Coach Brad Bohannon is starting his third season as the skipper of the Alabama baseball team. The 2020 version will begin full fall practice on Friday, September 27th. Thirty-six young men will begin practice including 15 new faces: two junior college prospects and 13 new freshmen. Also redshirt freshman Landon Green will make his debut after missing all of last season with an arm injury. NCAA rules allow a 35 man roster, with 27 players splitting the 11.7 scholarships plus eight walk-ons.
Bohannon and his staff, pitching coach Jason Jackson, and hitting coach Jerry Zuli are all known for the recruiting prowess, and brought in their second consecutive top 15 class. The 2019 group is ranked 15th by Baseball America, but 7th by College Baseball News, which I feel is a more accurate estimate. If C.J. Abrams had made it to campus the class would have been even higher. Abrams was the sixth overall player drafted, by the San Diego Padres. The shortstop signed for almost $5.5 million dollars and showed why, hitting over .400 and earning a promotion after just 20 games in rookie ball.
College Baseball News apparently gave more credence to the two Canadians that Bohannon and crew signed in the class. Several of the rating services don't dive very far into the true rankings of the players north of the border. OF-1B-C-DH Owen Diodati is a big, powerful, player that should provide home run power for the Tide. LHP Antoine Jean is the other Canadian newcomer, ( the two join fellow country man Justin King on the roster) and has a tremendous amount of potential. Diodati and Jean represented their country in the recent U18 World Cup in Korea.
The roster is made up of nine seniors, five juniors, eight sophomores, and 14 freshmen. Ryan O’Connell and Jackson Tate come in for the junior seasons as JUCO transfers. The freshmen with the most expectations are shortstop Myles Austin, LHP Connor Prielipp, Diodati, Jean, INF Zane Denton, INF-C-OF Peyton Wilson, the brother of Ross Wilson and John Parker Wilson, and a pair of left handed pitchers, Garrett Hester, and Blake Bennett.
Returning position players that were key figures last year include, C-INF Brett Auerbach, SS Kolby Robinson, 1B Drew Williamson, and outfielders Tyler Gentry and T.J. Reeves, among others. Catcher Sam Praytor will make his return from arm surgery that limited him to only six games last season. As a freshman in 2018 Praytor had a fantastic season and losing him so early last year was a huge blow to the team. Praytor is a terrific receiver and thrower, and provides a much needed power bat.
The pitching staff’s 11 returning arms are joined by seven newcomers, which consist of one JUCO player, one red shirt freshman, and five true freshman. Red shirt junior Garret Rukes, a left hander brings the most experience to the staff. Fellow junior left hander Brock Guffey, and righty O’Connell, redshirt senior Kyle Cameron, and seniors Casey Cobb, Wil Freeman, and Dylan Oliver round out the upper classmen. The heralded freshman pitchers from 2019 look to take the next step forward after last years up and down campaign. Tyler Ras, Connor Shamblin, Dylan Smith, Jacob McNairy, and Chase Lee all played significant roles last year, and all had outstanding summer seasons in their various leagues. The aforementioned Prielipp, Jean, Hester, Bennett, and Green, all look to secure roles for the spring during the fall workouts.
Sixteen players were in various summer leagues around the country, from the Cape Cod League, to the Alaskan Summer League. Auerbach, Gentry, King, Lee, McNairy, and Rukes all made their leagues All Star Teams, (and somehow T.J. Reeves did not) and Auerbach was the MVP of the Cape Code League game. Reeves and King were named the top prospects in the Northwoods League. Smith was picked as “one to watch” from the Perfect Game League.
The NCAA allowed teams to play two fall exhibition games staring in 2018. Last season the Tide traveled to play Tennessee and Florida State. This fall there will be one game on the road, at Clemson on October 19th, and home to Southern Miss on Sunday, October 27th.
As far as the regular season the Tide has not released their schedule yet, but it is known that the team will travel to Baton Rouge to take on LSU on May 8th, 9th, and 10th. Also a trip to Las Vegas for three games is planned for February 21-23rd.
Practices and scrimmages are open to the public and typically start around 2-2:30 each afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, ie “The Joe”.
Bohannon and company have been working hard to build the Tide and return to the glory days of years gone by. After three straight seasons of missing the SEC tournament and five straight of missing NCAA Regional play, the coaches and players are poised and ready to take the steps to secure a post season spot.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch It
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Brett Auerbach, Kyle Cameron, Casey Cobb, Wil Freeman, Johnny Hawk, Justin King, Walker McClenney, Dylan Oliver, Kolby Robinson.
Brock Guffey, Tyler Gentry, Garret Rukes, Ryan O’Connell, Jackson Tate.
Sam Praytor, Chase Lee, Tyler Ras, Connor Shamblin, Dylan Smith, Jacob McNairy, Drew Williamson, T.J. Reeves
Landon Green, Myles Austin, Connor Prielipp, Peyton Wilson, Jim Jarvis, William Hamiter, Antoine Jean, Owen Diodati, Andrew Pinckney, Logan Keller, Blake Bennett, Zane Denton, Garrett Hester, and Dowd Ritter.