Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Ben Hess, the leader that the Alabama baseball pitching rotation will need in 2024 

Courtesy of UA Athletics
Alabama Baseball Player Ben Hess (27) pitches the ball during practice at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL on Friday, Jan 26, 2024.

After missing most of the 2023 season due to injury, junior right-handed pitcher Ben Hess returns to the Alabama baseball pitching rotation, possibly as the ace for head coach Rob Vaughn’s 2024 pitching rotation. The 6-foot-5 right-hander enters his junior season and is expected to be a highly sought-after draft prospect for the upcoming MLB draft.   

A reliable arm for the Crimson Tide since he walked through the doors of Sewell-Thomas Stadium his freshman year in 2022, Hess has worked his way up into the midweek rotation as a freshman. That year, he took the step to be one of the top arms Alabama had to offer its opponents and came up big for the Crimson Tide.  

“How about Ben Hess, sitting there for two hours, didn’t even know if he was going to pitch tonight and he comes out there, punches out seven of the first eight guys,” then-Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon said about Hess in the 2022 SEC tournament.  

Hess picked up his first win as a weekend starter in the Crimson Tide’s opening weekend victory in game two against the Richmond Spiders. In his first weekend start, Hess went 6.0 innings pitched, sticking out six and shutting out the Spiders. Seeing minimal action in the 2023 season, Hess sought a record of 4-0 in seven starts with an ERA of 3.22 in 13.1 innings pitched.  

Limiting opposing hitters to a batting average of .215, Hess found himself on the leaderboards of the SEC among pitchers, placing 13th. Hess had also placed 12th in the SEC in ERA until his injury in his appearance against the Arkansas Razorbacks, where he saw his last action of the season.   

Vaughn spoke highly of the upperclassman and ace ahead of this season. 

“If we played today, the guy on my right [Hess] will probably be starting game one today,” Vaughn said. 

Entering this season, it will be vital for the Crimson Tide to see Hess fully emerge into a Friday night starter and ace of the pitching rotation. With the experience gained in postseason play, along with his impressive start of 2023, Hess has the capabilities of putting the pitching rotation on his back and the experience to back it up.  

“As a pitcher, it is a lot different going in the bullpen versus live game reps. I’m excited to see what our pitchers do,” Hess said. “The whole fall we played against each other, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the team come together.” 

On the mound, Hess shows a fastball with an arm-side run of 13.5 inches and a whiff rate of 30% in the zone, along with an effective 29% chase rate in the mid to upper 90s, depending on the day; his fastball will play for him in the upcoming season. Supporting his fastball, Hess provides a deadly curveball with hammering-down movement, along with a change-up and slider that are all above-average off-speed pitches. With a four-pitch arsenal, Hess can find ways to get batters out.   

“He’s been great. He feels 100% awesome. He’s been throwing bullpens. … All of a sudden, he popped a 96. … He feels great,” Vaughn said on a podcast.  

The Crimson Tide opens the 2024 season against the Manhattan College Jaspers of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference; it is almost certain that the junior right-hander will get the nod for the first game of the season and lead an Alabama pitching staff looking to make the SEC tournament for the third straight season and the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons.   

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