It's safe to say that at this point in the season, Alabama baseball is in a bit of a slump.
The Crimson Tide has now dropped six games in a row. After winning its SEC opener at No. 1 Arkansas back on March 19 by an incredible margin of 16-1, an offensive drought began for Alabama that resulted in three of its six losses being by two runs or less.
While the Crimson Tide's offense has been struggling due to a combination of injuries in the lineup and batting slumps among multiple hitters, Alabama's performances on the mound have been rather impressive.
With sophomore ace Connor Prielipp still out due to an injury that remains undisclosed, the rest of the rotation has stepped up in his absence. Chiefly among those pitchers rising to the challenge has been junior starter Dylan Smith.
“Dylan’s been better than solid, he’s been outstanding,” Alabama coach Brad Bohannon told the media on Wednesday. “It’s been huge for our team. Every time out once Dylan got his pitch count built up he’s pitched into the sixth inning which is what you have to have out of the starter. You gotta have a guy get to the sixth inning and give your team a chance to win.
"He’s been big for us and I’m not surprised. He’s very talented and I would suspect that he’ll continue to pitch well for us and even get better as the season progresses.”
So far in the 2021 season, Smith has started with a record of 3-3. While he does have three losses, all three of them were in games were the Crimson Tide offense produced either one or zero runs.
While a 3-3 record might not sound impressive, it jumps off the page when you look at his stats. In those three losses, two of them he pitched for seven innings and allowed only one run off of four hits in each. On top of that, he struck out 10 batters in the loss to College of Charleston, nine batters in four and two-thirds innings at Arkansas and eight against Ole Miss.
Seriously, check out Smith's stats through his first six outings (courtesy of RollTide.com):
Smith noted on Wednesday that his job is to simply control what is under his power and not to worry about the offensive production.
“My job is to go out there and perform either way it goes," Smith said. "I can only control what I can control. My job is to go out there and give us a great start and just have fun.”
Smith's dedication to his team is admirable, and Bohannon stated that Smith is not concerned about his record. Rather, he simply wants to do the best he can each and every time he is out on the mound in order to give his team the best possible chance he can.
Bohannon admitted that he feels bad for how well Smith has been pitching only to come up with losses on his record.
"We haven’t scored on Saturdays — I feel bad for Dylan," Bohannon said. "He’s a great teammate, a team guy and he’s not worried about his record but golly man when a starter — when [Tyler Ras] and Dylan and some of those guys go out and pitch their butts of you want them to get rewarded for it individually and those guys haven’t considering how well that they’ve pitched.
After its six-game losing streak, Alabama baseball is now 15-9 to start the season. Ironically, hitting and fielding were expected to be decent this season while there were a lot of questions surrounding the pitching. At this point in the season, pitching seems to be a strong suit while hitting has fallen by the wayside during the slump.
Smith credits his improved performance and solid outings to his maturation as a player and his improved mental focus.
“Pretty much my focus level has improved as I’ve gotten older,” Smith said. “I felt like this fall and this spring was really big facing our hitters and going through, like, before the season preparing me mentally and physically with coach Price and J.J. had planned for me. I feel my focus level has taken off and my pitches [have] gotten better.”