Alabama energized to face Arkansas and Baum-Walker crowd this weekend

By Dudley E. Dawson
on 2023-03-29 19:15 PM


Alabama head baseball coach Brad Bohannon knows exactly what kind of challenge his team is getting into this weekend at Arkansas and is looking forward to it.

The No. 6 Razorbacks (21-4, 4-2) and unranked Crimson Tide (20-6, 2-4) will open a three-game series Friday night at 6:30 p.m. at Baum-Walker Stadium.

“Arkansas is one of the best teams in the country,” Bohannon said. “It starts with playing at Baum Stadium where they have great fans. There is going to be 10,000 to 12,000 people there and it’s a tough environment.

“They are really good on the mound, have a great defense and it’s a great line up. They are a complete team and we will have to play our best to beat them.”

Alabama senior first baseman Drew Williamson is hitting a team-leading .360 with 8 home runs and a Bama-best 28 RBI while second in home runs to Colby Shelton (.329, 11 homers, 24 RBIs).

Williamson agrees with his coach’s assessment of the Razorbacks, who have won 15 straight home game and homered in their last 21 games overall.

“They have a star-studded line up, they are well-coached,” Williamson said. “They always are. They have a great fan base. But I love playing at Arkansas. It is a really cool environment so we are excited to go play them.”

Arkansas is scheduled to start Hunter Hollan (4-0, 1.97) on Friday night with starter-turned-closer Hagen Smith (4-0, 1.95) ready if needed.

That duo combined to beat LSU 9-3 last Friday in a game started by Tigers’ ace Paul Skenes and one where the offense had an 8-run explosion in the 10th innning.

Alabama’s Friday night pitcher is sophomore Ben Hess (3-0, 3.34 ERA), who has fanned 44 and walked just 6 in 32 1/3 innings this season.

The sophomore got a no-decision last Friday against Kentucky while allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits and a walk with a career-high tying 10 strikeouts across in his 6 1/3 innings of work.

Hess pitched 1 2/3 innings against Arkansas last year, allowing two hits and two runs in an 8-6 Crimson Tide victory.

The Crimson Tide have lost 2 of 3 in each other of their first two series at Florida and at home against Kentucky.

Alabama, which took two of three from Arkansas last season in Tuscaloosa, have won the third game in both SEC series to avoid being swept.

“You know, the league is tough and we have already been in three one-run games out of six league games that we have played,” Bohannon said. “Every 90 feet matters and we have got to make the other team earn it, everything they get and we have got to string together more good at bats and execute pitches at a little higher level.”

Bohannon said playing well in the SEC doesn’t always equate to wins.

“We are going to have to play well three days in a row because you can play well in this league and not win,” Bohannon said. “We have to play our best baseball and I am sure all three games are going to be tight and we are going to have to get a big hit or make a big pitch late when we need it.”

Williamson has a game plan.

“We need to pound the strike zone and we need to be good on the mound and we need to have good competitive at bats all the way through from inning one until inning nine and put together three completed games and then I feel like we will be able to accomplish what we want.

Alabama shortstop Jim Jarvis summed up his thoughts on Arkansas.

“I feel like they present the same as any SEC team,” Jarvis said. “A really good pitching staff that is always going to present different challenges, whether it is like velo(city) or just pitchability.

“You are going to have a threat one through nine and you have got to be able to take that down as it comes and also just trying to have consistent at bats and get into their bullpen as quick as possible.”

(Last updated: 2023-03-29 19:15 PM)