Preview: Alabama Baseball Ready For Series With North Dakota
Alabama (3-1) will look to stay on a roll following a 13-1 win over Nicholls State in a Wednesday night matchup . The Tide will play host to North Dakota in a three-game series this weekend.
North Dakota (2-1) is a team that many fans are likely unfamiliar with, which often leads to the assumption that the more notable team will sweep the series. However, Alabama cannot afford to underestimate this weekend's opponent.
North Dakota opened its season with a 2-1 series win over No. 12 Southern Cal. The Trojans needed a 7-6 Sunday win to avoid a series sweep. Excellent pitching by the Hawks was the key to their success and that trend could continue this weekend in Tuscaloosa. The probable starting starters for North Dakota are LHP Zach Muckenhirn, RHP Brett DeGagne, and RHP McKay McNair.
Muckenhirn had one of the nation's best opening day starts after pitching a complete-game shutout. He allowed just three hits and one walk in route to a 1-0 victory. DeGagne also picked up a win in his season debut by allowing three earned runs and striking out four batters in 5.1 innings pitched. McNair was the starter in game three, but he was not credited with the loss despite allowing five earned runs across 5.0 innings pitched.
Probable starters for Alabama this weekend will be RHP Geoffrey Bramblett, RHP Jake Walters, and RHP Nick Eicholtz.
Bramblett was the winning pitcher in the Tide's opening game against Maryland. He allowed just three hits and one earned run across 5.1 innings. Walters' first start of the 2016 season was not as successful as he allowed five earned runs in the fourth inning. Despite the rough outing, he still managed to strike out six batters. Eicholtz arguably had the most impressive debut. The first-time weekend starter allowed just one run in six innings of work.
North Dakota's pitching will be the key to stealing away any victories from the Tide, but the Hawks can also make you pay at the plate. Second baseman and junior college transfer Ben Reznicek is one player to look out for. He was 6-for-12 with two doubles and three RBI against USC. Another player to watch is sophomore Brett Harrison who amassed two doubles and three RBI of his own. Harrison may play catcher or serve as the team's designated hitter.
Alabama had several players who stepped up big in the team's series win over Maryland. However, the two players to keep an eye on in this series will be freshmen Cobie Vance and Chandler Taylor. Vance leads the team with a .563 batting average after going 3-for-4 in Wednesday night's win over Nicholls State. Taylor is batting .533 on the year, but tied the school record for hits in a single game after going 5-for-5 on Wednesday. Vance and Taylor are also the only players with a home run this season.
This weekend will be the first ever meeting between Alabama and North Dakota. Friday's game is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. CT. Saturday's game will start at 2:00 p.m. CT, and the series finale will begin at 1:00 p.m. CT.
You can listen to all three games right here on Tide 99.1.