The youthful Alabama baseball team started the season with a bang by sweeping the VMI Keydets in a 3 game series played Friday, Saturday and Sunday at "The Joe" in Tuscaloosa.
In Friday's game one freshman Mikey White, Mr. Baseball in Alabama in 2012, burst on the scene with 4 hits, 2 RBI, and 1 run scored. Ben Moore had 2 hits and a RBI and Cary Baxter and Ryan Blanchard contributed 1 hit and 1 RBI each. Senior catcher Brett Booth had 2 walks and a sacrifice for an RBI and also threw out 2 VMI base runners trying to steal.
Freshman right hander Ray Castillo saved the day and gained the victory on the mound. Castillo relieved starter Spencer Turnbull in the 4th and pitched 3 and 1/3 stellar innings, allowing 0 runs and striking out 5. After allowing a leadoff triple in the 5th, Castillo, aided by a sparkling dive and throw by third basemen Kenny Roberts and 2 strikeouts escaped without a run crossing the plate. At the time the Tide trailed 3 to 0 and a bigger deficit would have been a big hill for the young team to bounce back from. Sophomore left handers Taylor Guilbeau and Justin Kamplian each pitched on shut out inning apiece to close the game out.
In Saturday's game 2 sophomore left hander Jon Keller got the victory, pitching 4 innings and striking out 8. Freshman Keaton Haack pitched 3 strong innings and Soph. Jake Hubbard threw the final two innings in the 10 to 5 Bama win. Offensively Baxter and Booth both had 3 hits and 2 RBI. Baxter stroked 2 doubles and reached base in all 5 plate appearances. Freshman Kyle Overstreet had 2 hits, a walk a sacrifice bunt and an RBI. Moore had 3 RBI on a sacrifice fly and a long 2 run home run to left. White added 1 hit and 3 walks with 2 stolen bases.
Sunday's game 3 was a 7 to 4 Tide victory. Junior right hander Tucker Hawley 18 months removed from Tommy John surgery made his season debut and gained the win. Hawley appeared in the 4th inning in relief of starter Charley Sullivan. Hawley went 2 and 1/3 innings, giving up 2 hits and 1 run. Kamplain threw 2 and 1/3 brilliant innings, giving up only 1 hit, striking out 3 and earning the save. Kamplain mixed breaking pitches with change ups and a noticeable improved fastball.
Baxter drove in 2 runs on a single and sac fly. Booth had an RBI, 1 hit and 2 walks. Roberts scored 3 runs, drove in 1 with a double and drew 2 walks. Salem stroked 2 singles and had an RBI and stolen base. White and Blanchard added singles and a RBI each.
The young Tide was strong defensively, aggressive offensively and outstanding out of the bull pen this weekend. The freshman double play combo of White and Overstreet is the best seen in Tuscaloosa since the days of Josh Rutledge and Ross Wilson. The best thing is we should be blessed to see their brilliant fielding for at least 3 years. With a pitching staff no less than 12 deep, 'Bama should be able to mix and match based on line ups. Several guys can start or relieve and there is a good balance of left handers and right handers. On offense there is a good speed and several players that can handle the bat, leading to the ability to bunt and hit and run. There should be more power lead by Moore, Roberts, Booth and Austen Smith. When Wade Wass returns from injury he will be a boost also. The days of any team hitting 100 plus home runs is longer over with the advent of the new "improved" bats, but this team should be able to reach 30 to 40 bombs with plenty of doubles and triples.
This team is optimistic and confident and has several guys he no how to play the game and play it hard. They will battle to the end and will be a fun team to watch. If the freshmen continue to improve and progress and get experienced leadership from the upper classmen this Tide team could turn some heads and show the pundits that they are better than expected.
The next game is Tuesday at 6:05 pm vs. a very good Southern Miss team. Guilbeau gets the starting nod against the Golden Eagles. Alabama travels to Boca Raton to take on Florida Atlantic on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Look for the same rotation of Turnbull, Keller and Sullivan. Game times are 5:30 Friday, 3pm Saturday and 12 noon on Sunday.
Roll Tide Y'all Roger