TUSCALOOSA | A fresh-faced University of Alabama baseball team hopes to have a bounce-back season after a subpar 2012 that saw the Crimson Tide post its first losing record since 1994.
A strong 2013 schedule presents an opportunity for UA to build a solid resume, with 28 games against teams that qualified for postseason play in 2012.
UA begins its 2013 campaign with a four-game homestand.
The Crimson Tide hosts Virginia Military Institute for a three-game series to kick off the season Feb. 15-17 and hosts Southern Mississippi in a midweek game before traveling to Boca Raton, Fla., for three games with Florida Atlantic on Feb 22-24. UA then returns home for a mid-week game against Samford and three games with Tulane.
"I think it's a really good, balanced, very challenging schedule," fourth-year UA coach Mitch Gaspard said. "When you look at the nonconference games you've got Louisville in there, a team that could be a top-10 preseason team. We all got a good taste of how good Florida Atlantic was last year. Certainly they are a really strong opponent. We've got home series with VMI and Tulane.
"We really wanted to put together a schedule basically filled with top-100 type teams. We've got some great mid-week games.
College World Series participant South Carolina rotates off Alabama's schedule, as does Kentucky, which went 45-18 in 2012. The Crimson Tide also doesn't have to face perennial power Florida. League newcomers Texas A&M and Missouri both travel to Tuscaloosa.
"The SEC schedules is tough as always," Gaspard said. "We have Texas A&M and Missouri coming here, which should be really exciting for the fans. Certainly it's a challenging schedule.
"We're pleased with the schedule that we have. Week-in and week-out, no league is as good top to bottom as the SEC. To be standing in the end, you have to be a good baseball team. We've got a schedule that allows this club to be challenged and get better and better as we play. We hope to continue to improve throughout the course of the year."
The Crimson Tide also hosts Tennessee, Arkansas and LSU, while traveling to Georgia, Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.
The annual Capital City Classic game with Auburn is scheduled for March 5 in Montgomery's Riverwalk Stadium.
How a young team responds to a challenging schedule is never a given, Gaspard said.
"You never know from year to year how it will affect each team," he said. "It could be a positive way or a negative way. To be good in the end and be in a position to reach your goals, you have to be battle tested. That allows you see, 'OK, where are my weaknesses? Where are my strengths?' If you don't play a good schedule it can give you a false sense of confidence."
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Reach Aaron Suttles at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.