Ras makes big strides early in freshman season


CW/ Hannah Stone

Cody Estremera, Sports Editor

In Alabama’s opening series against Presbyterian College, coach Brad Bohannon set up his starting pitching rotation in a way that he had never done at Auburn or Kentucky, and Alabama hasn’t done since 2012: he started two freshmen on opening weekend.

The results were mixed in their first collegiate games. Tyler Ras went 3 and 2/3 innings, while Connor Shamblin went four innings. Ras allowed one run off five hits, while Shamblin allowed three runs (two earned) off five hits. They combined for 10 strikeouts, both finishing with five.

“I think any coach, being honest with you, in this league that’s the last thing they want to do,” Bohannon said. “Connor [Shamblin] and Tyler [Ras] are very talented. They’re both really mature. They’ve earned it.”

Now a little over a month into the season, neither of the two freshmen are in the weekend rotation. Shamblin moved to the bullpen after throwing 28 pitches against South Alabama in a 2/3 of an inning outing.

Ras remained a starter, just in the midweek games.

“I think [Ras] has gotten better every time out,” Bohannon said. “Just the pitch ability is showing up more. The secondary stuff is coming.”

In Alabama’s 16-0 win on Tuesday, Ras earned his first collegiate win. He threw five shutout innings against Maine, allowing just three hits while striking out five. Lasting five innings is his longest outing of the year, and the five strikeouts ties his career high.

“[Scoring early] makes the game a lot easier,” Ras said. “I get to settle down a little bit, and that’s what I did once we took the lead.”

Ras journeyed to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, from Middletown, New Jersey, where he was the No. 3 in the player state according to Perfect Game. The same rankings had him listed as the No. 27 right-handed pitcher in the country, leading to a selection in the 33rd round of the 2018 MLB draft by the Chicago Cubs.

He committed to Alabama in 2017, before Bohannon took over in June of that year. Alabama was the first school on his trip down in the South, and he fell in love with it.

“What’s not to love about Alabama?” he said.

Once Bohannon took over as head coach, he had to make decisions on the roster and the recruiting class.

Ras’ roster spot was one of those decisions. Soon after taking over as head coach, Bohannon went to Atlanta to watch Ras play. The first time the coach saw him hit, Ras hit a double down the left-field line. The first time pitching coach Jason Jackson saw the 19-year-old pitch, he came in with bases loaded and no outs. Ras struck out the side.

“It kind of made it easy for us,” Bohannon said. “Who doesn’t want a 6-foot-4, 200-pound righty who throws hard and can hit?”

Outside of being a promising pitcher, Ras also plays in the outfield for the Crimson Tide, playing in five games in the outfield and has started at designated hitter. He has knocked in one run, which came off his lone hit of the season.

The biggest difference for the right-hander, at least earlier in the year, was the weather. Ras grew up missing February because of the snow. So far, he has mainly dealt with sun and rain.

“I’ll take the rain over the snow any day,” he said. “The weather is just perfect. February, I would never be outside… To come and play every day is something that I look forward to every day.”