TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - 'What could have been?' will be the question raised about the 2020 Alabama baseball team. A roster that showed significant improvements in both the type of athlete and style of play from years prior, the 2020 Crimson Tide slowly climbed into the rankings before the season was brought to an abrupt halt.
In year three under head coach Brad Bohannon, Alabama was able to earn a spot in three separate rankings less than a month into the season and cemented its name in those rankings up until the final set was released to close out the shortened season. The final set of rankings placed UA at No. 18 by Collegiate Baseball News and rated the Tide 21st in both the NCBWA and the USA Today Coaches polls. Prior to the cancelation of the season, Alabama was set to enter Southeastern Conference play ranked in the top-25 for the first time since 2010.
Alabama earned its ranking thanks to a 14-game winning streak to start the season. The Crimson Tide's hot start was the second-best winning streak to begin a season and was the longest winning streak of any kind under Bohannon. In addition, the 14-game stretch finished as the standalone fifth-longest winning streak in program history. That hot start featured 11 wins in the month of February, the most by any Crimson Tide squad in Alabama records.
The 2020 edition of the Crimson Tide saw positive, continued growth from its hitters and pitchers. The offense finished with a .308 average and totaled 39 doubles, four triples and 22 home runs, resulting in a .500 slugging percentage and 295 total bases. Alabama recorded at least one home run in 13 of 17 games with multiple homers in five of those contests while posting double-digit hit totals in 12 games, including 10 of 13 home pairings. Those big offensive numbers led to 148 runs, a total that was fifth in the SEC and 10th nationally.
On the mound, Alabama maintained a 2.24 ERA and tossed three shutouts across 17 games. The pitchers posted 185 strikeouts and issued only 49 walks while holding opposing hitters to a .221 average. The strong showing placed UA in the top half of nearly every pitching metric in the league, including the SEC's third-lowest ERA. Alabama's pitching effort was led by its bullpen, which toted a perfect 9-0 record and notched a pair of saves. The relievers held a 1.62 ERA and limited the opposition to a .204 average. The bullpen also struck out 103 compared to 26 walks. UA's relief effort was split across 13 arms, five of which held a perfect 0.00 ERA with four other relievers at a sub-2.00 ERA by season's end.
Defensively, the Crimson Tide was solid once again. One year removed from setting the program's all-time fielding mark of .978, the 2020 defense sported a .985 fielding percentage to lead the league and rank ninth nationally. Alabama committed only 10 errors across 648 total chances to tie for the fewest in the conference.
The 2020 squad was aided in large part by its recruiting class that was tabbed as a top-20 group, peaking at No. 7 in the rankings. The crop was made up of 15 newcomers and was highlighted by five players who were selected in the 2019 MLB Draft but elected to come to campus. The '20 group featured freshmen Owen Diodati, Antoine Jean and Connor Prielipp, who all made significant contributions on the way to the Tide's 16-1 overall mark.
Diodati led Alabama and tied for third in the SEC in RBI with 22, while ranking seventh in home runs and 11th in the league in slugging. Jean and Prielipp each posted three wins across four starts apiece, with Prielipp maintaining a 0.00 ERA that was tied with eight other arms for the lowest in the nation (minimum 15.0 innings pitched). Prielipp's impressive start to his Alabama career earned him both D1Baseball.com's "Top Freshman Pitcher" and Perfect Game USA's "Impact Freshman of the Year" recognition.
There was a unique chemistry with this group that permeated the locker room, and that positivity and brotherhood made its way onto the field. The 2020 story will forever be one without a final chapter. The potential for a birth in the SEC Tournament, if not an NCAA Regional, was there, but players, coaches and fans will forever have to wonder what this team could have accomplished.