Alabama baseball makes long-awaited return against Xavier

Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon talks to his team during a scrimmage on Jan. 28, 2022.

Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon talks to his team during a scrimmage on Jan. 28, 2022.

Austin Hannon, Staff Reporter

The crack of the bat. The smack of a ball hitting a glove. The smells of hot dogs and beer. 

It all returns to Sewell-Thomas Stadium this weekend as the Alabama Crimson Tide baseball makes its return to the diamond against the Xavier Musketeers.

There are high expectations for this year’s Alabama squad. Last season, the Crimson Tide sneaked into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014. 

Alabama finished the season 32-26 and 12-17 in the daunting SEC schedule. The Crimson Tide made it to Hoover for the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2016 and advanced all the way to the quarterfinals.

Alabama lost five players to the MLB Draft, including four in the first six rounds, which is a program record. Second baseman Peyton Wilson; catcher Sam Praytor; and pitchers Dylan Smith, Chase Lee and Tyler Ras will not be available this season.

But plenty of talent is returning to the Crimson Tide, including six positional starters and nine pitchers. Alabama also has lots of playmakers coming from the transfer route.

Heading the lineup will be junior third baseman Zane Denton, who has improved every year since seeing time as a freshman in 2020. Denton batted .308 last season with 10 home runs and 40 runs batted in. 

Power-hitting designated hitter Owen Diodati knocked 11 balls out of the park last season. The Crimson Tide’s lineup will only improve with more guys gaining experience.

As for pitching, Alabama will most likely be without future first-round selection Connor Prielipp, who has been out with medical issues since the beginning of the 2021 campaign. Prielipp began turning heads with his performance in 2020, but only saw a handful of innings on the mound last season. 

Others will have to step up in his absence, including this weekend’s starters: juniors Garrett McMillan and Antoine Jean and sophomore Grayson Hitt.

The Xavier Musketeers were selected to finish third in the Big East this season and had four players named to the preseason All-Big East team.

The two schools have played just one game in history, with the Crimson Tide defeating the Musketeers 24-8 in a midweek matchup in 1982.

Alabama needs to get its season off to a good start since the Crimson Tide will head to Austin to take on the No. 1 Texas Longhorns next weekend.

Alabama and Xavier will play Friday at 3 p.m. CT, Saturday at 2 p.m. CT and Sunday at 1 p.m. CT. All games will be broadcast on SEC Network+.