Tide prepares for first weekend series against VMI Keydets

After a disappointing 2012 campaign, the Alabama baseball team will return to the diamond to face the Virginia Military Institute Keydets in a weekend series. First pitches are set for Friday at 6:05 p.m., Saturday at 2:05 p.m. and Sunday at 1:05 p.m.

The Crimson Tide is coming off a 2012 season that saw the team go 21-34 and finish last in the SEC West. Alabama was picked to finish sixth in the West in the SEC preseason coaches’ poll.

“We didn’t have a great year last year, so I don’t know why people would think we would have a whole lot of attention,” sophomore pitcher Spencer Turnbull said. “But I feel like we have a really good shot at earning some attention this year playing really well. If we can earn it on the field, things will happen for us.”

Turnbull will start for Alabama Friday, an honor given to a team’s top starting pitcher. The right-hander pitched 53.0 innings last season as a freshman, including five SEC starts. Turnbull and the coaching staff is hoping for a breakout year from the young pitcher.

“I want to be the Friday night guy, everybody wants to be the Friday night guy,” Turnbull said. “I feel like I’ve worked hard to get there and I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to get a chance to start out there and hopefully I can keep earning my spot there.”

Behind him, Alabama will feature a relatively young team. Head coach Mitch Gaspard said three freshmen could hit in the first three spots in the lineup. With an inexperienced team, the Crimson Tide is still searching for an identity that it hopes will take shape over the first few series of the season.

“Within ourselves, our chemistry’s really good,” sophomore Ben Moore said. “And to us, that’s what’s important. We have fun playing together and as far as the season goes along and how we do, that’ll determine our identity.”

Gaspard challenged his team to get off to a fresh start in 2013 after a season that everyone would prefer to move on from. It begins Friday with the three-game homestand.

“These first three weeks, like anybody, it’s more about us and what we have to do,” he said. “That’s really what I want to see in our club. We preach to play hard and get after it and be that type of mentality. That’s what I want to see. Are we gonna be that team that’s really gonna play that way, or are you just gonna talk about playing that way?”

Sophomore left-hander Jon Keller will start Saturday and senior right-hander Charlie Sullivan will start Sunday.

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