Grand slams. No-hitters. Walk-offs. Beer showers. This year’s opening weekend in college baseball had it all – and it was awesome.
On Friday I made a quick trip home from West Palm Beach (where I’m currently working for the Houston Astros *pinches myself*) to return to my alma mater to see the Alabama baseball team in action, and to see the start of the Greg Goff era. It was an awesome weekend at the Joe as the Bama boys began their 2017 season.
A definite highlight for the Crimson Tide’s season opener was Chandler Taylor. Taylor now leads the SEC in HR’s (3), total bases (15), and is 2nd in RBI (7). And of course, everybody’s favorite second baseman Cobie Vance put on a show. Also long awaited was the return of the Alabama Student section, better known as the Right Field Ragers. “MRFGA – Make Right Field Great Again” was their slogan during the offseason due to some regulations put on the student section mid-season last year. Thanks to some easing of prohibited items, the students packed out the berm, drank lots of beer, and heckled right fielders for nine innings. Is it great again? Absolutely. Of course, we can’t forget about the infamous Friday Night Lights. Who needs Rounders when you have a baseball stadium that feels like the club?
There were exciting moments this weekend all around the SEC. With Florida, South Carolina, LSU, and Vanderbilt ranked in the top 10, and Texas A&M and Ole Miss ranked in the top 20, the conference looks very promising on their Road to Omaha. Here are just some of the notable highlights:
- Florida – remember the name Austin Langworthy. He’s a two-way player who threw relief, had his first stolen base, had a homerun, two runs scored, and two RBI’s. Did I mention that he’s a freshman?
- LSU – Senior Jared Poche (who was drafted in the 14th round by the Padres, but opted to return to LSU for his senior season) throws a no-hitter. According to Poche, his father had a premonition that he was going to throw a no-hitter and told Poche this before the game. Whoa whoa whoa. Doesn’t everybody know about baseball and their superstitions? Poche said he expected to, “get hit all around the ballpark” after being told this. But jinx be damned. 79 pitches later, he did it. And if that wasn’t enough of a story for Tiger fans, the LSU baseball team stopped in the middle of the game for a soldier salute. They shook hands with the entire Army Black Knights as the crowd at Alex Box stadium gave a standing ovation.
- Ole Miss – So just how many people enjoyed baseball this weekend? 33,070 people at Swayze Field in Oxford, Mississippi did. Let that sink in for a moment. Oxford, Mississippi. THIRTY THREE THOUSAND plus people came to watch the Rebels play. In front of record-setting crowds, the Rebs swept #10 East Carolina. It took only two innings of play before the right field beer fountains were turned on. Definitely one of the best beer showers in college baseball (see the gif on their twitter if you don’t believe me). And of course, the most famous baseball race, the solo cups raced during the fourth inning. Side note, can we get the NCAA to investigate what’s going on during these races? Yellow cup has lost 127 times and has never won a single race. Something’s askew in Oxford, Mississippi.
- Texas A&M – Their opening night, they played 8 freshmen and in front of record-setting crowds (7,209). The young TAMU team ended up scoring 50 runs during their opening series. They swept Bowling Green, bubbles were floating all around in Blue Bell Park, and all was well in College Station.
This year’s opening weekend was one for the history books, and the best part about it? We get to do it all over again this weekend.