After an offensive explosion over the weekend, Alabama’s pitching staff was the story on Tuesday in its 4-0 win against Middle Tennessee. Alabama sent out seven total pitchers, four of which didn’t see the mound during the weekend series against Valparaiso. It allowed just four hits, while striking out eight Blue Raiders. Its first two pitchers were lefty Garret Rukes and right-handed pitcher Brock Love.
It seemed like Alabama was going to squander another opportunity with runners on base. It had runners on first and second. No outs. Third baseman Cobie Vance popped up a bunt attempt, followed by a strikeout by right fielder Gene Wood. Outfielder Joe Breaux, who didn’t have a hit coming into the final inning of regulation, slapped slider for a single to right, bringing in pinch runner Connor Stutts for the 6-5 win over Valparaiso.
Heading into the fourth, Alabama was struggling with runners on base. It was 1-for-9 with runners on base and 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. The first time through the order, Valparaiso starter Jon Tieman had allowed three hits and stranded four runners. Then in the bottom half of the fourth, with two runners on freshman catcher Sam Praytor came up to bat. He lined a ball to the right-center field gap, doubling in the first runs of the game. From then on, Alabama wouldn’t look back. It plated eight runs in the inning, jumping ahead 8-1, before defeating Valparaiso 16-2.
It’s been 261 days since Alabama’s last game of its dismal 2017 season. The team has done almost everything to move on from the 19-34-1 record it posted that year. The only thing left to do is play Valparaiso on Friday.
Alabama infielder Cobie Vance was named to the First Team All-SEC on Thursday. It is the first time since 2015 that a member of the Crimson Tide was named to the list.
A lot has happened since Alabama played its last game May 20 last year, when it tied Vanderbilt 3-3. It fired its coaching staff, and brought in an Auburn assistant coach to be the 32nd head coach at Alabama. Most eyes are focused on Alabama's opener 19 days away when it takes on Valparaiso, but first-year head coach Brad Bohannon was more focused on its first day of spring practice.
Alabama held its first open practice of the spring on Friday. The team practiced for an hour and a half then held an inter-squad scrimmage.
Alabama ended its 2017 season with a 3-3 tie with Vanderbilt. Shortly after it decided to make a head coaching change, signaling the end of Greg Goff, who had been with the team for one season and had one of its worst SEC finishes in program history. Eight days later athletic director Greg Byrne turned to Brad Bohannon to lead Alabama.