Alabama Intends To Be Dirty Team
"I think we're really trying to get a team identity and what we want is a blue-collar, hard-nosed, down and dirty type team," new Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "We want a team that is going to be dirty at the end of the day, and I think that starts Monday. When these guys finish practice, they should be sweaty, tired and full of dirt at the end of the day, and that's going to be demanded of them from Monday through Nov. 11."
Alabama returns six starters and a good nucleus of pitchers off last year's team that posted a record of 37-21 and finished two games behind SEC champions LSU and Mississippi in the overall league race.
The returning starters include senior first baseman Clay Jones, junior second baseman Ross Wilson, junior shortstop Josh Rutledge, senior third baseman Jake Smith, sophomore centerfielder Taylor Dugas and senior catcher Cody Trotter.
Smith, Wilson, Dugas and Rutledge were named to the All-SEC squad last season. Smith led the club in hitting (.359), ranked second in home runs (18) and third in RBI (54). Wilson was the Tide's third-leading hitter last season with a .353 clip, nine home runs and 47 RBI. Dugas hit .353 with two home runs and 27 RBI. Rutledge hit .305 and was second on the team with 64 runs scored. Jones hit .331 with seven home runs and 39 RBI as a part-time starter. Trotter hit .342 with three home runs and 11 RBI before his season was cut short with an injury.
"As I have said before, I think our infield can be as good as anybody in the country," Gaspard added. "We've got a freshman All-American out in centerfield. We like the players around him that are going to have opportunities to play out there. We do have a core. That's why we feel good about this team and where they are at now.
"It's just a matter of those guys continuing to get others around them better and really building a pitching staff as far as trying to create roles for those guys and where we feel they will fit in. We want to have a pitching staff where we have 10 or 11 guys that are comfortable and can have roles on this team as the season goes on."
The pitching staff will mix six veteran arms along with seven freshmen to give the Tide a good nucleus of arms as fall practice begins.
The returnees include seniors Jake Smith (RHP, 6 G, 0-1, 2 SV, 2.13 ERA) and Adam Scott (RHP, 16 G, 3-1, 5.28 ERA), juniors Nathan Kilcrease (RHP, 24 G, 4-4, 2 SV, 4.11 ERA) and Jimmy Nelson (RHP, 22 G, 2-3, 2 SV, 4.54 ERA) and sophomores Adam Morgan (LHP, 13 G, 9 GS, 4-2, 4.17 ERA) and Tyler White (RHP, 17 G, 1-0, 1 SV, 2.28 ERA).
The list of freshmen includes left-handers Kelby Deerman, Matt Taylor, Adam Windsor and Taylor Wolfe and right-handers Tucker Hawley, Trey Pilkington and Troy Sutherland.
"Well, I think right now, just from bullpens and where we are at right now with Coach Bunn being here two weeks, we've got an idea of the guys throwing well in the pen now," Gaspard said. "We have six freshmen that we feel all have good arms and can all pitch at this level and can pitch this year, so I think that's going to be part of our job. We've got to identify which guys are better in a starting role and which guys can pitch a little better out of the bullpen. We feel like Jake Smith is going to be a guy this year than can establish himself as a closer as he did for about a month of the season last year."
Alabama is scheduled to practice at 2 p.m. each day at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, with scrimmage dates set for Oct. 1-3 and Oct. 6-7. The team will resume practice on Oct. 12 and future scrimmage dates will be announced at a later date.
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