Who is new? Who is returning? Can this season be a success?
Depth and youth, youth and depth, youthful depth, however you word it, that will be the theme for Alabama Baseball this year. Although there will be more options for playing time than the last few years, the depth will be drawn from a number of young, mostly first year, players. Mix in a handful of veteran players and 4th year Coach Mitch Gaspard and his staff hope for a winning recipe.
This year’s class was recognized as the 4th best recruiting class in the nation.
One of the newcomers that the staff has high hopes for has had a setback. JUCO All American catcher, Wade Wass, who hit over .400 and 23 homeruns last year (Meridian Community College), suffered a foot injury in a scrimmage last week. He took a pitch from lefty Jon Keller, off the top of his foot and suffered a broken bone. It appears that Wass may miss up to as much as six weeks.
There appears to be up to four freshmen in the opening day lineup. 2012 Alabama High School Player of the Year Mikey White of Birmingham (Spain Park High School), should be the started at shortstop. Freshman Kyle Overstreet (Boaz), will be his double play partner at 2nd Base. Georgie Salem (Vestavia), will get the nod in Centerfield. Possibly, Redshirt Freshman Ryan Blanchard (Immo, SC), will start in Left. Dads Mike White (Mikey) and George Salem (Georgie) are former Offensive Linemen for the Crimson Tide.
The rest of the lineup should be Senior Brett Booth (Northport) behind the plate, Junior Austen Smith (Cantonment, FL) at First, Senior Kenny Roberts (Meridian, MS) at Third, and Sophomore Ben Moore (Cullman) in Right Field. Moore was a Freshman All American last year after hitting .342.
Other options include Senior Andrew Miller (Citronelle) in Left Field or DH. Junior Allan Dye (Vestavis) and Senior Cameron Carlisle (Tuscaloosa) could be in the mix for playing time at 1st Base. Freshman Utility Infielder Daniel Cucjen (Shreveport, LA), and his slick fielding glove could see playing time at 3rd Base, Short Stop and 2nd Base. Sophomore Cary Baxter (Birmingham) could help at 1st Base, Left Field, Right Field or DH, as well as Pitcher.
Freshman Infielder Chance Vincent (Scott, LA), Matthew Goodson (Oxford, AL) JC transfer Steven Cole (Huntsville), Redshirt Freshman Riley Colburn (Northport), and Freshman Taylor Poe (Montgomery, and Brink Ambler (Williamsburg, VA), all hope for playing time as well.
The pitching staff shows plenty of depth as well. After having 5 Freshmen pitch 90% of the team’s innings in 2012, the outlook should be brighter. The best part of that is they are now Sophomores, and have been through the grind of a long season and the SEC wars.
Two Junior pitchers that missed all of last season with Tommy John surgery, Righty Tucker Hawley (Athens, SC) and Lefty Taylor Wolfe (Columbus, GA) have a lot of experience, and have tasted success at the Collegiate Level.
Sophomore Spencer Turnbull (Madison, MS), has the look and stuff of a potential front line starter. His highlight of the 2012 season was when he held defending National Champion South Carolina hitless for 7 innings before rain ended his day. Turnbull is a National Merit Scholar, and has added about 20 lbs. of muscle to his frame, and 2 to 3 mph to his fastball. Sophomore Lefty Justin Kamplain (Jasper) had several impressive starts last year, including an excellent effort against Ole Miss.
Another Sophomore Lefty, Jon Keller (Maylene) also gained valuable experience and had some shining moments in 2012. Sophomore Lefty Taylor Guilbeau (Zachary, LA) became the first Freshman in school history to start the season on the mound for Bama last year. Sophomore Righty Jake Hubbard (Birmingham) lead the team in ERA and saves last year with 3.10 and 3 respectively.
Seniors Charley Sullivan (Oxford, MS) and Trey Pilkington (Oxford, AL) add experienced arms to the mix.
Freshmen Ray Castillo (Seale), Keaten Haack (Oak Ridge, NC), Jonathan Hess (Kenner, LA), Mitch Greer (Prattville), Colton Freeman (Hoover) and Clayton Parker (Chattanooga) add to the depth of the staff.
Senior Righty Ricky Doverspike (John’s Creek, GA), a four year tennis player for Alabama has joined the team and Freshman Righty Mike Oczypok (Royersford, PA), both as walk ons. Several of the Freshmen are candidates for Redshirt seasons.
There is reason for being cautiously optimistic for this team. While it is not always a good idea to count heavily on Freshmen, Alabama has a good track record over the past few years. Wade LeBlanc, Tommy Hunter, David Robertson, Ross Wilson, Taylor Dugas and Ben Moore to name a few have had stellar Freshmen seasons for Alabama over the past several years. If a couple out of this new group have a big impact, this team could surprise a lot of pundits and have a successful season.
The Tide opens the season with a 3 game series vs VMI February 15, 16 & 17th.