and they didn’t disappoint, coming from behind to win in the first two games and deadlocked after five innings in the series finale. Led at the plate by sophomore Cary Baxter, freshman Mikey White, also named Mr. Alabama baseball in 2012 and SEC Freshman of the week this week, and senior Brett Booth, the Tide offense displayed an impressive mix of power and finesse, finishing the weekend with six extra base hits while also going a perfect 10-of-10 on stolen base attempts.
If the Crimson Tide want to make any kind of serious run at the SEC championship it’s going to take solid pitching and defense, and though nerves may have played a part in the shakiness early on, it was good to see the Tide settle into a groove and not stay rattled.
Gaspard has said there will likely be competition at first base, third base, and left field for a few games until someone can take advantage of their opportunity. Junior college transfer Wade Wass is likely to be the starting catcher, but is still sidelined for a few more weeks with an ankle injury, and his return will likely mean senior Brett Booth will make the move back to third base.
Alabama faced a stiff test on Tuesday night when 23rd-ranked Southern Mississippi soared into Tuscaloosa fresh off a season-opening sweep of SEC counterpart Missouri. Alabama finished last season an astounding 0-15 on the road in the SEC, and while Tuesday’s matchup was at home, it was good to see how the Tide reacted to a quality opponent.
After an early run on a passed ball by Southern Miss, Alabama erupted in the middle innings as they combined for seven runs and were able to hold on, defeating the Golden Eagles 10-8 in front of an announced crowd of 3,124.
With the win, Alabama improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2011. This weekend they will hit the road for the first time to take on Florida Atlantic on Boca Raton. It should be another good test for the young Crimson Tide, as Florida Atlantic is 3-0 on the year after sweeping Cincinnati at home.
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