Oct. 13, 2009
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama baseball team begins its third week of fall practice today and first-year head coach Mitch Gaspard is pleased with the effort his team has given during the past two weeks and hopes for continued improvement in all phases of the game over the next four weeks of camp.
"I think with our weights and conditioning and the first two weeks of practice, we are pleased with where we are right now," Gaspard said. "I think we've had great energy and enthusiasm throughout and that part of it has been really good. I think our focus right now is to start to zero in on our pitching staff. We want to see improvement from outing to outing as they go.
"I think just our offensive philosophy of everyday continuing to get better, putting pressure on the defense and handling the bat and working on our short game and base running and all those things, the repetition helps as much as anything," Gaspard said. "I think the guys are starting to understand that the philosophy and what we want to do has changed a little bit and they've welcomed it with open arms and done a good job over a short period of two weeks. It's just a constant work in progress of guys just getting better and better daily with their bat-handling skills."
Alabama has five starters back off last year's team, which gives Gaspard a good nucleus to build around this season. The Crimson Tide returns senior first baseman Clay Jones (.331, 7 HR, 39 RBI), junior second baseman Ross Wilson (.353, 9 HR, 47 RBI), junior shortstop Josh Rutledge (.305, 5 HR, 44 RBI), senior third baseman Jake Smith (.359, 18 HR, 54 RBI) and sophomore centerfielder Taylor Dugas (.352, 2 HR, 27 RBI).
"Those are All-SEC type players and veteran players with a lot of experience," Gaspard said of his five returning starters. "There is no question those are the guys we are going to lean on throughout the course of the year. I think what we do in the bottom of the lineup and which guys can establish themselves will really make the difference for us of just how good we can be offensively.
"I think our top five guys can be as good as certainly anybody in this conference. They are athletic guys that can do a lot of things and certainly put a lot of pressure on the defense. From there, some guys are doing well and making strides. It's just a matter of taking this next month and guys taking advantage of that and getting better each day."
On the pitching front, Gaspard and new pitching coach Kyle Bunn will look to blend six veterans with six true freshmen to develop a deep pitching staff.
Right-handers Jimmy Nelson (22 G, 2-3, 4.54 ERA, 2 SV), Nathan Kilcrease (24 G, 4-4, 4.11 ERA, 2 SV), Tyler White (17 G, 1-0, 2.28 ERA, 2 SV) and Adam Scott (16 G, 3-1, 5.28 ERA), along with left-handers Adam Morgan (13 G, 4-2, 3.97 ERA) and David Head (12 G, 1-3, 9.63 ERA) will be joined by six talented freshmen on the mound this season.
"We really wanted to take the first couple of weeks and just let them throw and then we start making decisions from there with what we want to do with some guys," Gaspard said. "I think we are right on pace of where we thought we would be or where we hoped we would be after two weeks. The next two weeks are really big from the pitching side, just wanting to see improvement as far as location and the mindset and mentality out there."
Alabama will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 2:30 p.m. and will hold its next set of intrasquad games this weekend. All practices and scrimmages are open to public.