Brad Bohannon squares off against former teams

Brad+Bohannon+squares+off+against+former+teams

Cody Estremera

Alabama coach Brad Bohannon has been in the SEC since 2004. In that 14-year stretch, he helped turn around Kentucky and Auburn, before starting at Alabama.

Bohannon faced his most recent team on Tuesday in the MAX Capital City Classic. Auburn won the game 5-2 behind a pair of home runs from Will Holland. Now, Bohannon faces No. 6 Kentucky for the weekend series.

“It’s nice to see people that you care about before and after the game, but when the game starts, it’s really easy to be solely focused on Alabama baseball,” Bohannon said before Tuesday’s game. “I think the thing that I’m most excited about is we are playing two teams that are both ranked in all the polls. I keep telling the kids, ‘If we want to be a good team, we have to beat some good teams.’ I think we’ve proven to this point in the season that we are pretty darn good at playing teams that have inferior talent. The next step for our program is to beat some good teams consistently.”

Kentucky is one of the best teams on Alabama’s schedule.  The Wildcats have a team batting average of .326, which is the fourth best in the country; 65 doubles, which is fifth in the country; 45 home runs, which is third in the country; and nine runs a game, which is fourth in the country.

Individually, the Wildcats have eight batters hitting over .300.

Luke Heyer is one of the most dangerous hitters in the Kentucky lineup. The senior infielder has 11 home runs this year, which is tied for fourth in the country. He also has a .830 slugging percentage, which is fifth in the country, and a .375 batting average. 

Kole Cottam and T.J. Collett are also some of the best power hitters in the country. Cottam, who is hitting .319, is tied for sixth in the country with 10 home runs, while Collett, who is hitting .330, is tied for tenth in the country with nine long balls.

“They are one of the best offensive groups in our league, which makes you one of the best offensive groups in the country,” Bohannon said. “Very talented. They are a bunch of draft picks. Them and Arkansas have separated themselves from the rest of the league from a power numbers standpoint. That will be a real challenge for our pitching staff.”

Kentucky returns ace Shaun Hjelle. The reigning SEC pitcher of the year has continued his success through his six appearances this season. He is 4-1 with a 2.97 ERA. 

The Wildcats also have redshirt junior Justin Lewis on the mound. Lewis is 4-2 this season. In his most recent start, Lewis held Auburn to just one run over five innings.

Alabama has struggled since SEC play started. After starting 15-3, the Crimson Tide is just 1-7 in its last eight games, including a seven-game losing streak.

“When we were hot at the beginning of the year, even when we played bad, coach was letting us know that we won the game but weren’t playing good enough to beat good teams,” outfielder Chandler Taylor said. “Now we’re finding it out. It took us 24, 25 games to find out to beat adequate, conference opponents that you have to play clean baseball all the way through the game.”

Alabama will look to end its losing streak on Friday. First pitch is at 6 p.m.