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January 25, 2013

Alabama baseball opens practice

TUSCALOOSA | The University of Alabama baseball team returned to the diamond Friday with a rededicated effort to getting back to the practice style Crimson Tide baseball was once known for: Play hard, get dirty. It hopes it brings with it "old" results.

The first day of practice signaled that opening day is just around the corner, Feb. 15 to be exact, and the Crimson Tide is anxious to rid itself of the feeling of 2012. It will attempt to do so with a deeper, youthful roster.

That roster allowed Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard to go back to an aggressive practice style that UA got away from the past couple of years.

"Your personnel has something to do with that," Gaspard said. "Quite honestly, the last two years we were so thin, an injury here or there is total disaster. With this club, we truly are two-deep."

Buoyed by a talented signing class that might produce four or five starters, Alabama has options and depth at every position, a luxury the coaching staff didn't have a season ago.

Freshmen Mikey White (shortstop), Kyle Overstreet (second base) and Georgie Salem (center field) are odds-on favorites to start, giving Alabama a strong but young defense up the middle. Add to that junior college transfer Wade Wass, who will split time with Brett Booth behind the plate, and freshman Daniel Cucjen, who can also play second.

Likewise, the pitching staff, which saw a lot of its innings eaten up by freshmen a season ago, is more experienced and deeper. That sophomore group will again be asked to shoulder a big load.

"Last season helped a lot," sophomore right-hander Spencer Turnbull said. "It feels totally different going into the season this year than it did last year. Last year I didn't have a clue what to expect. Going through the whole season and going through the ups and the downs, we got the feel for what SEC baseball really is. You can't really explain how much that experience really changes you over a year."

Ben Moore, a Freshman All-American in 2012, is ready to assume the roles left vacant by departing senior Taylor Dugas.

"Dugas set the bar really high as far as playing and leadership," Moore said. "I learned a lot of from him last year, and I feel like it's my job to come in, step up and take that role."

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron.suttles@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0229.

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