Offense struggles as Alabama baseball loses series to Kentucky

Tzali Nislick, Staff Reporter

Alabama baseball has faced a big, fat reality check.  

After beginning the year torching nearly every pitcher it faced, the Crimson Tide (19-6) has crashed back down to earth offensively throughout two weeks of league play. Its slump continued this weekend while dropping two of three games against the University of Kentucky (21-3) at home. 

Naturally, it is more difficult to hit against SEC pitching, but it’s been a stark contrast for Alabama’s lineup compared to the first month of the season. It’s a small sample size, but here is a non-conference vs. conference statistical comparison for many of the Crimson Tide’s key contributors earlier in the year. 

Player  AVG vs. non-SEC teams  AVG vs. SEC teams  OPS vs. non-SEC teams  OPS vs. SEC teams 
Drew Williamson  .439  .240  1.419  .669 
Tommy Seidl  .432  .111  1.220  .389 
Will Hodo  .400  .240  1.189  .561 
Ed Johnson  .358  .200  1.047  .607 
Mac Guscette  .353  .067  1.515  .192 


Third baseman Colby Shelton (.943 OPS) and shortstop Jim Jarvis (.318 AVG) are really the only two players who have remained productive in league play so far. Alabama will need more juice, particularly from Williamson, if it hopes to contend in a daunting SEC.  

“I think it’s SEC play. You’re going to see more stuff like this. You’re going to see big arms every Friday night,” assistant coach Jason Jackson said Friday. “It’s going to come down to some little things like defending a bunt, controlling the running game and getting all your runners in when you got a runner on third with less than two outs. Those are the things that it’s going to come down to. I don’t think it’s anything that our hitters are doing differently.”  

Those were some of the issues that plagued Alabama later on in the series opener. The Crimson Tide grounded into an inning-ending double play in the sixth inning with runners on the corners and squandered two chances to walk it off with the bases loaded in the ninth. However, Alabama only had one baserunner through the first four frames and hit just .150 in the extra innings loss.  

Despite out-hitting the Wildcats in game two, Alabama left 12 runners on base and couldn’t overcome a poor start from sophomore Luke Holman, as well as a combined nine walks and hit batters by the pitching staff overall. 

“This was a really poor effort by our club,” Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon said Saturday. “You can’t play a good team and give them that much. They’re going to take advantage of it, and, to their credit, that’s exactly what they did.” 

The Crimson Tide needed a strong outing from junior Grayson Hitt in the series finale, and the southpaw put on his superhero cape to deliver just that. He posted six sound innings, allowing just one earned run with five punchouts. 

“Obviously we didn’t have the hottest stretch recently. I just needed to get ahead and do my thing. I knew that we were pressing and that we needed a big start,” Hitt said Sunday.  

After struggling in conference play last season, Hitt has put together two stellar outings against Florida and Kentucky respectively, combining for a 2.31 ERA.  

“Last year was tough on me. I kind of made it through the whole SEC with two pitches, but this year I feel like I got a couple more weapons that I can use,” Hitt said. “That allows me to be more confident in my own abilities and allows me to get ahead in the count and put guys away.” 

Unlike Friday, Alabama was able to complete the comeback thanks to an Andrew Pinckney RBI single in the eighth inning. The redshirt junior had struggled coming into the series, hitting just .139 in his previous 11 contests, but he compiled five hits and four RBIs over the weekend while playing hero to avoid the sweep.  

“I feel like in my bad at-bats it’s just been letting the good pitches go and swinging at the bad pitches. Just trying to take the mind out of it and just be as aggressive as I can,” Pinckney said.  

With Pinckney seeming to turn the corner at the plate, Alabama will need the rest of the order to follow suit. After picking up just two extra base hits in the series, the Crimson Tide has an opportunity to get back on track against Middle Tennessee State University on Tuesday, March 28, in Huntsville, Alabama, where first pitch is set for 6 p.m. 

Questions or comments? Email Blake Byler (Sports Editor) at [email protected]