Randolph provides confidence in ninth inning

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Randolph provides confidence in ninth inning

CW/ Hannah Stone

CW/ Hannah Stone

CW/ Hannah Stone

CW/ Hannah Stone

Cody Estremera, Sports Editor

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Ever since Thomas Burrows was drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Alabama baseball has struggled to find a full-time closer.

In 2017, the bullpen struggled throughout most of the year. Davis Vainer was the team’s unofficial closer, but he struggled with command and finished the year with a 4.71 ERA in just 28 2/3 innings.

Deacon Medders was the 2018 closer, finishing with six saves, but he was used in an overall relief spot instead of just the back end of games.

Coach Brad Bohannon knew he had to bolster the bullpen in his first full recruiting class, so he brought in 10 pitchers.

“When I got the job, the roster was just out of whack,” Bohannon said. “When you have to bring in a big group, you can’t be super selective as you can be if you’re working two years out.”

He also made sure to bring in a lockdown closer.

Jeremy Randolph was playing in the Cape Cod League when he got a call from the Alabama coaching staff. He had just graduated from Wright State and had a year left of eligibility. His coach Jeff Mercer took a job with Indiana, so Randolph’s future didn’t necessarily lie at Wright State.

“It was pretty tough,” Randolph said. “You’re playing every day, so not only do you need to worry about [finding a new school], you’re playing against some of the best players in the country.”

He talked with Bohannon over the phone, while pitching coach Jason Jackson flew to Boston to meet with him. Jackson recruited him during breakfast, and three weeks later, Randolph was on Alabama’s campus for a visit.

“Everyone has a different story, a different path,” Bohannon said. “I don’t think there’s a team in America that couldn’t use a guy like Jeremy, just because he’s so versatile.”

Bohannon elaborated on his versatility by saying he could start, be a long relief guy or pitch in close games. In his time at Wright State, Randolph was a key force for the Raiders. He threw 150 1/3 innings and struck out 129 batters.

He was a starter for the first few years of his Raiders career, then transitioned to the bullpen as a senior. He finished his career with a 16-5 record, recording five saves along the way.

While there are different options for Randolph in a pitching staff, Bohannon and Jackson give him the end of games.

“I think any coach would tell you, for whatever reason, those outs, the last three outs of the game are so much harder to get than the first three or ones in the middle,” Bohannon said. “It’s just heightened sense of focus… It’s a really, really good feeling being up by one or two, knowing that he’s fresh.”

Randolph has excelled in his role as closer. In his team-high 13 appearances, he has recorded five saves and a .78 ERA. Of the 73 hitters he’s faced, they are maintaining a .123 batting average, while walking just eight times (11%).

He is third on the team in strikeouts with 34 in just 23 innings of work (averaging 1.5 strikeouts per inning).  

“I just try to be ready whenever they need me,” Randolph said. “Whether it’s the second inning or the ninth inning, whatever it is, just do whatever I’m asked.”