The Alabama baseball team will begin their 5th season under coach Brad Bohannon on Friday, February 18th when they host Xavier for a three game series. The Tide is coming off their first regional appearance since 2014 and looks to build on that success. Last year’s squad finished 32-26 overall and 12-17 in the SEC. Bama won two games in the SEC Tournament to secure a regional bid. Host Louisiana Tech ended Alabama’s season in an elimination game by a score of 10-8.
The Tide coaching staff underwent some changes in the off season, bringing back former volunteer assistant Matt Reida to replace Jerry Zuli and brought in former Auburn All-American Hunter Morris as the volunteer coach. The staff brought in the 8th ranked recruiting class in the county with 22 newcomers to go along with 20 returning players. The roster is made up of 13 players from Alabama, five from Florida, four from Tennessee, two each from Georgia, Mississippi, and Virginia, and one each from Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin as well as two players from Canada.
With Covid eligibility still available, the roster size for college teams has been pushed to 40 players rather than the usual 35. Alabama has 42 on their roster, but have been granted an injury waiver for some players that have had season ending surgeries. Pitchers Connor Prielipp, Jake Eddington, Brandon Clarke, and Kade Woods have all had arm surgery that could keep them out all season.
After being caught short-handed on the mound due to injuries last year, Bohannon went heavy on bringing pitchers to the team. There are 24 now on the roster with 20 (mostly) healthy. The catching position took a hit with Sam Praytor moving on to pro ball and back up Johnny Hawk graduating, so Bohannon signed two junior college players, brought in one freshman, and moved an infielder behind the plate.
The Tide returns six position players that were full time starters as well as two more with several starts under their belt. Bama played 58 games last year and lost arms that started 45 of those games.
With opening day bearing down, Bohannon and his staff are trying to narrow down position battles and roles on the pitching staff. The infield will have three full time returning starters and one player that came on late in the season to earn playing time. Drew Williamson hit .255 with four home runs and 12 doubles last year and is a three year returning starter at first base. Jim Jarvis returns for his junior year after being the full time shortstop last year and playing second base as a freshman. Jarvis hit .237 on the season. Zane Denton returns at third base after leading the team in hitting last year at .308 while adding 10 home runs, 10 doubles, and driving in 40 runs.
Bryce Eblin got playing time late in the year at shortstop, and he and Jarvis look to share second base and shortstop, at least to begin the season. Eblin hit .342 in 38 at bats with five doubles. Stetson transfer Eric Foggo and Davis Heller are also first basemen. Two freshmen, Jimmy Thies and Will Hodo, will add depth at the hot corner and in the middle. Centerfielder Caden Rose can also play second base and shortstop if needed. Will Portera is a redshirt freshman that has worked at third and second.
Dominic Tamez is a former Arkansas and McClennan CC player that looks be the main catcher. Graham Crawford from Pearl River CC has been battling for playing time as well. Tuscaloosa native and freshman Hunter Sute and Portera will provide depth.
In the outfield, there are six men battling for playing time between the three positions and the designated hitter spot. Owen Diodati is a junior that has started mostly at DH in his first two seasons but looks to earn more playing time in the field this season. Diodati hit .230 with 11 home runs and 40 RBI last year. Junior Tuscaloosa native William Hamiter was the main right fielder last year and hit .271 with 11 doubles and 34 RBI. Rose started 42 games in centerfield last year and sparkled defensively, while hitting .190 with four home runs. Redshirt sophomore Andrew Pinckney is another elite defender with great speed, in 45 games with 24 starts, Pinckney hit .245 with six doubles.
Harvard grad transfer Tommy Seidl brings experience and tenacity to the mix and can play all three outfield spots. Seidl has power and speed to go with his hard nosed approach. Harvard only played six games in 2020 before Covid cancelled the season, but three of those were in Tuscaloosa against the Tide where he had three hits including a home run. Siedl has basically missed the last two college seasons, all though he did play in the Cape Cod League this past summer. Freshman Camden Hayslip was a big recruit that spurned pro ball to sign with the Tide. The left handed Hayslip can play all three outfield spots and has a huge upside.
The pitching staff welcomes seven pitchers back that pitched 136 of the teams 514 innings last year. They also have redshirt freshman Dylan Ray back after missing last season due to Tommy John surgery. The returners are redshirt senior Brock Guffey, senior Jacob McNairy, redshirt senior Hunter Ruth, redshirt junior Landon Green, junior Antoine Jean, sophomore Grayson Hitt, and sophomore Eli Giles.
McNairy had the most innings, 37, of all the returners and Green led in victories with three, followed by Jean and Hitt with two each. Green and Guffey both earned two saves. The newcomers include two highly touted freshmen in Luke Holman and Ben Hess. Holman is a 6’4” right hander from Sinking Springs, PA. Hess is a 6’5” righty from Charleston, IL. Tuscaloosa native and Shelton State alum Garrett McMillan is a big, 6’4” 230 pound right hander that will also have a big role on the team. Wake Forest transfer Hunter Furtado is a 6’4” hard throwing left hander. Hagan Banks is another 6’4” freshman right hander from Plainville, GA that should garner innings as well. Trace Moore and Jake Leger are two more junior college left handed pitchers looking to help the team. Hunter Hoopes is a senior transfer from UNC Ashville with a live fastball. Brayden Gainey is a right hander that comes for Gulf Coast CC, Conner Ball is a freshman left hander from Sterrett, AL, Braylon Myers is a freshman RHP from Bessemer, AL, and Nathan Shelton is another lefty that pitched at ACA in Tuscaloosa.
The rotation could go a number of different ways and will probably change at times during the season. Some combination of Jean, Ray, Holman, Furtado, McMillian, and Hitt will likely start the three games in the opening series. Green will be the traditional closer while Guffey, McNairy, Banks, Leger, and Hoopes will be in the mix to pitch opening weekend. When Hess is back from a minor injury he will be looked at as starter and out of the pen.
The team will have experience in the field and a lot of inexperienced talent on the mound. The team looks to be exceptional on defense with a lot of power at the plate. Offensively, they should improve on the .260 team batting average and the 67 home runs hit last season. On the mound, the young staff will try to better the team ERA of 4.78. This should be an exciting season with the Tide taking another step forward. Come to The Joe and catch Bama Baseball Fever.
If you want to really help the Alabama Baseball program here is a way to do so. Join the Grand Slammers and your contribution will directly help the team https://t.co/KYGv65nBOY— Roger Patrick Myers (@rogerpatmyers) February 15, 2022
**Since this piece was submitted Bohannon released this weekend’s starting rotation against Xavier. McMillian will start on Friday, Jean on Saturday, and Hitt on Sunday.
The first series will feature a 3 p.m. first pitch on Friday the 18th, 2 p.m. on Saturday the 19th, and 1 p.m. on Sunday the 20th. The season will continue the next week with a Tuesday game at 3 p.m. with Jacksonville State and a Wednesday 3 p.m. date with Alabama State. All games should be available on SEC Network+.
After the five game home stand, the team will really find out what they are made of as they travel to Austin to take on the number one ranked Texas Longhorns in a three game series from February 25th to 27th.