Alabama starts strong, sweeps Richmond in opening weekend series

Tzali Nislick, Staff Reporter

Nobody could’ve drawn up a better start to the 2023 season for Alabama baseball, which swept the University of Richmond in college baseball’s opening weekend. It was a dominant showing up and down the roster for the Crimson Tide, pummeling the Spiders (0-3) by a combined score of 39-5 in the series. Here’s how it went down. 

Blazing bats out of the gate  

Virtually everyone who saw action offensively contributed in some way. Head coach Brad Bohannon brought players off the bench in every game, with 18 different players seeing a plate appearance and all reaching base safely over the series. The stars shined for Alabama (3-0), with Andrew Pinckney, Drew Williamson and Caden Rose each having productive weekends. 

That trio combined for a .615 batting average with three home runs and 12 RBIs. Bohannon emphasized the Crimson Tide’s need to improve offensively this season, so he said he is thrilled with his team’s start to the campaign. This was the first time in his tenure that Alabama scored double-digit runs in three consecutive games.  

“We had a lot of hard contact. I’m just really pleased, it was a really good first weekend,” Bohannon said. “I think it says a lot. Every night I look at all the scores around the league … and I don’t think there were a lot of three games with this set of scores.”  

It was the last opening weekend for Williamson, a graduate student. He made it count, going deep on Sunday to get the offense started in the second inning. 

“Every day when you get up, it’s like, ‘I’ve got to take advantage.’ You really don’t take anything for granted,” Williamson said. “It’s the last go around so I want to make the most of it.”  

Lights-out pitching 

A big question mark coming into the season was how the Crimson Tide’s pitching staff would fare in the wake of Garrett McMillan’s injury. The answer — at least so far — is quite well. Grayson Hitt was untouchable on Friday, lasting five innings and allowing just one unearned run on one hit and three walks with eight strikeouts. He justified the preseason hype in his first outing of the year.  

“We got a lot of confidence in Grayson [Hitt] and you have to have a couple real bullets on the mound in the SEC,” Bohannon said.  

Ben Hess and Jacob McNairy took the ball on Saturday and Sunday respectively, and they continued to silence Richmond’s lineup, featuring Hess’ six shutout innings. All in all, the Alabama starters combined for a 0.60 ERA and 0.87 WHIP with 17 strikeouts across 15 innings, while earning all three wins.  

“We have a lot of confidence in those guys,” Bohannon said. “What you saw out of all three of them, you saw three guys who had really good tempo, pounded the strike zone with multiple pitches and that’s a pretty basic formula for being successful.”  

The bullpen was solid as well, turning in a combined 2.70 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Freshmen Brock Blatter, Alton Davis II, Kade Woods and Riley Quick all made their debuts in relief.  

A pair of firsts 

Speaking of debuts, freshman Colby Shelton and Florida transfer Mac Guscette both donned Alabama uniforms for the first time as well. Shelton tallied his first career hit on Sunday and reached base four other times in the series, while Guscette went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs on Friday.  

“Mac’s a great catcher. I love being around him, love him as a teammate,” fellow backstop Dominic Tamez said. “Him and I, I truly believe, are probably the two best catchers in the country.”  

On deck 

The Crimson Tide looks to remain undefeated on Tuesday, Feb. 21, against Tennessee Tech University at 3 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.