The brisk Tuscaloosa air was broken with the reverberation of baseball gloves popping and bats ringing as the Alabama baseball team opened its 2020 season with a 10-0 win over Northeastern on Friday.
The 2020 freshman class is widely considered the first true recruiting class coach Brad Bohannon has brought in that were truly his selection of players. That freshman class stole the show on opening day starting with starting pitcher Connor Prielipp.
“I wish Connor would’ve failed more in the six months he’s been here,” Bohannon said. “It’s not going to be perfect every game especially in SEC play, but it was a good first college start today.”
Prielipp posted a quick three-up, three-down first inning to start his Alabama career that featured two strikeouts. The left-hander pitched 4.0 innings, allowing one hit and four walks and striking out seven in his debut. In three different innings Prielipp put the first batter he faced on base, but struck the next batter out each time.
The Huskies loaded the bases with one out in the fourth inning that initiated a mound visit by the pitching coach, Jason Jackson. The freshman’s response: strike out the next batter and get the following one out with a ground ball to shortstop.
“I just needed to slow down a little bit,” Prielipp said. “The meeting calmed me down and I was able to buckle down again.”
Alabama started three freshmen on opening day with Jim Jarvis at second base, Zane Denton at third base and Owen Diodati designated hitting. Diodati had two home runs both over the right field wall that drove in three runs. The Canadian plated four runs for the Crimson Tide. Denton and Jarvis both finished the game with one hit, one RBI and scored a run.
“Coming here I heard how good our [recruiting] class was but actually seeing it is different,” Diodati said. “To see how much the young guys have competed here shows they belong – we’re going to surprise a lot of people, but not ourselves.”
Every Crimson Tide starter earned at least one hit in the game and seven different players drove in a run. Junior outfielder Tyler Gentry got the scoring started in the first inning with a standup double down the left field line to make it 1-0. The All-SEC Preseason honoree earned the second Alabama run by beating a passed ball to first in the second inning.
Sophomore infielder Drew Williamson was the only other Crimson Tide player besides Diodati with multiple hits posting a 2-for-4 night and a run scored. Redshirt sophomore catcher Sam Praytor started the game after concern over a jammed right thumb throughout the week would keep him sidelined. Praytor earned his first hit since Feb. 18 of last year in the sixth inning. He stranded a game-high six runners on base, both in bases-loaded situations.
“We still have a lot we need to work on,” Bohannon said. “It’s only one game, we still have at least 55 more but we have a lot of good players.”
Tyler Ras relieved Prielipp in the fifth inning and pitched three scoreless innings with two strikeouts and gave up one hit and two walks. Freshman Landon Green and sophomore Dylan Smith each threw one inning to close the game giving up a combined two hits and striking out two batters.
In the seventh inning, the Crimson Tide poured it on, adding four more runs in the frame. Lawson State Community College transfer and junior outfielder Jackson Tate earned his first Alabama hit and RBI with a single. Freshman catcher Peyton Wilson hit a sacrifice fly to left field to earn his first career RBI. Senior utility man Brett Auerbach, who spent the entire game in center field, added an RBI and Denton’s RBI occurred in the seventh inning as well.
Alabama will host Northeastern tomorrow at 12 p.m. for its second game of a three-game series.
“I told them. ‘Just because we won big today, doesn’t mean we will tomorrow,’” Bohannon said. “Overall I’m excited about this group, pleased with the day – we’ll keep rolling ahead.”