Alabama Baseball Opens Practice

Mitch Gaspard

The University of Alabama baseball team took the field for its first practice of the 2013 season Friday afternoon, the first day allowed for official practice by NCAA rules. The Crimson Tide put together a full practice at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Friday afternoon.



"Opening day of practice is always an exciting day for the players and coaches," said fourth-year Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard. "For us, we've had a good fall and have been working hard the last couple weeks and we'll start intrasquads tomorrow. We're excited as we move forward, but we know we still have a lot of work to do before the season opener."

Over the weekend, the Tide will have intrasquad scrimmages on Saturday and Sunday, which are open to the public and free of charge. The team will take the field on Saturday at 10 a.m. CST, with first pitch for the intrasquad scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Sunday's practice will start at 1 p.m., with first pitch for the intrasquad slated for 2 p.m.

Alabama will have 21 practice days to prepare for the season opener against VMI on Friday, Feb. 15, at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

The Tide returns 17 players, including four position starters and five starting pitchers, from the 2012 team. Highlighting the list of returners is 2012 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American outfielder Ben Moore. Moore hit .342 as a freshman in 2012 and was also named to the SEC All-Freshman Team after finishing 10th in the conference in batting average. Alabama also returns position starters Brett Booth, Austen Smith and Kenny Roberts.

"What we've seen so far is a lot of competition, beginning in the fall and now into the spring," Gaspard said. "We have a group of pitchers that are taking the next steps forward from last year, while the additions of Tucker Hawley and Taylor Wolfe back to the staff and some of the young guys will add innings to that group."

Alabama returns nine pitchers from last year's squad and also welcome back junior pitchers Tucker Hawley and Taylor Wolfe, whom missed the 2012 campaign following Tommy John surgery. The Tide returns 84 percent of its innings pitched from a year ago, which includes five players that started at least eight games in 2012. Highlighting the returners on the pitching staff are senior Charley Sullivan and sophomores Jon Keller, Spencer Turnbull, Taylor Guilbeau, Justin Kamplain and Jake Hubbard.

In addition to the returning players, Alabama officially welcomed the No. 4 recruiting class by Baseball America to the field. The incoming class includes two redshirt freshmen, two junior college transfers and 16 freshmen. The class is highlighted by 2012 MLB draftees; catcher Wade Wass, a junior college transfer, and freshman pitcher Ray Castillo and freshman infielder Mikey White.

"There are a talented group of freshmen on the team and the addition of a really good junior college catcher in Wade Wass," Gaspard added. "There are eight or nine freshmen that can make an impact at some point. It's a physical group that is mentally in a good place. We're not going to have to force feed them like we did last year, they should have time to develop in a more positive manner."

To purchase season tickets for the 31-game 2013 home schedule, call the ticket office at 1.800.TIDETIX or log on to RollTide.com.

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