The time has finally come for UAB baseball to take the field again, and I can’t wait to see them in action at Regions Field this weekend. Hopefully the weather will cooperate so we can get some games in.
If you haven’t already, please read my preview of UAB baseball for the upcoming season.
The Blazers are coming off a 24-31 season, while Bowling Green went just 15-34 a year ago. Both teams failed to reach their respective conference tournaments, and both are predicted to finish near the bottom of their conference standings in 2018.
What to Expect from UAB:
While the Blazers lose maybe one of the most talented players to wear the uniform in Brewer Hicklen, they have some solid production coming back to the lineup in Carter Pharis and Price Visintainer. Those two will form a solid middle of the order for UAB after hitting .305 and .288 respectively last year.
Tyler Tolbert is someone who I think will take a huge step forward this year after struggling for the most part his freshman season. He had a very good summer, fall and preseason practice, while also transitioning to the outfield. If he can get on base consistently atop the lineup, UAB will be able to score some runs.
Cole Collins is a junior college transfer that could be a boost to the lineup, while playing in the outfield.
Other players returning like infielder Antonio Ralat and catcher Stephen Dobbs should help stabilize this lineup.
I don’t expect UAB to be an offense juggernaut by any means, but I think the lineup has a lot more depth this year than it did in 2017.
As for the pitching staff, there really are a lot of unknowns going into the season after losing Garrett Whitlock and Thomas Lowery.
I want to believe that the pitching staff this year is much deeper with the junior college guys they added, but until I see them actually pitch in a game I can’t say for sure.
A lot this season will depend on how guys like Ryan Ruggles and Tanner Graham do in the starting rotation. Both are capable of being sub-four ERA guys, we just need to see them become those guys again.
What to Expect from Bowling Green:
There are a couple of very good hitters returning to the Bowling Green lineup in first baseman Randy Righter and outfielder Jake Wilson. Righter hit .301 last year with 6 home runs, while Wilson led the team with a .305 average as a freshman.
Wilson was also drafted by the Red Sox out of high school, so you know there is a lot of talent there.
Junior college transfers Neil Lambert and Gama Martinez should help boost their lineup as well. Both play on the infield and one of them will most likely get the nod at shortstop.
Last year they hit .243 as a team and scored 4.5 runs per game. In comparison, UAB hit .259 last year and scored 4.7 runs per game. I expect both teams to be about the same this year.
The Falcons have a good bit returning to their pitching staff from last year. Their weekend rotation will likely consist of Tyler Anderson, Zac Carey and Ben Beutel.
Anderson had a 4.54 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 75.1 innings pitched last year, while Carey had a 5.92 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 79 innings.
As you can see from their numbers, this team pitches to contact and relies on their defense to make plays behind them.
Nate Lohmeier was very good out of the bullpen for Bowling Green last year and we don’t want to see him coming into the game with a lead late this weekend. He posted a 2.51 ERA last year with 35 strikeouts in 32.1 innings pitched.
There will be a lot of experience on this group, but a lot will depend on how much they’ve improved defensively after having a .959 fielding percentage last year.
Keys to Victory for UAB:
– Put the ball in play: Bowling Green wants to pitch to contact, so let’s give them what they want. I know their defense should be improved with the two junior college shortstops they brought in, but make them prove it. I want to see our guys be aggressive at the plate and make good contact, because their pitchers are going to put it in the zone.
– Play with confidence: Not that I’ve seen these guys get discouraged the past two years, but I want to see them come out and play with confidence from the beginning. Not much is expected of them this year from the media, so just go play care-free baseball and have some fun. If they can do that, then I think the wins will come.
– Be ready to go: It’s opening weekend and pitchers are not going to be able to go deep into games any way. We’ll probably see a lot of arms used this weekend. Everyone needs to be ready to go when their name is called.
I personally picked Bowling Green to finish last in the MAC, but I think the Falcons actually have a pretty solid team – or at least they’re better than last year. But I will have to say that I’m expecting at least two wins from UAB at home this weekend, and I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if the Blazers got the sweep. Last year they started out the season with a sweep over Creighton, so hopefully they can make it two years in a row.
The weather does not look great for the weekend, but I think they’ll get every game in. Most of the rain coming in appears to be light, and they should be able to play through it. Just make sure you check in with @UAB_Baseball for any updates or game time changes.
I’ll see you at the ballpark!