The Alabama Crimson Tide baseball team continues to make strides and improvement under coach Brad Bohannon. The Tide returned to the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2016 and to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014. Bama finished 32-26 overall with a 12-17 SEC record, went 2-1 in the SEC Tournament and 1-2 in the Ruston Regional of the NCAA Tournament.
Bohannon is systematically digging out of the hole that he inherited from Greg Goff. Goff replaced Mitch Gaspard in 2017 who left after a 15-15 SEC record, and in his one season finished 19-34-1 with a 4-25-1 SEC mark. The first team under Bohannon was 27-29 overall and 8-22 in the league, followed by a 30-26, 7-23 record in year two. The 2020 team was on its way to great things when the season was cancelled by the pandemic. The Tide had started 16-1 when the rug was pulled out from under them. Bohannon has a career record of 115-82 in his four ( 3 1/2) seasons, 27-62 in the SEC and 98-20 out of conference.
Alabama was picked to finish 7th in the SEC West and 14th in the league by the pundits, but despite a rash of injuries to key players they finished 4th in the West and 9th overall. Pre-season All-American Connor Prielipp pitched opening day, gaining a win against McNeese State in five sharp innings, allowing four hits, no walks, no runs, and striking out eight. Little did we know at the time he wouldn't take the mound again for two months, and then for only one inning. One month later he pitched another one inning stint before being shut down for the year. Prielipp finished the year with seven innings pitched in three games, and had Tommy John surgery two weeks ago which will keep him out of the 2022 season.
The Tide also lost their Sunday starter, Antoine Jean, after only six starts and 26 innings pitched. High leverage relief pitcher Brock Guffey injured his shoulder and totaled only 14 innings on the season, with many of those in the post season. Connor Shamblin, Jacob McNairy, Landon Green, and Chase Lee all missed time. The lack of mound depth was a huge problem for the team, causing several mid week games to be cancelled during the season.
Position players weren't spared from the injury bug. Outfielder TJ Reeves had ankle surgery in the fall, then pulled a hamstring before the season started. After returning and getting in a nice groove Reeves broke his hamate bone on a head first slide and had another surgery. Reeves returned from the injury and sprained his ankle and then played sparingly the rest of the season. Another outfielder, Jackson Tate, had a late start to the season after a hamstring pull. First baseman Drew Williamson missed 11 games after breaking his hamate bone in his throwing (right) hand. Starting outfielder William Hamiter missed five games with a strained oblique and was bothered by it for much of the season.
The Tide began SEC playing three of the top six teams in the country, number one Arkansas in Fayetteville followed by number three Ole Miss and number six Tennessee at home. To everyones surprise Bama beat Arkansas by a score of 16-1 in the conference opener. Other big wins on the season included going 2-3 versus Tennessee. The Tide won game one of their season series 7-4, then lost in 11 innings on Saturday and suffered a one run loss in game three. A 3-2 win in 11 innings over the Vols at the SEC Tournament likely punched the Tide’s ticket to Regional play. Other big wins for the team: 9-4 over 24th ranked South Carolina in game one of the SEC Tournament, three game sweeps over regional teams McNeese State and Wright State, an 11-8 victory over another regional team- South Alabama- a 2-0 recored against regional participant Jacksonville State, a 6-5 win over super regional team LSU, and a 19-3 win over regional team Samford. Alabama recored 16 wins over teams that made the NCAA field. The team was 19-13 at home, 10-9 on the road, and 3-4 in neutral site games.
Alabama hit .260 as a team for the season with 67 home runs, 96 doubles, seven triples, and 304 RBI, with a .563 slugging percentage. The team walked 224 times, got hit 58 times, and struck out 482 times while grounding into 25 double plays. Individually Zane Denton led the team in average at .308, followed by Tate at .292 and Peyton Wilson at .290. Wilson led the team in hits with 72, with Denton having 68, Sam Praytor 59, and William Hamiter 55. Praytor led in home runs with 14, Owen Diodati had 11, Denton 10, and Wilson nine. Praytor drove in 48 followed by Denton and Diodati with 40 each. Wilson led in runs with 46, Denton crossed home 40 times, while Praytor and Hamiter did 35 times each. Wilson was the doubles leader with 13 while Praytor and Williamson had 12 each.
The pitching staff had a 4.78 ERA in 514 innings pitched, allowing 520 hits with 178 walks and 497 strikeouts. Lee and Tyler Ras led with seven wins each. Lee had the best ERA at 1.33 in 40.2 innings, followed by William Freeman at 2.22 in 56.2 innings. Dylan Smith pitched the most innings, 98.1, and had the most strikeouts with 113. Smith is the first Tide pitcher since Wade LeBlanc in 2006 to strikeout at least 100 hitters in a season. Ras was second in innings with 86.2, trailed by Freeman with 56.2 and Shamblin with 46. Lee had seven of the teams 14 saves. Landon Green held opponents to a .193 batting average in 31.2 innings, while hitters hit .201 off of Lee and .210 off of Freeman. Freeman had the best WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) with an outstanding .096, with Lee and Smith closed behind at 1.06 and 1.21, respectively.
Several players collected personal accolades for their play this year. Praytor was named first team All SEC catcher, as well as third team All American by Collegiate Baseball News. Wilson made second team All SEC as a second baseman, and was also named to the all newcomer team. Third baseman Denton made all defensive team in the SEC and also the all newcomer team. Pitcher Ras was named to the all defensive team as well. Smith made the All Regional team for the Ruston Regional after pitching a complete game in a 3-1 win over Rider. Lee was named third team All American by NCBWA , and joined Wilson on the All Southeastern Region team named by ABCA/Rawlings.
The coaching staff continues to recruit well and the team next year will have several new faces. I will dive into what the roster may look back closer to the MLB draft, and also examine who has left via the transfer portal, and who may come to Tuscaloosa through the portal.
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