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

Who left Alabama baseball after 2023, and the players Rob Vaughn’s staff reeled in

Courtesy of UA Athletics
Alabama baseball head coach Rob Vaughn looks on during practice.

After a thrilling 2023 campaign that saw Alabama baseball hit several long-missed benchmarks — 40 wins for the first time since 2010, a winning conference record for the first time since 2014, a regional hosting for the first time since 2006 — the Crimson Tide finds itself hungering for further success. 

Sustaining last year’s highs is a realistic ambition. After pitching coach Jason Jackson valiantly stepped in to close the season in the wake of the former head coach Brad Bohanon controversy, the Crimson Tide finally found stability in proven winner Rob Vaughn. In addition, they had a solid outing in the transfer portal, weathering some roster overturn with the arrival of promising new faces. 

These new faces are headlined by a couple of reliable studs on the mound and Big Ten immigrants on the field.  

Most prominent in the former group is right-handed pitcher Coulson Buchanan, who will be immediately relied upon to assuage an offseason turnover in which the staff “lost names left and right to the transfer portal,” as FanNation put it. Buchanan comes to Tuscaloosa from Wofford College, where in 2023 he was named to the All-Southern Conference second team. His 91 strikeouts were top five in the entire conference, and his 3.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio was good for third. 

Also notable is Pierce George, another RHP who played sparingly in his freshman season for his hometown Texas Longhorns but packages a load of potential. Out of high school, he was ranked ninth for his position group and 35th overall for the state. 

In the outfield, two reputable former members of the Big Ten have jumped ship: Evan Sleight from Rutgers and Ian Petrutz from Maryland. The former was a member of the 2023 All-Big Ten third team, batting .315 and amassing a 1.007 on-base-plus-slugging metric across 257 at-bats. The latter batted just short of .300 across two seasons with the Terrapins and launched 14 home runs last season; he will be a valuable piece for continuity in the locker room, having already spent two seasons alongside the program’s new head coach. 

Among the other names Vaughn and the new staff brought are TJ McCants, an infield-outfield dualist, and Will Plattner, a catcher. Both come from Ole Miss. 

As far as transfer balance, the players leaving notably outnumber those incoming. Fortunately, however, the mass of departures includes several who either didn’t play in 2023 or were not significant contributors. 

Unfortunately, there are a few losses that sting. Perhaps most painful is 2023 Freshman All-American Colby Shelton, who was nothing short of revolutionary in his first season playing college baseball. His most notable statistical claim to fame is his home run total of 25, which shattered the program’s previous freshman record, tied the SEC’s all-time freshman record and placed him top 10 in the country. To go further, he batted .300 across 203 trips to the plate, brought in 51 RBIs, scored 49 runs and owned a slugging percentage of .729, good for sixth in the conference. 

The void he leaves behind is palpable. Over the summer he officially announced his move to Gainesville, Florida, where he will join a Gators squad that came just a game short of winning the national championship. 

As much as it hurts to see Shelton go, there’s little doubt he will thrive. “There’s a good chance Colby Shelton will be a household name after this season,” said Chase Chappell, freshman pitcher at Santa Fe College, who played with Shelton at Bloomingdale High School and Ostingers Baseball Academy. This sentiment implies his name hasn’t reached such status already. 

No less painful to see off is ace pitcher Luke Holman, who elected to spend 2024 at LSU. The numbers for Holman were astounding last year. He was top 10 in the SEC in strikeouts with 87, third in hits per nine innings with six, second in walks and hits per inning pitched at 1.05, and second in conference opponent batting average at .186. Those hits per inning and WHIP stats ranked 10th and 16th on the national stage, respectively. 

Beyond these two, the list of departing players includes RHP Kade Woods to LSU, RHP Brock Blatter to USC, left-handed pitcher Evan Chaffee to St. Johns, RHP Gavin Jones to Kent State, LHP Antoine Jean to Houston, outfielder Max Williams to Florida State, and catcher Jaxson West, also to Florida State. 

Regardless of who ends up donning the Alabama crimson and white, the expectations will remain lofty. The capacity for legitimate success has been demonstrated, and Vaughn has established that he won’t settle for anything less than full-throttled, dedicated effort. Gratifying for Crimson Tide fans is that his track record proves this effort leads to results. 

Everyone is part of a single Alabama baseball unit. “At the end of the day, we’re all baseball players,” said RHP Ben Hess when discussing the team’s current culture. “[We] all want the same thing. I think it’s really good having this new group here.” 

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