Alabama Baseball Begins 2012 Practice

The University of Alabama baseball team took the field for its first practice of the 2012 season on Friday afternoon, the first day allowed for official practice by NCAA rules.

"Today is an exciting day, for me as the head coach and I know for our players as well," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "We had a really good fall where we were able to scrimmage and evaluate our players and really get to see them mesh together. That was an exciting time for us leading into the spring."

The Crimson Tide put together a full practice at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Friday afternoon. Alabama will have 21 practice days to prepare for the season opener against Florida Atlantic on Friday, Feb. 17, at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Florida Atlantic enters this season after posting a 32-23 overall record and a 17-13 Sun Belt Conference mark to finish tied for fourth in the standings.

The Tide returns 21 players, including six position starters and two starting pitchers, from the 2011 team that advanced posted a 35-28 overall record and advanced to the championship game of the NCAA Tallahassee Regional. Highlighting the list of returners are two-time All-American and ABCA Gold Glove outfielder Taylor Dugas, senior shortstop Jared Reaves, sophomore first baseman Austen Smith and junior catcher Brett Booth.

"On the position side, it is much different than a year ago," Gaspard said. "We really went from being a scrappy offensive team to a group that has a chance to be much more physical. We will be able to drive the ball, particularly in the middle of our lineup. It is great to have Taylor Dugas back, who is probably the best leadoff hitter in the country. The group as a whole has worked with a tremendous team mentality and we are excited about the direction we are headed."

Over the weekend, the Tide will have intrasquad scrimmages on both days, which are open to the public and free of charge. The team will take the field on Saturday at 10 a.m., with first pitch for the intrasquad scheduled for 11 a.m., at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Sunday's practice will start at 1 p.m., with first pitch for the intrasquad slated for 2 p.m.

"Obviously, our security blanket for the last four years, Nathan Kilcrease is not with us, but on the pitching side we are really excited," Gaspard added. "We will have some growing pains along the way, but they have the nucleus to really develop into a tremendous pitching staff. We are very excited about our bullpen and we have a tremendous closer, who may have as good of an arm that we have ever had at Alabama. The pitching will be an area of concern and have some challenges, but at the same time we are very excited about what we have to work with and the direction that we are heading."

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