Preview: Alabama Baseball Opens 2017 Season Against Presbyterian
Recap of the 2016 season
The opening of Sewell-Thomas stadium sparked excitement last season, because it meant that the Crimson Tide no longer had to play "home" games at the Hoover Met. The 2016 season started on the right foot with a victory over Maryland, who started the season ranked 28th nationally. After losing the next game, the Crimson Tide rolled to a top-15 ranking and a 9-1 record after the first 10 games.
The first SEC battle for the 2016 squad was against LSU who managed to beat the Crimson Tide once to avoid being swept at home. The Crimson Tide continued to snag two conference wins from Tennessee at Sewell-Thomas, then one conference win against Georgia in Athens. After the first 25 games, the Tide had won 16 games and lost nine with a conference record of 5-2.
All the gears seemed to be working perfectly in sync, earning two wins over the Ole Miss Rebels, who was ranked in the top 10 at the time. But after sweeping Arkansas on the road at Fayetteville, the gears seemed to stall.
Injuries crippled the Crimson Tide. The team lost junior shortstop Chandler Avant halfway through the season during the series against Texas A&M after breaking his ankle. The Tide lost pitcher Thomas Burrows for a month after straining his oblique.
Third baseman Connor Short only played in 28 games after suffering a multitude of injuries ranging from a strained groin, a torn quad and a concussion. Though freshman outfielder Kieth Holcombe wasn't injured, he was loaned to the baseball team by Nick Saban. Who came to collect his player during spring training drills and scrimmages.
The result meant a loss of the whole left side of the infield for half the season and their lead-off star for a month, really testing the depth of Gaspard's team. The Crimson Tide would finish the last half of the season with 16 wins and 17 losses, along with a conference record of 10-13.
The Crimson Tide would later be eliminated in the SEC tournament after losing to the 2016 regular season champions Mississippi St 4-1, and a heartbreaking close 5-4 lose to the nationally top ranked Florida Gators.
Gaspard would gather the team after the season to announce his resignation. An arguably perfect start for the Crimson Tide faltered after not handling adversity well and ended the season at 32-26, with an even 15-15conference record.
Enter Greg Goff
Having previously coached with three college teams - the University of Montevallo, Campbell University, and Louisiana Tech University - Alabama's newest head coach has compiled a 448-307 record in 755 NCAA division I and II games as head coach.
Goff's last stop came at Louisiana Tech for the 2015 and 2016 seasons where the first season with a 25-27 record. Goff redeemed himself in 2016 by winning 40 games and finishing ranked 5th in Conference USA and making an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Goff's next war would be recruiting, but not for Louisiana Tech.
Entering the 2017 season, the first 21 games are scheduled at home. Opening up with a series against Presbyterian College, the goal for Goff and the Crimson Tide is to host regionals and to make it to Omaha for the national championship within the next few years.
Goff has senior Nick Eicholtz and junior Jake Walters returning in rotation, along with sophomore Dylan Duarte locked in to pitch this weekend. Three players to keep an eye on this series and throughout the season are: Cobie Vance, Chandler Avant, and Chandler Taylor.
Before Avant's season ending broken ankle against Texas A&M, he lead the team in runs scored with 25, doubles with 15, and was second with 22 RBI. As a freshman, Vance hit three home runs, seven doubles and drove in 23 runs. Sophomore outfielder Chandler Taylor was the Crimson Tide's only player to hit a homer in back-to-back games and led the team being walked 40 times.
In 2016, Presbyterian College won 27 games and lost 30, winning a majority of their games at home (17).
Keep an eye out on senior outfielder Weston Jackson, who lead Presbyterian College with 55 RBI, 10 home runs and 27 doubles in the 2016 season. Another key player for Presbyterian College is senior Cletis Avery who was second in RBI with 30, tied for second with five home runs, and hit 18 doubles as well. Another breakout player for Presbyterian College is senior Tyler Weyenberg, who in the 2016 season lead the team with 83 hits, tied with the team high for triples with two, along with hitting 18 doubles.
The lineups have been made, situations practiced daily, all that waits is the opening pitch. Goff and the Crimson Tide are ready to start the season off on the right foot, prepared to make a statement this opening series.
Tide 102.9 FM will be covering all Alabama baseball games. If you're busy on the go, you can even stay up to date on the game by listening on the radioPup smartphone app.