Alabama Baseball Prepares for 2020 Season Opener Against Northeastern

Alabama Athletics

Joey Blackwell

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The road to Alabama baseball’s first SEC Tournament since 2016 begins Friday.

At 3 p.m. CT (SEC Network+) in Sewell-Thomas Stadium, the Crimson Tide will begin its quest against the Northeastern Huskies out of Boston. Coached by Mike Glavine, brother of former MLB star pitcher Tom Glavine, the Huskies are picked to finish runner up in the Colonial Athletic Association.

When it comes to Northeastern, it’s clear that Alabama coach Brad Bohannon has done his homework.

“Northeastern has a good club,” Bohannon said. “It’s a team that in 2018 that had wins over Auburn and two wins over Missouri. They have five of their top six offensive players back. They’re picked second in the preseason in their league. They’ve got the preseason conference player of the year on their team.

“[They] stole 101 bases last year so it’ll be an experienced group and Mike [Glavine] does a really good job with their program and it’ll be a good challenge for us and [I’m] just really excited to get out there and see what it looks like.”

Last season, the Huskies finished with an overall record of 28-29 and went 12-12 in their conference. Northeastern finished fourth in the CAA, falling to the tournament champions in Elon in the third round.

While the CAA is hardly a Power Five conference, the Huskies will be no pushover. Redshirt-junior infielder Ian Fair was picked as the CAA’s Preseason Player of the Year, entering 2020 after winning the CAA batting title in 2019 with an average of .357 including eight home runs and 33 RBIs.

In total, six of Northeastern’s nine starting position players return this season. In addition to a Fair, junior outfielder Jeff Costello is another player in the order Alabama will need to keep an eye on. In 2019, Costello was also a driving force of the team’s offense, batting .267 with 10 doubles and 29 RBIs.

The Huskies also return a veteran core of pitchers, but their main standout this season is actually a freshman. Right-hander Sebastian Keane was ranked No. 43 of Perfect Game’s Top 50 College Freshman list and was named Preseason Freshman of the Year by Baseball America. Despite his young age, Keane was clocking mid-90s on his fastball in high school, finishing with a 21-5 record and an impressive ERA of 0.66.

Needless to say, Alabama will need to show up to the plate this weekend if it wants to get runners on base this weekend.

The Crimson Tide recorded its third-consecutive top-15 recruiting class, adding 12 freshmen to its roster. With so many freshman on the team, including opening day starting left-handed pitcher Connor Prielipp, leadership will be a crucial factor.

Enter the human Swiss Army Knife himself, senior utility player Brett Auerbach. While primarily assigned to third base, Auerbach was the primary catcher for Alabama last season after sophomore Sam Praytor experienced a season-ending arm injury in the opening weeks of the season. Auerbach is expected to play catcher, second base, third base and center field much like he did last season.

“Funny story about [Auerbach] the other day.” Bohannon said. “He said ‘hey coach can I throw some from the outfield’ and I was like ‘how about this: how about you tell me what you’re doing today?’

“We joked about that last week. ‘Brett, just be good at everything.’”

While Alabama will have its hands full this opening weekend, skilled returners like Auerbach should provide some skilled leadership that will boost the team in early non conference schedule as the freshman get acclimated to college play.

As far as what the starting lineup will be, Bohannon has remained silent on the matter. When asked Monday if he knew who his starting lineup will be, a sly grin snuck across his face.

“I do,” Bohannon said. “It will be tweeted out a Friday about an hour before the game.”