Alabama Baseball Hits The Road For USA Baseball-Irish Classic
Alabama baseball survived its first road game of the season when it took down Troy on Wednesday, 2-1.
It was the Tide's sixth consecutive win, and they look to carry their early season momentum into the 2016 USA Baseball-Irish Classic in Cary, North Carolina.
This year's Irish Classic will feature Alabama, Notre Dame, North Carolina State, Bucknell, Brown, and Niagara. Alabama can certainly turn a few heads with an impressive showing this weekend.
The Tide will play Notre Dame on Friday and will follow that up with a doubleheader against Niagara and North Carolina State on Saturday. They will close out play against Brown on Sunday.
We will highlight each opponent so you can know what to expect this weekend:
Notre Dame (4-3) is slowly starting to come into form as the season gets going. The Fighting Irish lost three of their first four games, but they are currently on a three-game win streak. This team is chock full of veteran players with the exception of freshman right fielder Matt Vierling. Vierling is batting .391 with a team leading nine RBI. Notre Dame could still use some help at the plate as they rank in the bottom four of the ACC in batting average (.280), hits (65) and runs scored (36).
On the mound, Notre Dame's usual Friday starter is RHP Ryan Smoyer. Smoyer has posted an impressive 1.35 ERA across 13.1 innings pitched. His last start ended in a 4-3 loss to Bradley, and he was given the loss after allowing two earned runs on five hits.
First pitch between Alabama and Notre Dame is schedule for 4:00 p.m. CT.
Niagara (2-8) will be desperately searching for wins this weekend. The Eagles' only two wins of the season were both only by one run. Ironically, this team is still very dangerous at the plate. They lead the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in every major batting category. Senior Michael Fuhrman is the player to watch as he leads the team in batting average (.444), hits (16), and runs (12).
Troubles on the mound have attributed to almost every single loss. Usually a team can get away with poor pitching if it is given proper run support on the offensive end. However, run support can only go so far when your ERA as a team is 11.27. Niagara's normal Saturday starter is RHP Daniel Procopio, who is 0-1 on the year with a 9.95 ERA. There is also a chance that RHP Zachary Kolodziejski get the start against Alabama. Kolodziejski has a 6.75 ERA on the year.
First pitch between Alabama and Niagara will be at 11:30 a.m. CT.
North Carolina State
North Carolina State (7-2) is arguably the best team Alabama will face over the weekend. D1baseball.com currently has NC State ranked as the 8th-best team in the country. The Wolfpack's success can be credited to their power at the plate.They are second in the ACC in home runs (12) this season. The team's leading hitter is Preston Palmeiro, son of former MLB All-Star Rafael Palmeiro. Catcher Chance Shepard is also a threat as he leads the team in home runs (5).
NC State's 4.56 team ERA is the biggest eye sore for this team. However, LHP and Saturday starter Brian Brown has been successful so far this season. His 4.70 ERA might say otherwise, but Brown owns a 1-0 record and has allowed the fewest walks of any starting pitcher.
Alabama's game with NC State is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. CT.
Not much can be said about Brown because it has yet to play a game this season. The USA Irish Classic will be the season debut for the team, but that doesn't mean that they should be overlooked. Two key players to keep an eye on are outfielders Rob Henry and Jake Levine. Both players batted over .300 last season.
It is unclear who will be on the mound for Brown when they take on the Crimson Tide. However, it looks like senior LHP Austin French will get the start. French started three games last season and gave up the fewest earned runs of any Brown pitcher that pitched more than 30.0 innings.
Alabama's Irish Classic finale against Brown is slated to begin at 11:00 a.m. CT.