Many Newcomers Help Tide Baseball

Long ago, a familiar cry at baseball games was, "Programs! Get your programs! You can't tell the players without a program!" That may be the case again for Alabama baseball fans.

There won't be an opportunity for Alabama baseball fans to buy a home program until next week, but the point is that new Crimson Tide Coach Mitch Gaspard has been playing a lot of men. Through the 6-0 start to the Bama baseball season, the Tide has used 29 different players–18 position players and 13 pitchers. Yes, that adds up to 31. The list includes Jake Smith and Brett Whitaker, who are two-way players.

Alabama is beginning a road trip against the College of Charleston at Patriots' Point in Charleston, S.C. Bama, ranked 28th in the nation, is taking on the Cougars of the Southern Conference. College of Charleston is 8-1 with a four-game winning streak.

The series begins at 6 p.m. EST (5 p.m. central time) Friday, followed by games at 1 p.m. EST (Noon central) on Saturday and Sunday.

Alabama plans to start left-hander Adam Morgan (1-0, 3.27 ERA) Friday, right-hander Jimmy Nelson (1-0, 1.80) Saturday, and left-hander Jonathan Smart (0-0, 4.50) Sunday.

Alabama and the College of Charleston are meeting for the first time this weekend. The Cougars become the Crimson Tide's 235th different baseball opponent and the 195th different intercollegiate team.

Alabama is coming off an impressive 13-2 win over 25th-ranked Georgia at the Hoover Met on Wednesday. Following the trip to Charleston, Bama stays on the road to meet Auburn in a non-conference game at 7 p.m. CST Tuesday at Montgomery's Riverwalk Stadium.

Alabama's use of many players includes 14 first time players–six true freshmen, two redshirt freshmen, and seven transfers.

The true freshmen are outfielder Brett Booth, outfielder Andrew Miller, pitcher Trey Pilkington, outfielder Matt Taylor, pitcher Adam Windsor and pitcher Taylor Wolfe. The redshirt freshmen are outfielders Brandt Hendricks and Kent Myer. The transfers are outfielder David Kindred, pitcher Jonathan Smart, catcher Chris Smelley, outfielder John David Smelser, pitcher Jason Townsend and pitcher/DH Brett Whitaker.

It's fitting that new Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard doesn't hesitate to use new players.

Gaspard said, "Something we have talked about all year is bench play. They've been super up to this point. The whole theme for our team is to stay ready, prepare play every day and when you're not starting, have the attitude, ‘I'm still playing the game when I'm standing on the bench and they have done a good job.' Obviously the numbers stack up and show you that, but more importantly the execution that they have shown, whether we get hits or not, but we put down key sacrifice bunts, hit and runs, the whole gamut. I think that plays in with our bullpen as well. I think guys are staying ready and they are ready for that opportunity when they come in.

"I like to play everyone who is capable of coming in and contributing. I want the guys when they get to the ballpark every day to feel like they have a chance to contribute to a win that game tonight, as long as they come in and execute and play, they know those opportunities will keep coming for them."

Several of the newcomers made an immediate impact for the Tide.

Booth is hitting .412 (7-for-17) with one home run and eight RBI in six games. He is second on the team with eight RBI and has scored five runs. He had an RBI single in his first collegiate at-bat against South Alabama on Feb. 20 and recorded his first career home run, a third-inning grand slam against Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 27.

Miller is hitting .364 (4-for-11) with three runs scored and two RBI. He was instrumental in the Tide's 12-4 opening day win over South Alabama on Feb. 20. Miller's two-run single in the fourth inning snapped a 3-3 tie and put the Tide ahead en route to the win.

Pilkington threw one scoreless inning in his Alabama debut against UIC on Feb. 27, with two strikeouts.

Smelser is hitting .500 (5-for-10) in five games with three runs scored and two RBI. He had three hits and one RBI in the Tide's 25-1 win over UIC in game one of its doubleheader on Feb. 27. In game two, he drove in the winning run with a safety squeeze in the bottom of the ninth as the Tide won 4-3.

Wolfe (1-0, 3.60 ERA) has made two appearances this season for the Tide. He recorded seven strikeouts in his first career start against Georgia. He tossed one perfect inning of relief in his UA debut against UIC on Feb. 27.

Whitaker has enjoyed a dual role on the Tide team this season. At the plate, Whitaker is hitting .400 (2-for-5) with two runs scored and two RBI. He recorded his first career hit against UIC on Feb. 27. He has also made two relief appearances for the Tide, working two scoreless innings with two strikeouts. He was the winning pitcher in Alabama's 4-3 win over UIC in game two of its Feb. 27 doubleheader.

Alabama has used every player on its roster with the exception of six players. The list includes freshman infielder Danny Collins, redshirt freshman pitcher Kelby Deerman, freshman pitcher Tucker Hawley, junior Josh Sanders, redshirt freshman pitcher Troy Sutherland and redshirt sophomore pitcher James Tullidge. Sanders is a transfer from Jacksonville State and is not eligible this season under the NCAA transfer rules.

While there is much interest in the newcomers, it is a second-year player who has been terrific for Bama.

Senior first baseman Clay Jones went 3-for-5 with a home run and career-high six RBI in the win over Georgia. He has homered in three straight games and has 12 RBI in those three contests.

With a 6-0 record Alabama is off to its best start since the 2002 season, when the Crimson Tide opened the year with a 9-0 record. Alabama has achieved its perfect record with series sweeps over South Alabama and Illinois-Chicago and a win over No. 25 Georgia.

Alabama leads the SEC with a .387 batting average and .533 slugging percentage through six games. Individually, Clay Jones leads the league in home runs (4) and ranks second in RBI (14), second in slugging (.958) and fourth in hitting (.458). Taylor Dugas is 10th in hitting (.429). The pitching staff is fifth with a 2.94 ERA. UA also has allowed the fewest runs (17), hits (39) and walks (10) in the SEC. The Tide's strikeout-to-walk ratio (7:1) is also the best in the league. Adam Morgan is second in strikeouts (15), while Jimmy Nelson is seventh in opponent's batting average (.147). Alabama leads the SEC with .986 fielding percentage.

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