Alabama Baseball Had Success, Set Course for Future in First Year of Rob Vaughn Era

The first season of the Rob Vaughn era for Alabama baseball is in the books, and much was accomplished.
The Alabama baseball team at Dick Howser Stadium.
The Alabama baseball team at Dick Howser Stadium. / Alabama Athletics

There were plenty of changes for the Alabama baseball program between the 2023 and 2024 seasons. Headlining those were a largely new coaching staff and an almost entirely new lineup. That includes Rob Vaughn, the man who recently finished his inaugural season at the helm.

Vaughn, hired from Maryland after much success in College Park, faced the unenviable task of being a first-year head coach in the SEC. At any age, that's daunting, but Vaughn will be 37 on July 7. He is a young coach, tasked with continuing the positive trajectory of an SEC program that had just been to a super regional for the first time in more than a decade.

That 2023 team saw most of its offensive faces depart, returning less than a third of the batting order in terms of everyday starters. The pitching staff had also been dealt a blow via the transfer portal, losing staff ace Luke Holman to LSU. Even so, the squad entered this spring with high expectations, ranked No. 19 by D1Baseball at the start of the campaign. Alabama did not lose a game until a 12-inning affair against then-No. 23 Dallas Baptist at the Frisco Classic on March 3.

The 2024 nonconference slate brought many positives, including two wins over Troy, the second of which came on the road with the Trojans as a ranked team. The Crimson Tide also defeated eventual regional host Arizona in Frisco on March 2, one day after run ruling future NCAA Tournament participant Indiana. Alabama rallied late on March 12 to give Knoxville Regional 2-seed Southern Miss a scare in Hattiesburg, falling 9-7.

League play is always a different animal, and this past season was no exception. In spite of this, the Crimson Tide were the only SEC team all season long to beat No. 1 Tennessee in a series, doing so with back-to-back home wins on March 16 and 17. The top four teams in the SEC standings at the close of the regular season, in descending order, were Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas A&M. Alabama had at least one win over three of them, and series wins over the Volunteers and the Razorbacks. Arkansas had been ranked No. 1 at the time.

The Crimson Tide finished with a 13-17 record in conference play, good enough to eventually earn the No. 7 seed at the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. That was two spots ahead of the 2023 super regional team and regional host, which was the No. 9 seed. Alabama's league mark was hamstrung by a number of obstacles, as with any team. Perhaps most prominently, a nasty bout with food poisoning which nearly swept the entire roster affected the team's May 3-5 road series against Mississippi State.

Alabama managed to come away with a win in the finale of that fateful three-game set but was never quite the same after the fact. Holman and reigning national champion LSU came to Tuscaloosa in the following weekend and fell victim to a series loss, but the Crimson Tide would win just one more game after clinching that series on Mother's Day.

First, Alabama dropped the first two games in its final regular season series against Auburn. The Tigers entered that weekend at 6-21 in the SEC, already eliminated from the conference tournament. That placed question marks around the Crimson Tide's NCAA Tournament hopes. A repeat as a host institution was probably quashed by the result of the Mississippi State series, but some questioned whether the team was even going to make the field of 64 as an at-large.

Those concerns were only amplified when the Crimson Tide went one-and-done in Hoover, falling to South Carolina, a team it won a home series against in the regular season. That speculation turned out to be for naught: Alabama was named the No. 2 seed in the Tallahassee Regional, hosted by No. 8 national seed Florida State. An 8-7 loss to UCF and a 4-0 loss against Stetson the next day brought the team's season to an end at 33-24 (13-17 SEC). It was the first time the Alabama program cracked the tournament field in back-to-back years since 2013-14.

From an end-of-season standpoint, things did not end as Vaughn and his team hoped. A goal was to go to Omaha and the College World Series, something the 2023 team came close to doing and something that would have made the 2024 team the first Alabama squad of this century to accomplish. The Crimson Tide wound up losing five of its last six contests. There were plenty of bright spots, including the emergence of third baseman Gage Miller, a new face who led off the order with 18 home runs, 72 runs scored and a 1.176 OPS to go with a .381 batting average.

Miller is draft-eligible, so his return for the 2025 season is far from a guarantee. The same can be said for junior right-hander Ben Hess, who struggled from early March to early May before finding a groove again. His stuff is legitimate, but an injury-marred sophomore campaign and the struggles this season mean he may not necessarily turn pro just yet. Also among those new faces were star freshmen Justin Lebron, who replaced Jim Jarvis at shortstop, and left-handed pitcher Zane Adams. Both earned All-SEC honors. Adams pitched eight shutout innings against Arkansas on April 14 to help clinch that series win.

Those were far from the only impact contributors on Vaughn's first SEC team. Among others, Ole Miss transfer TJ McCants had a great year with the bat, and on March 19 became the first Alabama player to hit three home runs in a game since 1999. He also started the season with a long hitting streak in excess of 20 games. Another transfer standout led the team in innings pitched: southpaw Louisville transfer Greg Farone, who became the team's frontline starter after Hess' struggles and season-ending injuries to Riley Quick and Hagan Banks.

Alabama will also need to make a number of roster replacements in 2025, but the season was far from a failure, and there is lots to look ahead to. A top-half finish in the SEC was not even accomplished by last season's team, which helped inject new energy into the program.

"The lasting memory of the 2024 Alabama baseball tea, is going to be a group of fighters, a group of tough kids and a group that pulled together to do some special things," Vaughn said. "That's the stuff the guys will take with them when the pain [of the season ending] goes."

Will Miller


Will Miller is a senior at the University of Alabama. He has experience covering a wide array of Crimson Tide sports, including football, baseball, basketball, gymnastics and soccer. He joined BamaCentral in the spring of 2023 and is also a freelance UFC interviewer.