Alabama baseball pitching staff contributed in a substantial way during the second-half success of the 2023 season


CW / Natalie Teat

Alabama baseball pitcher Ben Hess (#27) pitching against the University of Kentucky on March 24 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Michael DeVito, Contributing Writer

To begin the 2023 season, Alabama got themselves off to a hot start in non-conference play. However, the Crimson Tide had lost four consecutive SEC series since getting underway with SEC play. With the pitching staff not playing their best baseball, games were slipping away from the Crimson Tide.  

In all four of those series, the Crimson Tide had leads or was in a close game in the later stages of the contest, with the bullpen not able to come through. With a starting rotation battling injuries and the bullpen unable to get big outs, it took the Crimson Tide until the middle of April to win its first series, defeating the Auburn Tigers. The Crimson Tide pitching staff came together and turned its season around.  

Midway through the season, the Crimson Tide experienced a starting pitching rotation led by Jacob McNairy (7-3, 4.35 ERA) and Luke Holman (7-4, 3.67 ERA). 

Despite losing to Florida in the SEC tournament, then-interim head coach Jason Jackson had positive things to say about Holman. 

“He’s gotten a lot stronger,” Jackson said. “I think that’s really helped him. The thing this year is that he’s seen that he’s really good. He needed to go out there and see himself succeed.”  

In April, the Crimson Tide’s starting rotation received a much-needed reinforcement. Garrett McMillan (4-2, 4.89 ERA), after missing the first two months battling a muscle strain, made his return to the pitching staff in the series versus Arkansas, bringing a veteran arm back onto the table and getting the Crimson Tide rotation back on track.  

With a stable starting pitching rotation in front of it, the bullpen stepped up its game, emerging as one of the most shut-down bullpens in the SEC. After the Auburn series, the Crimson Tide pitchers contributed to the historic run the 2023 team embarked upon in a key way.  

Out of the bullpen, freshman Alton Davis II, (1-2, 5.35 ERA, 25 APP) emerged on the scene as the Crimson Tide’s closer late in the season and became an essential part of the bullpen. After a rocky start to his Alabama career in the Columbia series in early March, he settled down and had the velocity and pitch arsenal to get back on the mound in a big way. Davis came into key moments in the back half of the Alabama bullpen getting big outs, making the most appearances for the Crimson Tide in relief on the season. 

“I will always be ready; you never know when your name’s going to be called,” Davis said after his big performance in the Auburn series.  

In the later stages of the season, thriving under Jackson’s promotion to head coach, Aidan Moza (3-1, 3.09 ERA, 14 APP), a former UAB Blazer, got big outs and innings out of the bullpen.  

Moza played a big part in the SEC tournament versus Florida, allowing one earned run out of the bullpen in 4.1 innings and keeping the Crimson Tide in the game. He followed that up with his next appearance in the Tuscaloosa regional, throwing three innings out of the bullpen to help secure the Crimson Tide’s first super regional appearance in 13 years.  

Junior southpaw Hunter Furtado, (1-1, 4.75 ERA, 17 APP, 2 GS) played an important role consistently throughout Alabama’s season, making the two-spot starts, and tied for third in the Crimson Tide bullpen in appearances along with Kade Woods and Braylon Myers. Both former head coach Brad Bohannon and Jackson called Furtado’s name expecting big outs. To begin the Crimson Tide’s SEC tournament versus Kentucky in a winner-take-all game, Furtado toed the slab, throwing five shutout innings and limiting Wildcat offense to two hits in his night.  

“We got a huge start from Furtado,” Jackson said after the Kentucky game.  

Overall, the Alabama pitching staff in the 2023 season combined for a 4.26 ERA, finishing with the third-lowest ERA among all SEC teams. South Carolina finished second with a 4.19 ERA, and Tennessee’s 3.63 ERA topped the SEC. To bolster its ERA, the Crimson Tide staff held opposing hitters to a .233 batting average, fourth highest in the SEC. However, the Alabama pitching staff led the SEC in doubles allowed, with 70, and the most triples allowed, giving up two. Supporting that, they finished fifth in runs allowed, surrendering 293 and striking out 593 batters.  

Alabama’s second-half success, deep run in the SEC tournament, Tuscaloosa regional victory, and super-regional appearance would not have been possible without the pitching staff playing a crucial role. The pitching staff turned things around after the momentum-shifting Auburn victory, putting together quality starts and big outs. Bohannon and Jackson knew they could turn to their bullpen in big moments and be confident in the result. With most key players of the Crimson Tide bullpen returning in 2024, the Crimson Tide can take the next step, knowing that it has a pitching staff that is up for the task behind them.