Tide rookie Turnbull to pitch vs. Auburn
by Michael Casagrande
mcasagrande@annistonstar.com
Mar 06, 2012 | 3149 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TUSCALOOSA — Through 11 games, the grand experiment for the Alabama baseball pitching staff is going about as expected.

The freshmen-dominated rotation took its lumps over the past three weeks. With a 5-6 record against a tougher-than-usual early season schedule, Crimson Tide coach Mitch Gaspard wants to simplify things. Before that, he’ll send another rookie to the mound at 7:05 tonight against Auburn in Montgomery.

Freshman Spencer Turnbull (0-0, 3.00 ERA) gets the nod a week after earning a no-decision in a win over South Alabama in his first start. He pitched five scoreless innings and allowed just three hits, but his pitch count epitomized the struggles of the young staff.

Throwing 93 pitches was far too many to get 15 outs, Gaspard said. He’d like it to be closer to 65 or 70.

“Obviously, we’re not pleased right now and I think our numbers show that,” he said. “What we have to see now is more strikes and more command of pitches and I think that’s where guys get sped up. We’re throwing too many pitches and missing with too many pitches.”

It’s the pace of the game that’s creating issues for the three freshmen who’ve started games.

Watching bullpen sessions, Gaspard said his pitchers throw 90 percent strikes.

“We’re able to repeat what we want to do mechanically,” he said. “But in the game, it starts getting sped up, and the crowd gets going, and the atmosphere kinda gets going. The nerves start. I start rushing. My thought process is not in a positive manner like it should be and I think a lot of that is the learning curve that you have to get through with some young guys. Anyone who’s played the game long enough, you play your best when the game is in slow motion.”

The Alabama bats, expected to yield bigger results, haven’t matched the opposition thus far. In losing three of its last four at Southern Miss and Tulane, the Tide were outscored 32-17. For the season, opponents’ are batting .300 compared to Alabama’s .261.

“I still think this team will get in a good rhythm where we’ll be a good offensive team,” Gaspard said. “Right now, we’re still trying to put some of those pieces together. We’ll get there.”

Senior Taylor Dugas promised “big things to come” before the season. He said the lineup had the power that was missing last spring. The Chicago Cubs’ eight-round draft pick is hitting just seven points below last season’s average (.342 ) but ahead of pace with a .510 on-base percentage thanks to nine walks and being hit by four pitches. Jared Reeves leads the team hitting .366.
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