Baseball begins preparation for 2019 season


CW/ Hannah Saad

Cody Estremera, Sports Editor

Alabama baseball began its 2019 season on Friday, starting with the first day of spring practice. The Crimson Tide practiced before holding a scrimmage, which ended in a scoreless tie.

“We put a lot of really good work in today,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “It was a good starting point. This group probably has done as good of a job over the break coming back baseball-ready [than] any group that I’ve had.”

In Bohannon’s first year as head coach, the Crimson Tide went 27-29. Now, even though it is just a year removed, the team is completely different.

Alabama lost almost all of its starters from last year. Third baseman Cobie Vance, shortstop Jett Manning and right fielder Chandler Taylor were all selected in the 2018 MLB draft and elected to forgo their senior seasons. Second baseman Chandler Avant and right-handed pitcher Jake Walters graduated and were also selected in the draft. The first-base duo of Cody Henry and Hunter Alexander graduated.

The only starters coming back are catcher Sam Praytor, who was a freshman, center fielder Joe Breaux and left fielder Keith Holcombe.

“You miss the guys from last year, but also love the new guys,” Praytor said. “There’s a lot of really good guys, and we all hang out together. We mesh well together.”

Overall the Crimson Tide lost more than 1,200 at-bats and about 200 RBIs from last year.

Holcombe usually had to make a quick adjustment back to baseball, since he played football for most of his career. Since he sat out the football season, he got to experience his first fall with the baseball team.

“Keith is starting to look like a baseball player,” Bohannon said. “If you’re athletic and you have some ability and you work, you’re going to get better. Really pleased with where he is right now.”

He returns as Alabama’s leading hitter from last year, hitting .290 with a .758 on-base percentage.

Over the last couple of seasons, the Alabama pitching staff has been the team’s weakest link. The staff should be strong this year, since Walters was the biggest loss. It returns most of its staff from last year and brought in 10 new arms.

“Bo did a great job recruiting,” Praytor said. “Our whole pitching staff is new. It feels like we just have a couple of returners, but all of our pitchers have a lot of talent. [Pitching coach Jackson Jason] has done a great job, grooming them into who he wants them to be. … We’re going to have a really good pitching staff.”

Just as he was last year, right-handed pitcher Sam Finnerty will be the staff’s Friday night starter. He finished 4-4 with a 4.45 ERA in a team-high 87 innings. He started Friday’s scrimmage.

“Sam Finnerty was really sharp,” Bohannon said. “He just keeps getting better. He’s really made some real strides with his secondary stuff, so that was exciting.”

Alabama’s first game is on Feb. 15 against Presbyterian College.