Former county baseball standouts contribute for UA

Published 9:23 pm Thursday, May 24, 2012

By ALDO AMATO / Staff Writer

Two former Shelby County high school baseball standouts completed their freshman season at the University of Alabama playing key roles toward the end of the year.

Crimson Tide closer and Oak Mountain High School graduate Jake Hubbard said becoming the starting closer as a freshman came as a surprise.

“I definitely didn’t see that coming,” he said. “Not many freshmen get to experience playing time so it was a rough spot to close but awesome as well.”

Starting pitcher and Thompson graduate Jon Keller said head UA baseball coach Mitch Gaspard and other coaches told the pitching duo that they would have plenty of opportunities.

“The coaches told us that we’re going to throwing a lot and wanted us to get some experience,” he said. “After a couple of constant starts, we became full-time starters.”

However, collegiate play proved to be difficult for the two freshmen and the team as a whole. The Tide struggled in an injury-plagued 2012 season, going 9-21 in SEC play and compiling a 21-34 overall record. The Tide also missed the SEC Tournament.

“College ball is different,” Keller said. “In the SEC, there are about three or four plays a team has to make to win the game and we just didn’t capitalize on those this year.”

Keller registered 43 strikeouts in 67.1 innings pitched going with a win-loss record of 2-5. Hubbard recorded three saves and the team’s lowest ERA, 3.10.

But despite an off year, both Hubbard and Keller said tons of talent is lurking in the shadows.

“We have a lot of guys that just didn’t live up to their full potential this year,” Keller said. “I think if we build better team chemistry then we will be fine. Winning solves everything.”

Hubbard said with the talent coming in next year, the team is poised for a better season.

“We’re all hungry,” he said. “After the last game of the season, we brushed it off and are in the process of preparing for next season.”