Baseball hopes to find new and improved mindset in Las Vegas


CW / Kelsey Mullins

Carey Reeder | @realCareyReeder, Staff Reporter

As the black clouds turned grey on Wednesday morning, Sin City lay on the horizon for the Alabama baseball club, which plays a three-game series this weekend against UNLV. When the overcast skies turned black again following the Crimson Tide’s 10-3 win over Alabama State that evening, coach Brad Bohannon had some very candid comments about his team’s performance.

“We looked like a bunch of silly little boys who were thinking about going to Las Vegas instead of a team who has something to prove,” Bohannon said. “We didn’t bring the mentality we needed to the park today, I thought Alabama State outcompeted us.”

Bohannon saw some positive spots in the game, with the middle of the lineup sparking some offense and starting pitcher Will Freeman’s outing, but not the Crimson Tide’s focus. The third-year coach used the quote “What you tolerate is what you encourage” to highlight his displeasure.

“We’ve got a really young team and we’re trying to establish how we’re going to play,” Bohannon said. “If we were later in the season and playing well, you’d view it a little differently. It’s important you set the tone and we want our club to know we won’t encourage a lack of focus.”

Alabama (4-0) started seven underclassmen in the game. Five of those are true freshmen that hit Nos. 5-9 in the lineup. Junior outfielder Tyler Gentry and freshmen Owen Diodati and Zane Denton, the 4-5-6 hitters in the Crimson Tide lineup, accounted for five of the eight hits, five RBIs and three runs scored.

“I think the team needs to keep a common mentality to just grind out at bats throughout the whole game,” Denton said.

Brighter days await Alabama in Las Vegas with the temperature around 70 degrees and sunny for Friday’s doubleheader and Sunday’s game. Inclement forced the Saturday game to be moved to Friday.

It’s a tale of two staffs when you look at the pitching matchup between the two teams. UNLV is ranked 253rd in the country in ERA at 8.75, while Alabama’s 1.25 ERA ties for fourth. Alabama will keep the same starting rotation from its opening weekend sweep of Northeastern: freshman Connor Prielipp on Friday afternoon, followed by sophomore Connor Shamblin on Friday night and freshman Antoine Jean on Sunday. UNLV counters that with redshirt seniors Ryan Hare and Chase Maddux on Friday and freshman Josh Sharman will finish up on Sunday.

The UNLV (1-3) offense can produce runs, having scored eight or more in three of its four games against Central Michigan last weekend. Junior catcher Eric Bigani leads the Rebels in batting average (.389), hits (seven) and doubles (three).

Alabama hopes it finds a new mindset when it opens the series Friday night at 4:05 p.m. CT, followed the second game of the doubleheader afterward. First pitch is at 12:05 p.m. on Sunday.

“It can be good to have [a game like Wednesday] happen early in the year and hopefully everyone can learn from it,” Gentry said. “Knowing that if we want to get where we want to go at the end of the year we have to focus better and play harder than we did [Wednesday].”