The Crimson Tide baseball team fell short of their goals this season, missing out on the NCAA Tournament after making it to postseason play in 2021. The team went 31-27 overall, 12-17 in the SEC, and 2-2 in the SEC Tournament — numbers that were very similar to the 2021 team that finished 32-26 overall, and matched the 2022 team with a 12-17 conference record and a 2-2 mark in the SEC Tournament.
After winning over Georgia on Tuesday and Arkansas on Wednesday in the tournament the Tide looked to be on good footing to receive a bid for the second year in a row. However losses to Texas A&M and Florida along with several “bid stealers” in other conference tournaments put the Tide on the outside looking in.
What happened to put Bama in the position of wait and see? Several things, including losing too many midweek games, one-run losses, and Cinderella teams winning their tournaments. The Tide finished 6-12 in one-run games and lost four more games by two runs.
The team had bad losses to UT-Martin, North Alabama, and Birmingham U (twice), and finished 8-5 in midweek games overall. The second week of the season Bama traveled to Austin to play number one Texas. The Tide lost a heartbreaking 1-0 opener on a wild pitch in the 8th innings, and lost 2-0 in game two, before losing 6-1 on Sunday.
‘Bama went to Starkville for the second weekend of SEC play and lost two of three in heartbreaking ways, giving up multi-run leads in the 9th inning on both Friday and Saturday. In addition getting swept on the road at South Carolina in late April put the Tide on a downward spiral that the couldn't quite get over.
Midway through the season, the Tide seemed to be on the rebound, when Alabama traveled to Oxford and then swept then-No. 9 Ole Miss on the road, And ‘Bama was really rolling when the Tide went to Knoxville, and then hung the first SEC defeat on No. 1 Tennessee. At that point Bama had an eight-game winning streak, with six of those being SEC wins. With a conference record of 8-5 after that game, the Tide was 4th in the SEC and had the look of a team that could possibly host a regional.
But it was a tale of two halves. Over the next 16 conference games Alabama would post a woeful 4-12 record. And, in many ways, it was a season of lost opportunities. To show how good the league is, and the potential this Tide team had, the three teams Bama won series from in the SEC are all in Super Regional play this weekend. The Tide won two of three from Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa, swept Ole Miss in Oxford, and took two of three from Arkansas in Tuscaloosa to close out the regular season. In addition the Tide also defeated Arkansas in Hoover in Game Two of the SEC Tournament. All three of those teams spent many weeks in the top five this season.
The Tide, as usual, did have to deal with what seemed like more than their fair share of injuries. The roster just wasn't deep enough to overcome the loss of key performers. Left handed pitcher Connor Prielipp was coming off of Tommy John surgery in May and wasn't necessarily counted on for the season. However, late in the year the junior from Wisconsin had finished his rehab and decided to opt out rather than pitch for the Tide. Prielipp is expected to still be a first round draft pick in next month’s MLB draft and did throw a bullpen session for scouts during the SEC Tournament.
Also missing the season were sophomore pitcher Jake Eddington, and highly regarded freshmen pitchers Kade Woods and Brandon Clarke. Dylan Ray had a late start to the season as he worked his way back from Tommy John surgery of his own. Landon Green was expected to be the closer for the team and he missed a big stretch of time starting early in the year. Left handed pitcher Antoine Jean missed several weeks with an elbow issue, right hander Ben Hess missed the first few weeks after an off season injury. Left hander Jake Leger also was late getting started after injuring himself late in camp. Freshman Hagan Banks also missed a few weeks and grad transfer Hunter Hoopes missed the last several weeks of the year. Hoopes had a stellar season going with a 2.25 ERA in 15 appearances, while striking out 23 batters in 20 innings.
On the offensive side outfield/DH William Hamiter broke his foot in the 7th game of the year and missed 25 games. Second baseman Bryce Eblin bruised his rotator cuff and missed a dozen games. Centerfielder/second baseman Caden Rose battled a hamstring injury for most of the first half of the season and was in and out of the lineup and his speed was limited, but once he got healthy became a star.
But, there was plenty that did go right, as well.
Rose and Andrew Pinckney became out-and-out stars. Rose led the team in hitting and Pinckney flashed all five tools on a weekly basis. Drew Williamson played an outstanding first base and was a stalwart in the middle of the lineup. Harvard grad transfer Tommy Seidl flashed speed and athletic ability and finished third on the team in batting average. Shortstop Jim Jarvis played the position as well as anyone in the league and took a big step forward at the plate. Shelton State transfer Garrett McMIllian became the teams Friday night starter and led the team in innings pitched and strikeouts along with a 4.29 ERA. Dylan Ray moved into the closer role, and after a shaky beginning recovered to become a freshman All American with his eight saves. Jacob McNairy began the year as the midweek starter and quickly moved to the weekend rotation and had a team best 6-2 record.
The squad hit .279 as a team and scored 335 runs (5.77 per game) with 85 doubles, seven triples, 62 home runs, with 220 walks, 472 strikeouts. The Tide had an on base percentage of .362 and a slugging percentage of .430. Though, that was offset by the Tide finishing near the bottom of the league in home runs, sac bunts and stolen bases. As a team, Alabama was 37-51 in stolen bases, had 17 sac bunts, and 23 sacrifice flies.
In summary, they had a hard time scoring runs — either by way of power or in manufacturing runs.
On the mound the staff had an ERA of 4.63 over 511 innings giving up 495 hits, walking 197, striking out 540 and holding opponents to an average of .253. However, the team had a hard time overcoming its 83 home runs allowed. The defense was once again very good with a fielding percentage of .981, with Jarvis and Zane Denton playing every inning of the season and only committing six and four errors, respectively.
Rose led the team with his .326 average and .435 on base percentage. Pinckney hit .303 with 14 doubles, seven home runs, three triples, and seven stolen bases and showed off his cannon arm by throwing out five runners from his right field position. Seidl finished at .302 and led the way with 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts. Williamson hit .301, slugged nine home runs, and drove in 47 runs. Denton suffered through a long slump but was still able to hit .263 and lead the team with 13 home run and 48 runs driven in. Catcher Dominic Tamez hit .289 with five home runs and 34 driven in.
On the mound McNairy finished 6-2 with a 4.62 ERA and Jean had a 5-1 record with a save and a 3.48 ERA. McMillian had a record of 4-5 with a 4.29 ERA over 86 innings with 83 strikeouts. Hess finished the year with a 3-1 record in 33 innings with 50 strikeouts. The Illinois native saved his best for last with a win over Georgia in the SEC Tournament when he came on after a rain delay and pitched 4.1 innings while allowing only one hit and striking out 10 batters. Ray earned his FR All American honors by saving eight games in 18 appearances while allowing teams to only hit .198 against him and striking out 49 hitters in 31 innings.
What will the team look like next year?
There is a possibility of a lot of new faces. With graduation, transfer portal, and the MLB draft there will be several players not back. Eric Foggo, Landon Green, Hunter Ruth, Brock Guffey, Drew Williamson, and Jacob McNairy all graduated. Williamson and McNairy have a Covid year to fall back on if the choose to return. Prielipp is definitely going in the draft. Other draft eligible players that look the be chosen are Pinckney, Denton, Jarvis, Tamez, and McMillian. Ray is actually a draft eligible red shirt freshman and could be taken, but would benefit by coming back. Coach Brad Bohannon and his staff signed a recruiting class that is ranked anywhere from 5th to 10th by most services. The question is how many of the players will make it to campus. Pitcher Walter Ford is mocked as a first round pick by many and Colby Shelton, Jake Madden, Brock Blatter, Max Williams, Riley Quick, and Mason Swinney are guys to worry about being wooed to the pros.
The Tide has had some players enter the transfer portal already, the biggest being outfielder/DH Owen Diodati. Diodati had eight home runs and 26 RBI in this, his junior season. Also in the portal are Eddington, infielder Davis Heller, infielder Jimmy Theis, and catcher Graham Crawford. With the NCAA reverting back to the 35 man rosters in 2023 there could be a number crunch come fall practice.
Overall it was not the season that the team was looking for. Hopefully several players will take big steps during summer ball and will come back in the fall ready to work and help the team reach their potential in 2023.
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch It