The good news in Alabama’s baseball schedule this year is that the Southeastern Conference is so big that teams can’t play every other team, and this year Bama does not face two of the nation’s best teams from the SEC East, Florida and Vanderbilt. The bad news is that the Crimson Tide begins SEC play this weekend on the road against the seventh-ranked LSU Tigers.
The three-game series begins at 7 p.m. CDT Friday and will air on the SEC Network. Saturday’s game at 6:30 and Sunday’s at 1 p.m. will beon SECN+.
Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard pointed out that Alabama had played a competitive non-conference schedule in its first 16 games, “and we hope we can learn from that, because now we’re going to play 30 very challenging SEC games.”
Although LSU lost seven position players from last year’s team – all drafted by Major League Baseball – the Tigers still are formidable with excellent pitching and young, talented players providing defense and hitting.
Alabama has lost three of its last four games, including a midweek setback at Southern Miss Tuesday, and the Tide has fallen to 11-5. LSU is 13-3.
Alabama will open Friday with junior right-handed pitcher Geoffrey Bramblett going against LSU sophomore righty Alex Lange. Sophomore right-hander Jake Walters will get the start for the Tide on Saturday against the Tigers junior left-hander Jared Poché. The Sunday finale will match Bama junior right-hander Nick Eicholtz against LSU senior left-hander John Valek III.
Gaspard said that Alabama pitchers “will have to throw strikes,” but his primary concern is the Bama offense. “We’re a work in progress,” he said. “I thought we came out of the gate pretty strong, but the last four or five games we have not been at our best. We have not been consistent.
“We knew with very young guys there was going to be a learning curve. I think we’ve shown flashes that we are capable of being a good team. We have to take our practice and our batting practice to the games.”
Gaspard is particularly disappointed in the number of strikeouts of his batters, including 30 in a three-game series against Houston last weekend.
But, he said, “I think we’re going to see improvement, and I think we’re going to see it quickly.”
Although Alabama has a 199-161-3 advantage in the series, the Tigers have the advantage in Baton Rouge by 83-79-3. LSU has won eight of the last 10 at the Tigers’ Alex Box Stadium. Bama has not won a series at LSU since 1996.