Coach Brad Bohannon will begin his fourth season as the Bama head man on Friday. The Tide began last year with a 16-1 record but the season was suspended and eventually called off due to the novel coronavirus. Alabama was set to play their SEC opener when the season was lost. The McNeese State Cowboys will bring a good, veteran team to The Joe for three games, Friday at 3 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. Bohannon and his players are anxious to play again after an almost 11 month layoff.
What to look for from the Tide:
Alabama has a young team, with 19 freshmen on the roster. That is a combination of true freshmen, and last season’s first year players that are once again listed as such. A full 21 of the 33 available players have never played in an SEC game. The pitching staff has one SEC victory among all the arms, and that comes from Florida transfer Hunter Ruth who claimed a win against Alabama in 2019.
The Veteran Position Players:
Start with the leader of the team, known as The General, catcher Sam Praytor. Praytor is entering his fourth year in the program, but has not played a ton of SEC baseball. After an outstanding freshman year Praytor had Tommy John surgery after just six games in his second year. The Helena native was back as a redshirt sophomore in 2020 and had a hot start to the shortened season, leading the team with six home runs. Technically, Praytor is a redshirt sophomore again, but should be a high pick in the 2021 MLB draft and start his professional career. Drew Williamson and TJ Reeves begin their third year with a lot of playing time under their belts. Johnny Hawk served as back-up catcher in 2019 before missing last season after his own Tommy John surgery. Hawk played two years of JUCO baseball before transferring in to Alabama. Owen Diodati, Jim Jarvis, Peyton Wilson, were all true freshman that earned starting spots last season. Zane Denton was a part time starter in 2020. William Hamiter had a handful of at bats also as true freshman. Andrew Pinckney was set for a redshirt and did not play at all. Will Patota and Davis Heller both have junior college experience.
The True Freshman Position Players:
Caden Rose, Bryce Eblin, and Will Portera are all highly regarded but likely will serve in backup roles this year. Grant Knipp is a freshman catcher that will bid his time behind Praytor and Hawk.
The Veteran Pitchers:
Four starts in a shortened season might not qualify Connor Prielipp as a veteran, but when you pitch 21 innings, allowing only five hits, walking six, and striking out 35 without giving up a run, you have to be at the top of any list. Prielipp was named to almost every preseason All-American team and is being mentioned as a possible number one overall pick in the 2022 MLB draft. Brock Guffey, along with Praytor, is the only player that came in with Bohonnan four years ago. Tyler Ras, Connor Shamblin, Jacob McNairy and Dylan Smith all are in their third year in the program and all have had starts and appeared in relief over the last two seasons. Chase Lee begins his third year after being a walk-on with a great story. Landon Green is also in his third year, but missed his true freshman season after arm surgery. Will Freeman came in as a JUCO transfer three years ago and took advantage of the extra year of eligibility issued to return this year. Like Prielipp, Antoine Jean is in his second year and was in the weekend rotation last year. Hunter Ruth has taken a circuitous route to the Capstone, starting at Florida before going to Palm Beach State Community College and finally to Tuscaloosa.
The Freshman Pitchers:
Grayson Hitt, Jake Eddington, Eli Giles, Logan Morris, and Brayen Rowe are all true freshman trying to work their way into some innings this season. Dylan Ray would be included in the group but he had season ending arm surgery this fall.
What to expect from McNeese State:
McNeese is always a veteran solid program that fights for an NCAA bid yearly. The Cowboys finished 10-7 last year and are picked to finish second in the Southland Conference this season. Six McNeese players were picked preseason all conference. Shortstop Reid Bourque, second baseman Nate Fisbeck, DH Clayton Rasbeary, and starting pitcher Will Dion were all first team picks while OF Payton Harden and utility player Jake Dickerson were second team selections. In the shortened 2020 season Dickerson hit .415 with four home runs and 18 runs driven in. Bourque batted .362 with seven stolen bases. Harden notched a .356 average in their 17 games. Dion had a sparkling 2019 season but was only 0-1 with a 5.23 ERA last year. Cameon Foster, Kyle Breaux, and Brett Payne joined Dion as staring four games each last year. McNeese has several 3rd, 4th, and 5th year players in contrast to the young roster of the Tide.
Starting Rotation and lineup:
Bohannon announced the weekend rotation today and will be anchored by Prielipp on Friday, followed by Jean on Saturday and Smith on Sunday. Bohannon said that “we have 8-9 guys we want to have stretched out appearances over the first couple of weeks, this may stick, but it could be changed as well. Guffey and Lee will be used at the back end of the game in high leverage/save type situations. Ras, Shamblin, McNairy, and Green should see plenty of appearances and innings. The Tide has two midweek games next week so some combination of those four and maybe Hitt and Eddington could be looked at in that role.
Total speculation and from what I've seen, here is my prediction for the position players:
- Catcher - Praytor
- First base - Williamson
- Second base - Wilson
- Third base - Denton
- Shortstop - Jarvis
- LF- Reeves
- DH Diodati.
The batting order could go several different ways, but I suspect Wilson will lead off, and Praytor, Reeves, and Diodati will be in the middle of the order.
Bohannon really likes his team and when asked what he feels their strength is, he said “their intangibles” and continued “we have a lot of good players that just need to play baseball. Baseball is such a repetitive sport that playing is the way to get better.” Bohannon was asked about Prielipp’s improvement over the off-season and mentioned that he has added a third quality pitch in his change up. Coach Bo thinks the pitching is good with a chance to be very good and that the hitting is at this point a touch below last year’s squad-after losing Tyler Gentry and Brett Auerbach, but potentially can be really good.
The long wait is over and it is finally time to: Bama Baseball Fever, Catch it!
Roll Tide Roll